Quality Of Life

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Neville rubbed his eyes wearily. It had been a long day of meetings. Meetings about progress, meetings about strategy, meetings about personnel, meetings about finance, meetings about data and at one point, Neville was fairly certain, there had been a meeting about meetings.

The majority of these gatherings had followed a similar format. They began with a review of the objectives set at the last meeting. Next came the acknowledgement that none of those objectives had been met. This was followed by a minor witch-hunt as individuals tried to pin the failure to meet their assigned objectives onto other people. This, in turn, led to some robust ‘conversations’ as the accused refuted the blame and tried to apportion the liability elsewhere. Ultimately there was a consensus that most of the failings were probably the fault of those reckless souls who hadn’t bothered to turn up to the meeting. Each conclave would end with a new set of objectives (or more accurately the re-stating of the last set of objectives) despite the near-certainty that none of these targets would be met by the time the next meeting rolled around.

But now the working day was finally over and Neville had a few hours of reprieve. He knew he probably should do some preparatory work for tomorrow’s meetings, but, as he was more than certain that no-one else would do so, he felt that any endeavours on his part to make the  following day’s assemblies anything more than a complete waste of time, would be an additional waste of his own time.

Neville had better things to do with his evening. There little enough of it, once his arduous commute home was taken into account, so he was certainly not inclined to spend it reading through the interminably dull, and predominantly out-of-date, reports that would be erroneously quoted by equally ill-informed colleagues in the various discussions he was due to partake in during the following day.

No, Neville’s time was his own and he planned to spend it, as he did every other night.

This entailed settling down on his sofa, sticking on a boxset, and consuming a moderately-priced Pinot Noir until he could see the bottom of the bottle or he passed out.

Whichever came first.

Distractions

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Tim looked longingly out of his window. The sky was blue, the sunlight was reflecting brightly off the white wall of the convenience store across the road and the trees that lined the more affluent streets at the far end of his own were swaying gently in the breeze. There was still something of a chill in the air, but the few visible clouds did not seem to be carrying any portent of rain. It was, in short, a lovely day and Tim longed to be outside, strolling along the river without a care in the world.

But the sad reality was that Tim did have a care in the world. Indeed, he had several. The pile of manila folders on his desk was testament to that. He had a mountain of paperwork to complete by Monday and it was not going particularly well. It wasn’t really that the work was hard, but there was a lot of it.

Looking around the room, he could also see several DIY jobs that were outstanding, and this, his home office, was hardly the priority. A quick tour of the rest of the house would reveal significantly more jobs, of greater importance, that he had yet to tackle, some of which were now approaching a level of, not exactly urgency, but certainly precedency.

Elsewhere in his abode were smaller matters that needed to be tackled. He recalled a letter demanding that he renew his driver’s license, had he done that yet? There were unpaid bills that he was more than able to settle, but they had slipped down the list of importance. He wasn’t sure he could even locate them at the moment, although he was sure that his creditors would be in touch again if he didn’t get around to dealing with them soon.

But today Tim had resolved to get up-to-date with work stuff. After all, he needed to maintain his income in order to pay said bills and buy the paint needed to redecorate. Not that his job was in any particular danger, but the paperwork had got out of hand recently and it was matter of professional pride for Tim to be no more than four weeks behind on his admin.

He glanced out of the window again. It was an especially nice day.

Perhaps a quick stroll would be fine. It was looking like a long day of crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s was ahead of him, maybe it would do him good to clear his head first.

After all, he thought as he donned his jacket and laced up his shoes, the folders would still be there when he got back.

A Super Day Out

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Tony drained the last few dregs of the tea that represented the culmination of that morning’s breakfast. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, he was bound to admit, and certainly far from economical, but as nothing in the service station was particularly good value for money, he felt that paying over the odds for a bacon and sausage sandwich was a touch less offensive to him than paying for overpriced porridge.

His GP would no doubt disagree. A recent check-up had resulted in the unsolicited advice that ‘he might want to think about his weight’.

This was, of course, entirely wrong. He did not want to think about his weight. Thinking about his weight only caused him stress and Tony reasoned that if obesity was having a negative impact on his health then feeling stressed about it could only cause further damage.

This ‘head in the sand’ approach to life’s difficulties extended beyond matters of health for Tony. He was perfectly content to ignore all of his potential problems. He felt there was no real need to spend time worrying about anything today when it might not be an issue until tomorrow.

A perfect example of this was sitting in the service station car park. Tony’s battered old runaround was really not fit for purpose. The scratched paintwork and dented panels certainly gave the impression that the car had seen better days, but in truth what was far more worrying was the strange noise that the engine made when the automobile attempted any speed over thirty miles per hour. The black vapour that the exhaust pipe emitted on occasion was also cause for concern and that red light on the dashboard that had appeared in recent weeks certainly suggested that the vehicle might be in need of a professional appraisal.

Tony, however, took the view that as long as the machine was able to get him from A to B, as it apparently still could, then any major surgery could wait until the car’s MOT in three months time. Tony couldn’t really afford to be without a car, the commute to his underwhelming job would be impossible on public transport, yet he also couldn’t afford the repairs that he knew his car needed. But, even though he knew he still wouldn’t be able to pay for the repairs in three months time, should the car survive that long, it was still something he didn’t need to worry about today. So he didn’t.

Given the potential imminent demise of his sole mode of transport, Tony was aware that he shouldn’t really be attempting the long journey that had necessitated that morning’s break in a service station. The thirty-minute daily commute to the daily grind was unavoidable but additional travel on the weekend was best avoided. A two-hour Saturday morning jaunt around the M25 seemed positively preposterous, even more so when Tony reflected that he would also need to make a return journey later that day.

But if it could be avoided then, truth be told, Tony did not want to avoid it.

Life was for living Tony reasoned and, without significant lifestyle changes, he might not even have that much longer to live it. So while he could make some dietary adjustments, start taking more responsibility for his actions, save his money for the rainy day that was almost certainly around the corner and conserve his car for the weekday commute to drudgery, he felt more inclined to seize any rare opportunity for pleasure that life afforded him.

Tony was aware of the strange looks he was receiving as he walked back from the cafe to his mangled motor. He didn’t care. It was distinctly possible that the sight of an overweight man in lycra was amusing to the average onlooker, but as drab and dull as his normal existence might be, today Tony was far from ordinary.

Because for one day a year Tony wasn’t Tony.

Cape billowing in the breeze, he caught sight of himself in his own windscreen. Perhaps he could have waited until he reached the convention before he donned his costume. But he had put a lot of work into it and wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

He opened the door to the vehicle he had renamed for the day.

He started the ignition after a few attempts and the Tony-Mobile sped out of the car park (insofar as it was capable of achieving anything resembling speed).

Several onlookers continued to stare in wonder as the car disappeared from view.

One such onlooker turned to his friend and quipped “Just who was that rotund masked-man?”

 

The Teapot

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The old china teapot was not the most glamourous of vessels, the design had long since faded and the spout was chipped in such a way that transferring the scolding liquid into a mug was often something of a lottery.

Nonetheless, Bruce was convinced that the tea, which survived the perilous journey from pot to cup, tasted better for the experience and thus the mild inconvenience of spillage was worth it. No other pot, opined Bruce, could ever match the quality of the beverage that was produced in his antiquated teapot.

In the early days of their relationship, Clara had tried to convince Bruce that this was nonsense. She had argued the merits of making the tea in the cup, had attempted to turn his head with other teapots, had even, through much research on a well-known internet auction site, managed to track down a near identical model of pot in better condition.

To no avail.

Bruce, not ungracious, had accepted the gift, indeed had accepted many a hot drink produced therein, but, as she discovered one morning when he had thought she was still sleeping, he continued to use his favoured teapot whenever charged with making his own drink.

In the end, it was an idiosyncrasy that Clara felt that she could live with. In all other respects Bruce was a model partner – kind, considerate and not generally given to strange obsessions in other aspects of his life.

But the infatuation with the teapot was perplexing.

It was not, as Clara had first assumed, any kind of heirloom. Bruce’s mother was as mystified as anyone as to its origins.

It had just appeared, one day, at some point during Bruce’s years of living alone. Even Bruce was sketchy as to when he had acquired it.

He just knew it made a fantastic cup of tea.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Clara wanted to do something nice to mark the occasion. Though she normally refused to use the chipped china repository, reasoning that tea-making should be a less arduous affair, she felt she would indulge her husband with an early morning cuppa made the way he liked it.

What happened next was unclear. Clara couldn’t recall any recklessness on her part, but as she poured the hot brown liquid into the mugs, there appeared to be more errant fluid on the work surface than was usual. The moment when the spout detached from the pot seemed to take an eternity but there was, nonetheless, a parting of ways.

Bruce found Clara in tears, and reassured her as best he could.

But no matter how much he tried to play down the importance of the teapot, Clara knew that it meant something.

Bruce, for his part, took it well.

However, he remained reluctant to part with the pot, and though it clearly had no serviceable function any more, he held on to it.

Superglue was purchased and spout reattached to body, but, even then, it was clear that it would no longer be suitable for its primary function.

Still Bruce kept it as a kind of ornament, nostalgic for the halcyon days of the best cups of tea he had ever known.

He learned to appreciate tea from other pots –  he acknowledged that the near identical pot that Clara had tried to sway him with did indeed produce a fine cuppa. But it wasn’t quite the same.

Until the day, some years later, when Bruce accidentally chipped the spout.

At least he claimed it was an accident.

Clara was never sure.

But it turned out the chip was the solution. Bruce rediscovered tea nirvana.

Clara, for her part, still couldn’t taste the difference.