Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Illness, debt, parking fines and other good news.

Today’s SoCS post takes the form of an update on a previous rant and should I manage to crowbar in Linda G Hill‘s prompt, that’ll be a bonus;

” “in other words.” Use the phrase at least once in your post. “

Ok, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Things are looking up.

As I mentioned in this post, it has been an anxious couple of weeks, wondering whether we’d be able to finance Rhonda and Audrey’s upcoming visa renewals, so I was rather nervous when I walked into the bank on Wednesday afternoon.

It didn’t hurt that I’d woken up that morning with a hideous cold; my head appeared to be stuffed with wet cotton wool and it felt like someone had filled my sinuses with glue, so I was experiencing events through a kind of virulent sensory fog, which may have actually taken the edge off the stress.

Anyway, long story, short; after twenty minutes of watching compulsory, cheerfully-voiced warning videos, detailing the dire consequences of not paying back the money they were about to lend me at an extortionate rate of interest, then signing multiple copies of finance agreements, I was the lucky beneficiary of another seven years of debt and, far more importantly, the wherewithal to keep my family on the same side of the Atlantic for another thirty months.

In other words; Mission accomplished.

It was amazing, the difference that successful act of financial negotiation made to my mood for the rest of the week, despite my steadily worsening man-flu and the fact that both Rhonda and I were still working every available shift and barely saw each other until Friday evening, when she had an unexpected night off.

I decided, in deference to my cold and our small monetary victory, that I’d give myself a weekend free of overtime, so Audrey and I went into town yesterday; to trade in some of her old DVDs, buy a game for her Nintendo DS, (a Christmas present designed to coax her attention away from YouTube for a while) and get a battery for my watch.

Having selected a Sims game Audrey had already expressed an interest in and got it half price in exchange for a few old Barbie DVDs, I spotted this gem whilst waiting to pay…

…which, needless to say, I couldn’t resist.

In other words; What a bargain.

Next stop, the jewellers, where I remembered I had a “battery for life” deal on the watch I bought there, my first freebie for the day. Then, as we left I spotted a sale in the clothing store next door, where I picked up a half price winter coat. Not bad, huh?

But it didn’t stop there. Next door to the clothing store is the 3 Store, my phone provider and I thought I was due an upgrade soon, so I just stopped in to check.

“Oh, yes, you’re actually due an upgrade now…Yes, we have a very good deal for existing customers at the moment, too..”

Really? That’s a first, usually they couldn’t care less once they’ve got your money, it’s the new customers who get all the perks.

So, half an hour later, after Audrey had played with every mobile device on display and inspected the huge wall of Instagram photos for cute animal pictures, I walked out with a brand new £400 phone and the aforementioned offer for loyal customers; an £89 pair of Bluetooth headphones, all for free, gratis and no charge.

In other words; Time well spent.

We returned to the car, on the way to pick up my de-kerosene’d work clothes from the laundrette and grab Audrey a take-out from McDonald’s, (an exception I make very rarely, I can’t stand the place, but having two Americans in the house means I occasionally compromise my principles; Audrey claims the chicken nuggets are just not the same anywhere else and Rhonda has a weakness for their strawberry milkshakes) only to see a traffic warden standing over my car, electronic terminal in hand, stylus poised over the screen.

“No no no no no no! Oh bugger, am I late?”

“I haven’t issued it yet…”

I don’t think I properly registered this unheard-of response from a parking nazi council traffic warden before, so I continued to apologise.

“I’m sorry, I got held up in the phone shop, how late am I?

“Ticket says 12.19, by my watch it’s 12.39…I haven’t issued it yet…”

He looked at me over his glasses and actually smiled, as I stood there laden with shopping bags and Audrey watching curiously from behind me, (I’m not certain, but I think his eyes might have even had a bit of a twinkle, but that could be wishful thinking) then he clipped his stylus back into its slot and nodded.

“They don’t pay me any more if I give out more tickets, you enjoy the rest of your day.”

“You, sir, are a truly wonderful man, thank you.”

And off he went, looking happy in his work, probably unaware that he had rescued me from ruining a near-perfect Saturday and helping restore my faith in the goodness of people for a change.

In other words; Things are looking up.



Pingback to Linda G Hill.

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Occupancy extortion occurrence.

For this week’s SoCS post, I thought I’d take another break from fiction and have a quick rant, using Linda G Hill‘s prompt to inspire me;

” “oc.” Find a word that starts with “oc” and use it in your post. Bonus points if you start and end with your post with an “oc” word. “

Yes, I can do that…

Occasional occurrence of occupancy extortion.

Occasionally, you have to accept that the Powers That Be have you over a barrel and you just have to pay the piper when he calls the tune.

Well, we’re almost at that point again; (where does the time go?) when Rhonda and I have to bow to the UK Border Agency’s immigration regulations, go through the hideously complicated process of renewing her and Audrey’s resident visas and try to find the extortionate amount of money they demand in exchange for our continued happiness.

As many of you know, Rhonda and Audrey are American and have only been in the UK since 2014, after we began our unconventional relationship on Facebook, from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The process of getting them here was bad enough, but it doesn’t end there, oh no. Following the pair of “fiancé visas”, for Rhonda to come here with Audrey in the first place, we had to get resident visas immediately after we got married, which have to be renewed after two and a half years. And it doesn’t come cheap.

Yesterday I went to the library and paid £15.80 to have all 158 pages of the forms printed, that Rhonda will need to fill in for the two of them…

…after I spent the last few days trying to secure an extension on my personal loan, (which was obtained for the aforementioned official extortion last time round) to pay the frankly obscene price of £993 EACH! And that’s just for permission for them to remain here, contribute to society and continue paying the government income tax. While, I might point out, (for anyone who may have accidentally read a Daily Mail article) being totally ineligible for any state benefits whatsoever. Because we also have to jointly meet the income threshold requirements, to make sure we can support ourselves with “no access to public funds”, as it says so bluntly on their visas.

We have to submit this mountain of paperwork without the slightest error or omission, along with the money, for acceptance by some faceless bureaucrat, who has the ultimate say in whether or not our family stays together on the same continent.

No appeal, no refund.

How they justify that ridiculous expense is beyond me, but we’re now aware that their primary concern is to make money, whilst simultaneously making it as difficult as possible for anyone to come here to start with.

Hopefully the next time we have to go through this, two and a half years from now, it will be to grant my family “indefinite leave to remain”, finally giving us peace of mind until we decide/can afford to pay the even more jaw-dropping price to make them full British citizens.

I am constantly amazed at how fortunate I am, to have found these two amazing people by chance, (a nudge from The Universe may have been involved) but it must seem very harsh to them, especially since they have come to love this country, when the system seems intent on breaking the spirit of people whose only wish is to become a permanent occupant.



Pingback to Linda G Hill.

Woolhouse Boys road trip.

You may have spotted that I’m a Twin Peaks fan, you might even have noticed my recent obsession with a certain item of garish knitwear, due to my membership of The Woolhouse Boys, the best group on the internet. If so, then hopefully you’ll be up to date enough with the story to appreciate this seasonal tale of goodwill and friendship.

First, a little background.

Back in March, while the frenzy surrounding Twin Peaks: The Return was still building to fever pitch, I became friends with a very interesting chap with the unlikely name of Kneel Downe.

As an author and fellow Twin Peaks fanatic from the North of England, with whom I share a birthday, along with many other common interests, it was inevitable that Kneel and I would get along like the proverbial house on fire and I subsequently invited him to join the Woolhouse Boys.

To my total lack of surprise, that warm and friendly group of kindred spirits took to Kneel as quickly as I had and it wasn’t long before he became one of the inner circle of genuinely close friends we have all made in the last few months.

So it was just as unsurprising that, when he was going through a really tough few weeks, the Woolhouse rallied round to help.

Kneel suffers from MS and his health can vary wildly from one day to the next, especially when dealing with stressful situations, but despite this, he is always concerned about the welfare of other people and is one of the most compassionate people I know. He was caring for his father, who was seriously ill, meaning Kneel’s health also deteriorated and there were many days that we didn’t hear from him at all, the stress was clearly taking its toll.

Then, on November 6th, we got the sad news that Kneel’s father had passed away.

Which was when the Woolhouse swung into action.

Within minutes of hearing of his loss, Joel and I were getting messages from members all around the world; from here in the UK to all over America, from Europe and even from Australia, everyone wanted to do something for Kneel.

Now, sending round a card for everyone to sign was obviously impractical, given the distances involved, so I suggested anyone wanting to contribute could PayPal me donations, which I would gladly take and present to Kneel, along with all the love and condolences of the boys and girls in the Woolhouse.

Needless to say, donations came in from many of Kneel’s friends and, after the funeral had taken place, I arranged to go up and meet him for the first time last Saturday, taking Audrey with me for company, (because it’s almost impossible to feel down when she’s around) but not before we had another brilliant idea.

Joel and I had been working on a new shirt design, which we were about to roll out to any interested group members, and I’d only just picked up the first prototype when we heard Kneel’s sad news. It immediately seemed obvious that, along with the generous donations from his friends, I should also present him with this small token of our affection.

But how could we make it that little bit more personal, a completely unique gift?

Then I had a flash of inspiration; if I got everyone to send a nice clear photo of their name, black on a white background, I could compile them onto one sheet, invert the colour and have the resulting white signatures printed on the shirt, as if we’d all signed it for him.

That was easy enough to accomplish (although I left the technical stuff to Joel, who works with computer graphics) and I’d have been happy with that, but Joel had other plans afoot.

While I was still on the phone to him, ironing out the fine details, Joel was e-mailing one or two of his famous Twin Peaks cast member friends, asking if they’d be happy to add their names to ours for a good cause.

I can’t, I’m afraid, reveal the three names he delivered to us, but rest assured you would be amazed at who he managed to get to send us an autograph. On top of that, I contacted the wonderful John “Chad” Pirruccello from the show, who had previously been such a good sport about our daft shenanigans and he instantly sent us his name.

{I should point out that all of this happened on Thanksgiving, so I am eternally grateful to all of you who spared the time to get involved, you’re all awesome}

So at six thirty on Saturday morning, Audrey and I set off on an 800 mile round trip to Lancashire, arriving at Kneel’s around lunchtime and presenting him with his extraordinary gift, along with a few baked goodies from Rhonda and all the best wishes of The Woolhouse Boys.

Kneel’s home is a veritable shrine to Dr Who and you can’t turn round without coming face to face with one of the dozens of daleks that adorn almost every flat surface, not to mention the hundreds of DVDs, a Cyberman head on top of a hat stand in the hall and all manner of other memorabilia throughout the house.

I filmed little clips of our journey, editing them together into a short travelogue, WHICH YOU CAN WATCH HERE, including our first meeting with Kneel and, although the actual presentation of his gifts will remain private, here is a redacted version of that fabulous shirt and a shot of us toasting our friendship (a condition impressed upon me by Joel was that I must get a photo of Kneel and I having a pint together and who am I to refuse such a request?).

Please excuse my peculiar eyewear, I wear my varifocal glasses from work for driving and forgot to take them off for the photo.

It was a real pleasure to finally meet Kneel and to see his reaction to the kindness of his global network of new friends, it made me truly proud to be a part of something so positive and supportive.

But I’ve found that this is what The Woolhouse does, it brings people together from all walks of life and it makes them into lifelong friends, I see it happen every day and it is good to know that we have helped one of our own in some small way, by showing him that there is always someone who cares enough to make a difference.


You can explore Kneel’s amazing Virulent Blurb universe AT THIS LINK.

The people upstairs.

Ever since Rhonda and Audrey finally arrived from America, three years ago this week, we have lived on the ground floor of a small block of flats.

It is located on a housing estate built in the late ’80s, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, ideally situated for Audrey’s school, Rhonda’s job and local shops. We have our own garden and, until recently, perfectly decent neighbours in the other three flats in the block.

When I originally rented number 14, the flat we now live in, (back when Rhonda and I were still battling the labyrinthine bureaucracy of immigration agencies, on opposite sides of the Atlantic) we were unaware that the landlord was going to sell it six months later, a problem we solved by moving to number 16 next door.

For the next two years we lived next door and got on fine with the nice Hungarian family above us, became friends with Meg and Adam, the young couple who eventually moved into number 14, (after considerable renovation from the state it was in when we lived there) and had no problems with the other upstairs neighbour, who we hardly ever saw or heard from.

Then, in May of this year, when Meg and Adam moved out, we went back across the hall to number 14, due to a very tempting offer from the owner. We had got to know her when she was doing the renovations, (the young couple were the owner’s daughter and her boyfriend) and she wanted someone she could trust to live there; meaning we got a fully refurbished flat, lower rent, no deposit and a nicer garden.

Sound too good to be true?

It is.

Almost as soon as we moved back, it was clear that the pair who had moved into the flat above since we were last there (see photo) were not exactly in thrall to domestic bliss, in fact they seemed to be in an almost constant state of war with each other.

She was heavily pregnant, he was very obviously selling drugs to a steady stream of unpleasant visitors, (which they all stood and openly smoked on the front step, right outside our door, making the stairwell and entryway permanently stink of weed) and they often had long screaming rows, which made Audrey very nervous and resulted in the police being called more than once.

In fact on one occasion, soon after their baby was born, I was already at work at 7 a.m. when Rhonda called to say the woman upstairs was hanging out of the window, screaming “Somebody help me!” so she’d rung the police and they’d arrived, broken up the fight and hauled away The Twat (as I now habitually refer to him) while she screamed that he should never come back, etc etc etc.

Already long story, short; this has happened multiple times over the last few months, with him coming back the next day and the cycle begins all over again.

Sometimes the fights are so violent that we can hear them dragging each other around upstairs and hear every hoarsely screamed obscenity, along with the poor, doomed baby adding its own terrified protests to the infernal din from above.

During my recent whiplash holiday from work, I was here for the latest police visit, informing them that this was the nth time this had happened and what were they going to do about it, because these two lunatics were ruining the lives of everyone within earshot which, given their prowess at bellowing and screaming, was by now quite a radius.

“It’s a domestic, there’s nothing we can do unless a law is broken, speak to the landlord” is the standard police response to this type of enquiry, so once they’ve allegedly restored the peace, they just bugger off and leave us all to it.


So, having already complained several times to our landlady, who passed on our concerns to the landlord of the flat upstairs (which he rents privately, not through a letting agent, otherwise they’d be gone by now) I finally spoke directly to him on Monday, to find out what he was going to do about his Neighbours From Hell.

Now, I’d mistakenly been under the impression that he would be aghast at hearing of his tenants’ continuing bad behaviour and be keen to see the back of them asap, but no, no such luck.

He initially told me that he’d spoken to The Twat and that he’d promised there’d be no more arguments or noise.

I respectfully enquired when it was he’d acquired this assurance and he told me it was the day before.

I politely informed him that Mr and Mrs Twat had in fact woken Rhonda and Audrey up with a high volume slanging match at 5 o’clock that very morning and therefore, with the greatest of respect, The Twat was talking bollocks.

I also informed him, with nothing but the most delicate diplomacy, of course, that my wife and daughter were regularly subjected to frightening and distressing episodes of violence and that it was his responsibility to do something about it.

What, I enquired gently, the fuck are you going to do about getting rid of these two scumbags, (my diplomatic repertoire was beginning to wear thin at this point) who are making my family’s life a misery?

His answer was; “If at any time you or your family ever feel threatened or nervous in any way, you should of course call the police.”

I pointed out to him in a friendly tone that we had done that, several times, which was why I was ringing him; to tell him he had a pair of menaces to society living in his property and wouldn’t it better for everyone if he evicted them and replaced them with ordinary, decent human beings?

To which he gave this extraordinary reply; “I’m not going to evict them on your say so, I’ll evict them when and if I think the time is right.”


He’s only going to evict them if I stop complaining that he needs to evict them?

I smell spineless bullshit.

So I did ring the police, again, to ask their advice on a matter they obviously don’t really give a shit about. I even highlighted the child protection issue and they gave me some crap about them “always filling out an at risk form when a child is present at a reported disturbance”.

They told me to see a solicitor, or go to to the Citizens Advice Bureau, or (and this was when I softly hung up the phone) maybe I could try talking to the landlord…?

I did copy out all the landlord’s phone numbers several times and handed them out to the neighbours, making sure they definitely didn’t ring him every five minutes if they heard even slightly raised voices from upstairs.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until he decides the time is right to do something about it and hope his cowardly prevarication isn’t at the cost of the life of mother or child.

Sticking my neck out.

I’ve had some bloody stupid injuries in my time, but the latest one is possibly the most inane and painful of all.

I had a pretty good weekend; I went to the fair with Audrey on Friday after stopping in at the pub for a quick pint; Rhonda managed to get Saturday evening off for a change so we went to the carnival for a wander round (until it rained); there was a Grand Prix on Sunday (Vettel crashed, Ha!), the sun came out and I spent the afternoon in the garden doing some writing.

All in all, a very pleasant few days.

Then I woke up yesterday and my neck felt like someone had hit the left side of it with a cricket bat while I was asleep.

Great, must have slept funny, (no, not “ha ha”) so I took a couple of ibuprofen and went to work.

By lunchtime I couldn’t turn my head to the left, or tilt it down, or reach out my left arm, or bend forward at all, without a MASSIVE bolt of pain shooting up into the base of my skull, like someone had attached jump leads to my neck.

After couple of hours of the pain getting progressively worse, I gave in. I called the doctor and got an appointment at the rapid access clinic half an hour later, leaving work while I could still move well enough to drive…

“So, what did you do to yourself this time.”

(Oh lucky me, it’s the same nurse who patched me up after the various chunks I’ve taken out of myself on previous occasions)

“I don’t know, honestly.”

*Examines badly inflamed and rock hard neck muscles*


“Hmm, did you do anything over the weekend that might have injured it?”

“No! I honestly just sat in the garden yesterday, I didn’t do anything all weekend, I went to the fair with my daughter on Friday….”

“Go on any rides?”

“Yeah, the Bumper Cars…Ah.”

“Yep, you’ve got whiplash.”

“Oh for f…”

“I’ll give you some muscle relaxants, they’re valium.”

“Really? Oh, go on then. No work?”

“Oh no, they’ll make you very sleepy, you won’t be able to drive or work for a couple of days.”

“That’s a shame.”

“I bet. Now, you can only take three a day and stop taking them when you’re better, because they’re very addictive, ok?”

“Ok, got it.”

“But I’ll give you twenty eight, anyway, because you can always hang onto them, in case you need them in future.”

(Wait, what?)

“Um, ok. How long do they last?”

“About four hours.”

“Hahaha, no, how long do they keep for?”

“Ah, right, they’ll have an expiry date on them.”

And now I’m sat at home with neck muscles that feel like strips of teak, despite the fact I felt perfectly fine all weekend.

Having never had whiplash before, I’d never fully appreciated a) how painful it is, or b) the strange delayed action involved in its onset. I went on the dodgems (with Audrey driving, I might add) at about four o’clock on Friday afternoon and had no inkling there was anything wrong until first thing Monday morning

So, there you have it.


On the bloody dodgems.
They’re going to love that at work.

It was a fun day out, though, and for those of you who enjoy watching unforseen injuries in action, here’s the video I shot whilst my neck was being primed to torture me three days later.

My favourite part is near the start, when Audrey notices the camera for the first time and her expression changes from fearsome concentration to a happy grin in one quick double-take.

Buckle up, it’s a bumpy ride!

The End and beyond.

I’m sorry if you were expecting to find my (almost) regular SoCS post here, but I’m afraid today has been too full of geeky anticipation and online nerdiness for me to concentrate on anything other than…


Ok, I know, I know, the vast majority of you won’t have the faintest clue of why that is so significant, but (as I’m sure you’re aware by now) I am a massive fan of David Lynch’s surreal tv universe; you know, the one where he redefined what tv shows could be?

Well, quite frankly, over the last three months, he’s done it again.

But I’m not here to wax lyrical about how utterly and completely Lynch has rewritten the rule book, or just how astounding The Return has been. No I’m here to wax lyrical (again) about the millions of other people like me; the fans.

You can read about The Woolhouse Boys here, if you haven’t already heard about us, but I’m not just talking about that merry band of brothers, I’m talking about the truly extraordinary online community of groups, pages and individuals, who have made this second bite of the Twin Peaks cherry so much more than just being a fan of a tv show.

I have met a huge number of creative, talented, funny and genuinely warm people over the last six months of communal geeking, both leading up to and during (probably) the final season of “our show”, as it is often affectionately referred to, many of whom I’m sure I will remain friends with for years to come.

Because as it turns out, it isn’t just a love of Twin Peaks we have in common, it’s an attitude, a worldview, a philosophy if you like, which seems to be shared by those of us who gravitate to Lynch’s universe. Rarely (not since discovering the blogging community, in fact) have I been part of an extended group of people, with such a diverse demographic, which has been so inclusive, friendly and welcoming of new ideas.

Whether it’s the brash, snarky, too-clever-by-half memeing of the Logposters™, the deep analysis and thought experiments of the discussion groups, or, yes, the joyous parody of the Woolhouse Boys, my Facebook newsfeed has been solid Twin Peaks posts since May 21st, when the greatest tv show ever made made its triumphant return to our screens after over a quarter of a century.

And then there are the stars of the show, who joined in with our jolly japes and daft sweater montages; John Pirruccello (Chad Broxford) in particular, who we were honoured to welcome into our group, has been a total star and a great sport and it’s obvious to see his love for the fans and for the show itself; Billy Zane, who exchanged jokes with us on Twitter and still owes us a photo of him with his dad in the sweater; James Grixoni, (Deputy Jesse) who, along with John, met up with some of the Woolhouse Boys in person at the recent Twin Peaks fest, but especially to the lovely Sabrina Sutherland, executive producer of the show, Lynch and Frost’s right hand woman and fierce hunter-down of spoiler leakers.

In fact Sabrina made my day only yesterday, by showing her support and appreciation for our other group, The Cult of Chad…

And now there are only two episodes left and I will be getting up at 5am tomorrow morning to watch them before work, so I can find all my fellow geeks online and say; “Oh wow, wasn’t that…”

So I’d just like to say a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of the new friends I’ve made and to everyone who helped make the entire experience a real event, in an age when television has become disposable and social media is sometimes a cold and bleak place to hang out.

Thank you, in no particular order, to;

Joel, Kneel, Wyatt, Nev, Chris, Mark, Dan, Tara, Emily, Christian, Jill, Noah, John, Sabrina, Rachel, Neil, Laura, Thomas, William and all the other wonderful folks who get it.

I’ll see you all in the trees.

Website Powered by

Up ↑