Humour, Uncategorized

The Time I Went To Watch Regina Spektor and What Happened

When Regina Spektor released her supreme album, Far, and was playing in London I of course bought tickets. Two tickets, one for me and one for, let’s call him Rafe. Rafe is a very dear childhood friend of mine who lives in London. I would usually stay with him at that time. He lived above a chiropractor’s in Oakwood and I would look forward to sleeping on the top of the market air mattress.


There I was with my travel pack, riding into town on the Megabus. There is always that frisson of excitement when Old Lady Thames comes into view between the towers of London and this time was no different. I met up with Rafe and we had a few drinks whilst he told me about his new Australian girlfriend, who was a very passionate person. We finished our drinks and headed over to the Hammersmith Apollo. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Hammersmith Apollo but it has the most beautiful flyover outside it that you really must see.

Anyway, Regina was on great form. I had fallen in love with the album when it came out but played live the songs really shone. Blue Lips I remember being a highlight of the earlier songs in the set. Around half way through the concert I felt a tug at my arm. It was Rafe. We’d both had a fair bit to drink by this point and he was slurring a little.

‘What’s that?’ I said.

‘I’ve gotta go.’

‘This is some kind of sick joke,’ I said.

‘My new girlfriend has texted and she said she needs to me to go over there. She said she’d be passionate with me.’

‘You can’t do this, Rafe,’ I said. ‘I don’t know how to get back to your flat.’

‘Yeah you do, it’s easy,’ he said. ‘Sorry, sorry.’

‘But you have an eighteen year old Italian female as your flatmate and she doesn’t know who I am and I can’t just turn up there – she’ll think I’m a lunatic come to kill her.’

‘No no no,’ he said, ‘it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.’

And that was that. Off he went into the night. I returned my attention to Regina. Ah, what a great concert that was. When it was over I threaded my way through the streets and underground tunnels of the great city and, eventually, all fun completely disintegrated after over an hour of travel, I arrived at Rafe’s flat.

My worries about the Italian flatmate resurfaced. She might be up there now, watching TV or reading or book and all of a sudden a strange drunk was about to bowl in saying he’s Rafe’s friend and it’s ok to spend the night in a flat which has no locks on the bedroom doors.

I checked the windows upstairs. The lights were out. I’d just get in there like someone in the SAS, make myself a delicious glass of refreshing water, and get to bed. She’d be none the wiser. And the plan went off without a hitch. The flat was silent and dark. I crept along the landing, past her closed bedroom door, clutching the glass of water I’d made in the downstairs kitchen. I got into Rafe’s room and breathed a sigh of relief. I was pretty hammered by this point and fell asleep right away.

I was awoken the next morning by the sound of my phone ringing. It was Rafe.

‘I’m late for rugby. You need to get my kit and bring it to Richmond.’

‘Where’s the kit?’

‘In the airing cupboard in the bathroom.’

‘No problem,’ I said.

I ended the call. I’d already decided not to shower or anything because of the Italian flatmate so I’d be gone soon enough and the episode would be over. Nobody would notice my not being showered – I was, after all, travelling on the Megabus. I got all my stuff ready and listened at the door for signs of the Italian girl stirring. There were none. This was going to be simple. I’d grab Rafe’s kit and get the hell out of dodge. The perfect crime. I edged open the door and poked my head out. The coast was clear. I tippy-toed across the landing and into the bathroom, silent, like a cat. In the bathroom I spied the airing cupboard in the corner and headed over. ‘Oh my,’ I remember remarking to myself, ‘this is a very deep airing cupboard.’ Rafe’s kitbag was on a shelf right at the back, about three feet away. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought to myself if I went in here and then the Italian girl came in just as I was in the cupboard. A wry smile and a shake of the head at my amusing thought and I entered the airing cupboard. I collected up Rafe’s bag and at that moment I heard a noise. The landing. Oh no. But, of course, oh yes.

It was one of those airing cupboards with slats so you could see through into the main area of the room. You’ve all seen them, whenever there’s a perve in a film perving on someone. In came the eighteen year old Italian in a white bathrobe. I watched her through the slats. I was now in a crisis point. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t just stay here and wait in secret whilst she got showered, wait whilst she dried off and went about her toilet… could I? I could spare her modesty by cowering in the back of the airing cupboard, I thought, just as a cowardly rat might find cover under a pile of rotting food. But then I thought, no that would simply be too insane. There was no choice.

I psyched myself up, slung Rafe’s kitbag across my back, took a few deep breaths… and leapt out of the airing cupboard. There was a moment. A brief second where our eyes met before the she realised what was happening. I stood there, she stood there. I thought about what to say, how to explain this. But what words could there possibly be? The answer is of course obvious: none. So instead of speaking I lunged towards the door. The Italian was between me and the door so she thought I was lunging for her. Weirdly, she didn’t scream, she just stepped towards the toilet as I flew past. I yanked open the door and ran across the landing, thinking, what the hell must she think? It took longer than I thought to get across that landing and down the stairs. I could feel her eyes staring at my back as I thought to myself, well, Rhys, this is going to be a real low point in your life.

I finally got Rafe his kitbag. He found the story very amusing. I told him he had to explain what had happened but he said that wasn’t going to happen. With that I headed back to Victoria but I had a few hours to kill so I detoured to 221b Baker Street for a visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which was absolutely awesome.

Me in 221b

Here I am in Holmes’ chair at 221b Baker Street – Superb





My Car Park

I would like to set up my own car park one day, to find a small plot of land in the city centre and cover it over with lovely black, flat tarmac painted with pristine white parking boxes. I would like to plant laurel bushes in foot tall wooden planter and have them grow to a height of eight foot, perfectly maintained, so that when the car park is empty at the end of each day there will be just the smooth tarmac, the bushes, and the sky, an oasis of calm in the mayhem of the city. I will have a yellow arm barrier at the entrance that I will control from my small but comfortable booth that I intend to work out of.

On a unit underneath the window overlooking the car park there will be two screens; one for the closed circuit television and one for my television with an inbuilt DVD player, not only for playing films but for CDs as well. The antennae will be fastened to the outside of the booth because the TV will also have Freeview. Above the unit will be a narrow shelf-cum-desk and, on casters, a tall chair. From here I will watch the entrance of the car park and have my till, roll of tickets, mobile card machine, barrier remote and cordless intercom receiver. I will have a small cloth pouch for change as I will collect the parking money personally when customers enter. They will have the option of buying a ticket, for one hour, two hours, three hours, and so on until the closing time of 7pm. The tickets will be colour-coded for ease of reference when I am patrolling. I may hire a member of staff to work evenings though they would need to demonstrate an understanding of the zen philosophy of the car park. Only then will I know they are trustworthy. In the booth there will be a comfortable sitting chair where I will spend most of my day reading, writing, drawing, watching television, listening to music or podcasts, or looking out the window across the main area of the car park at the top of the hedge and the sky beyond, the clouds knitting and fraying behind the skyscrapers. Next to the comfortable chair will be a small table for my drinks and snacks. A tall reading lamp will be behind the comfortable chair so that in the dark winter nights I may still read my book in good light. A framed map of the world will hang behind my chair. I will need a view of the CCTV screen so that I can see new customers arriving and leaving. The intercom terminals will be before and aft the yellow arm barrier so that drivers wishing enter and exit the car park can contact me if I am in my comfortable chair. The other end of the intercom, my end, will be remote, as will the console for the raising and lowering of the yellow arm barrier. When I am sitting in my chair I will store these devices either on my lap desk, or on the small occasional table to my side. The comfortable chair and small table must be portable so that I can take them outside the booth during summer. I will also need a sun umbrella (parasol) , possibly stored in an external, lockable ottoman where I can also keep a broom, a cordless hedge trimmer, a snow shovel with a stock of grit for those slippery winter mornings, and any other maintenance equipment.

Back in the booth a sideboard will run along the wall next to the hedge. Underneath I can keep files, books, a fridge, a printer, a blanket, a stationery box and an electric oil heater. On top there will be a kettle, a tree for mugs, a tea set and a pot for coffee. There should also be a foldaway chair for guests, though this must be comfortable enough to watch an entire film in. My car park should be a world away from the larger world, peeled off to make a little pocket of tranquility, much in the same way a tepui rock stack in the highlands of South America has no contact with the forest below. Perhaps I will cut recesses out of the hedgerow in places so that I can supply wooden benches for drivers who may wish to take a moment of contemplation between their busy jobs or shopping days and the stressful journey home. Who knows, perhaps somebody will one day pass on from this world and leave in their last will and testament an instruction to buy a new bench for the car park, with a small brass plaque nailed to it with their name, the year they were born and the year they died and a small inscription of how they liked coming to the car park. I will usher drivers to and from their spaces – some regulars may prefer a particular space they can call their own – and in so doing subconsciously learn the unseen algorithms, the counterintuitive flows that occur in any complex system, of how to get people in and out with maximum efficiency. Perhaps one day someone will be having a terrible day but then she can close her eyes and feel the wind on her face, and envision her car parked safely within the car park with its smooth tarmac and neat hedgerow. People will tell other people of the small oasis of calm that is my car park and perhaps in time its message can expand beyond the edges of its eight foot tall laurel bush extent and into the wider world, like the hedge-dwelling birds such as the humble linnet or the sing-song yellowhammer, the little wren or even, at Christmas, the robin red breast, who I hope will nest there and make the their home with me.

Humour, Uncategorized

Bad Neighbour

When I was leaving the house this evening I heard a terrible argument coming from the neighbours’. I listened for a bit to the screaming then, just as anyone would, in the darkness I tippy-toed across their lawn to try and hear what they were saying. Hugging their garage door I peeked my head round the wall towards the front door but the arguing had stopped. I noted chaotic tyre tracks on the lawn – someone was definitely angry. I tippy-toed a bit further along, between the cars parked on the drive and the wall, but all was quiet so I headed to my own car and drove off.

When I reached my destination I texted my girlfriend to tell her about the raging argument (I am a gossip) and she texted back, ‘Yeah, I noticed when we got home just now they were sitting in their car and thought it was weird.’ Yeah, I thought, that is pretty weird. But then, I thought, maybe they didn’t want to upset their kids by arguing so headed out to the car.

And this meant, I suddenly realised, that they if they were having the argument in their car they would have seen… their neighbour tippy-toeing in the darkness across their lawn, where they must have stopped arguing and watched gobsmacked as I slunk in front of the car they were sitting in towards their front door. It’s fine though, what will happen is we’ll all simply pretend the whole event never happened.


It is the next day. A courier tried to deliver a package but we weren’t in so they left it with the neighbours I spied on so that’s something that’ll never be picked up.


The Day I Tried to Improve Welsh/Polish Relations.


A massive truck

I like to think of myself as a helpful person, a net contributor to the society. Take, for example, the time I helped a Polish lorry driver who’d got lost in the town where I grew up. I was on my way to the pub to meet friends and was running late when I spied the huge truck parked up half on the pavement of a narrow road. The driver was standing in the headlights with a big map flapping in the wind and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. His unruly hair was all over the place.

I checked the clock on my dashboard. I was very late. But then, what if nobody stops? I decided to do the right thing and pulled over. I jogged back up the street to help my fellow motorist.

‘Are you lost?’ I said.

Where the truck driver was

The site where the diplomatic relations began

He looked at me over the top of his map. His face was podgy and he had a five o’clock shadow. His eyes had big bags under them and he was clearly exhausted. He then said something to me in a foreign language that had something of the Slavic in it. I said earlier that my road companion was from Poland but in fact he could have been from anywhere in Eastern Europe.

‘Do you speak English?’ I said.

‘Nor nor!’

Map flapping in one hand he produced from his pocket the name of a company and an address. And I knew the address. The industrial estate for which he was headed was an old friend of mine. Legends nightclub was there, the only nightclub in a five mile radius. The only thing between my new friend and his destination was the language barrier. The directions were too complicated. He would never make it. I looked at my watch.

Bugger it, I thought. I am going to enhance Welsh/European relations with an extraordinary act of kindness. There was so much hate in the world about Polish immigrants stealing our jobs and here I was fighting the good fight on the ground.

‘You,’ I said, jabbing a finger at his chest. ‘Follow… me.’ And I motioned with my arms as if I was at a steering wheel.

He nodded enthusiastically, not unlike a dog. I nodded back, also like a dog. Two old dogs of the road.

‘Yes!’ I said.

‘Yes, yes,’ he said.

This was awesome, I thought. Here we were, two people from different parts of the globe coming together in a moment of friendship. We practically bounced back to our vehicles.

I smiled to myself as I turned the key. He’d tell stories of this when he returned to the taverns of his hometown. I pulled off and drove down the hill. It would only take ten minutes. My friends could wait. I kept my speed nice and easy so that he could follow in his huge wagon.

Down the hill and under the bridge and round the corner I went. On to the first roundabout. I slowed to make sure he could follow me. But when I checked in the mirror there was no truck in tow. I waited. Still no sign. Probably having a bit of bother on the narrow roads, I thought to myself. I circled the roundabout a few times but still my friend did not appear. And then a thought hit me. Not a good one.

I headed back up the road towards the truck and when I rounded the corner my fears were confirmed. My new friend had got his massive lorry wedged under the low bridge. There was a sign saying “low bridge,” I suddenly remembered. It didn’t register at the time. He either couldn’t read it or just was so worried about being lost he’d decided to take the plunge. Either way, he was in there and I was very late for the pub. I glanced up to the ceiling of the bridge and saw the only slightly mangled top of the big container bit behind the cab. It wasn’t so bad. And then I looked through the windshield. My new friend and I made eye contact. He was gesturing wildly at the roof. We stared at each other for a few seconds and I nodded apologetically and waved that it would be okay.

I always imagine the next part of the story from the point of view of the Polish driver. He’d been lost but a kindly local man had stopped his car and not just offered directions but agreed to take him all the way to his destination on the industrial estate. Soon he would be heading back to his homeland, the thought of his wife and children in his mind. Maybe she had prepared a simple fish supper over the fire for his return. What a service this young man had done for him. The metal screech as he crunched under the bridge probably darkened his jubilant mood somewhat. He probably thought, as I would have, just slam my foot down and try and get out the other end, but this would only have driven the truck deeper into the bridge until he could go no further. Disaster! he would have thought. Disaster. He would have raised his face to the heavens and relinquished control of the wheel.

But all was not lost. A minute later he would have seen a set of headlights appear, a beacon, and then the very car that had offered help would have come into his vision like a white horse at the most critical point of a battle. Yes, the young man has messed up by taking me under a low bridge but thank god he has come back. A speaker of the native tongue he will be able to help get me home. What an ambassador for his country he is. Look, he is waving to me.

And I wonder about the feeling in his chest as he saw me there, his only chance of escape, as I realised I really was very, very late. He would have watched my car reversing a little way down the street, before making a very slow and awkward three point turn (I’m not a great driver) and then disappearing into the darkness. I sometimes wonder, what did he think as he watched me do this? And I contemplate what happened to him afterwards, before I remember that I already know the answer. Because I was told the following day, about how the road was closed for several hours that night as the fire brigade de-wedged my new friend from the stony grip of the bridge.

Low Bridge

The site where diplomacy broke down.

I like to picture a happy ending to the story. I like to think of that driver as heroic. I imagine him like Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway where at last he delivers the package. I see the Polish driver walking down the middle of Coedcae Lane Industrial Estate with his package under his arm, past Legends and the TNT depot until he came at last to the place he was looking for, where he knocked on the metal goods in/out door of the warehouse, proud of a job well done. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.


Terror Threat Foiled by Vigilant Staff at Whitchurch Lloyds Pharmacy

Bomb Squad

Vigilant staff members at Lloyds Pharmacy in Whitchurch prevented a terror attack this afternoon, when they discovered a suspicious package left in a corner. The diligent workers called the police and the shop was closed whilst the package was checked. Thank goodness for these brave people who stopped what could have been a terror attack on the scale of 9/11. Apart from it wasn’t a bomb. It was my backpack.

There I was, enjoying the intense heat of the day at home when I thought, hang on, I’ve left my backpack in the pharmacy. Panicked – my wallet and notebook and pens were in there – I raced to the shop in the hope it had been handed in. The three adult members of staff seemed to recognise me when I re-entered the shop.

‘Have you got my backpack by any chance?’ I said.

The pharmacy assistant stepped forward.

‘We had to call the police. We were terrified! We had to close the shop! We didn’t know if it was a bomb!’

My mind didn’t really register this.

‘The police tried calling you,’ said the rather sheepish pharmacist.

I checked my phone and sure enough there was a missed call and a message. My phone number is written in my notebook. The message was from a policeman telling me he had my bag and it would be kept at Fairwater Police Station until 10pm and then moved somewhere else after that, though I missed the last part because I was suddenly getting annoyed that my bag had been confiscated because three ridiculous people were unable to behave like adults. Now I had to go all the way across town to fetch my bag.

Why hadn’t they just checked the bag? I can kind of understand being worried (I can’t really – I think the world has gone crazy when it comes to terrorism) but surely shutting the shop is a bit over the top. The pharmacy is in the sleepy village of Whitchurch in Cardiff. And when the police realised it wasn’t a bomb why hadn’t they said, leave the bag here – we’ll call the owner. This is what I would do, and in fact it is what I do when bags get left behind where I work. If I closed the library every time a bag was left behind it would never be open. I never shut the place down and call the police, because that’s mental! And there were three adults there, none of whom were able to think like an adult. Squirming with anger, I of course politely thanked the staff and left the shop.

It was 5:30 and I needed to be at Amy’s grandfather’s for the weekly family meal by 6. Just enough time to get to Fairwater and back. Or so I thought. Through rush hour traffic in the stifling heat I got over to Fairwater in half an hour and remembered the policeman had said to call 101 to make arrangements for collection. I’ll do that, I thought, it’ll make the whole operation run nice and smooth. I’ll go there, get my bag, and get over to the family dinner. So I called 101 and got past the incredibly slow talking automated voice thing to a human, who took my details and asked about the bag, etc. She wanted to know the policeman’s name but I’d deleted the message and was pretty sure he hadn’t said his name anyway. So she ummed and arred for a while and said it would be best if she patched me through to public services where I got more umming and arring and supervisor-asking before at last she came back and said I’d have to go to Fairwater Police Station at 9pm as nobody was there to give me my bag at the moment. This phone call took 50 minutes. Quite an extraordinary length of time. I knew what she had to do – put out an APB to all vehicles. That’s basically what you should always do. Instead I got a reference number. Fuming, I politely thanked the phone operator and ended the call. She’s going to get a hammering in my blog, I thought.

My night was being wrecked by people doing ridiculous things. I pined for some common sense. It was almost seven o’clock now. Was I really going to wait for two hours? I didn’t even know where Fairwater Police Station was. So I popped into the local Coop for directions and took the decision to go there and wait for an officer to turn up. Surely someone would be there before 9pm. But when I got there I saw that Fairwater Police Station is, in fact, absolutely massive and choc full with policemen and women. There must have been at least forty cars in the car park.

Sadly, the car park was on the other side of a big metal gate so I pulled up in front of it and went in search of a front door. There was none. When I got back to my car the big metal gate was open and a big metal car was trying to get around my Ka. Fortunately the driver circumnavigated my car without me seeing me and I got my chance to get into the main complex, where two officers were at the door, recognising me from the photo ID in my wallet, beckoning me in.

Awesome, I thought. At last some people with common sense. ‘They thought it was a bomb!’ said the officer. ‘There hasn’t been a bomb in Cardiff since 1969!’

I laughed and nodded to the other officer. ‘I bet they just wanted to close the shop to get fifteen minutes off work,’ I said, jokingly. Just a bit of bants really. Bants with the lads. We had a good laugh about how over the top people can be. ‘If I closed the library every time a bag was left behind it would never be open!’ I said. There we were, three lads having a laugh, men of work being sensible. They gave me bag and I signed a form and it was done. I didn’t have to wait until 9pm because it would have been silly.

I chuckled to myself on the way home. It was nice to be accepted by the policemen. I had felt a manly bond with them. Then I thought. Then I had a bit of a cringe. They’d got my number from my notebook. Which meant they’d looked in my bag. Earlier that day I’d bought a present for my colleague, Wendy. Which meant that as they sifted through my things they would have picked up a pristine hardback edition of Alan Titchmarsh’s romantic bestseller, Haunted; a tale of love, betrayal and the past.

Alan Titchmarsh

The whole scene in the police station suddenly became something completely different in my head. They weren’t laughing at how stupid the people in the shop were, they were laughing at me acting all macho with a copy of an Alan Titchmarsh book in my bag. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing episode.

Addendum: I thought it was all over and took solace in the fact I would be able to blog about it. I’ll take a photo of the book next to the bag, I thought. That’ll be funny. It was a lovely light outside so I set up the shot, of the Alan Titchmarsh book next to my bag on my doorstep when my cool neighbour walked past. I was leaning over the book with my camera phone when he said, ‘Alright?’ I said, ‘Yeah I’m fine, thanks.’


Excellent New Golf Umbrella Policy at Cardiff Museum

You can see a van Goch, a Monet, a Renoir, a woolly mammoth, a T-Rex skull, a life sized diorama of a British woodland scene resplendent with the taxidermied remains of the national fauna, and of course the happiest flying turtle in the world, but the best thing at Cardiff Museum at the moment is undoubtedly their new golf umbrella policy.

There I was this morning, this cold and drizzly day, on my way to the museum for a quick look around as is my wont when I was approached by a friendly member of museum staff and I thought to myself, that’s odd, I’m not usually approached. The gentleman said to me, ‘Excuse me sir, it’s entirely your decision but if you like you can check your umbrella in at reception.’

I looked down at my General Electric golf umbrella. It’s not my favourite umbrella; that was stolen from me by a chav working at Costco when I did my Food Hygiene Level Two training. It had been a dark, rainy day and I was in amongst a gaggle of Costco staff whose idea of food hygiene was washing a raw turkey in a sink with soapy water. Seriously. At close of play I went to retrieve my golf umbrella from the corner of the room where I had diligently stored it only to discover it had been lifted by light fingers. I had loved that umbrella. It was black and when I used it I thought of myself as a New Yorker on my way to an important marketing meeting. Now I have a GE umbrella and I feel a little dirty because it’s turquoise and gaudy, though it does have a button one can press which initiates a self-erecting mechanism.

Check my umbrella at reception? I thought. What an absolutely incredible idea. Off to reception I went with a new spring in my step. ‘I’d like to check in my umbrella,’ I said.

‘Certainly, sir,’ said the receptionist, taking the umbrella from me and handing me a laminated raffle ticket, number 18, which I duly pocketed. Liberated of the hassle of carrying an umbrella around indoors increased my enjoyment of the museum by at least 20%. So I’d like to thank Cardiff Museum for such an inspiring policy and one which I hope other institutions will adopt. It turned my day into an absolute delight.


A Poppy Seed Bread Disaster

Ah, a crisp autumnal morn. What better way to start the day than a trip to your favourite baker for a loaf of your choice bread? For Amy and me, poppy seed loaf from M&S. I arrived at the bakery section and browsed the breads but couldn’t find the poppy seed. At ten in the morning? Something was up. The baker was nowhere to be seen. Looking around I found a member of staff, let’s call her Brenda.

‘Excuse me, have you got any poppy seed bread?’

She poked her head over the baking counter and had a look for the baker.

‘Angie,’ she called to a colleague coming up the aisle towards us. ‘You haven’t seen the baker have you?’

‘Freezer’s broke,’ said Angie. ‘Won’t be fixed ‘til Thursday. There’s no-one there.’

At this point I noticed a shelf on the back wall of the bakery, brimming with loaves, all sliced, wrapped, labelled and ready to go.

‘Is there any poppy seed?’ said Brenda.

Angie gave the few loaves on the countertop a cursory glance.

‘Can’t see any,’ she said.

I was sensing from Angie at this point a distinct air of disinterest.

I pointed at the loaves on the shelf behind the counter.

‘There’s a whole load of bread on that shelf,’ I said.

Angie’s eyes rolled over to the loaves.

‘I’m not allowed to go over there,’ she said to Brenda. ‘It’s against health and safety.’

Now I’m no walking clinometer but on the flat gradient of the shop floor I’d estimate the distance between Angie and the bread was no more than 1.8 metres. Under three paces. A quick risk assessment of the path she would need to take revealed no hazards. I looked at Angie. She seemed to be me around mi-fifties. This means she was over ten years old, the approximate age at which any normal person can decide whether or not walking three paces poses a reasonable risk. Just to reiterate I had already conducted a rudimentary risk assessment and considered the walk to the shelf of bread safe. She was probably capable of doing the same.

I really wanted the bread and so I said, ‘Just to let you know, I’m a health and safety officer and you can go behind there, you just wouldn’t be able to prepare food unless you have a Food Hygiene Level 2 certificate.’ I knew this from my experience as a barista. She was confusing health and safety with food hygiene laws, a rookie mistake.

As soon as I said these words Angie went into the space behind the counter. Nothing had changed. The risk in the area hadn’t diminished. No laws had been altered. Just because I had said these words, Angie went straight in there and checked the bread, just like a normal adult person.

And I thought, are people just being lazy these days and hiding behind fears of health and safety? No health and safety inspector, or food inspector would ever not let someone check some packaged bread and it’s ridiculous to think they would. Are we hiding behind “health and safety” to get out of doing work? Probably, I concluded. Angie certainly was. It made me think, gosh, the world gets just that little bit more awful each day doesn’t it.

At that point Angie turned back to me from the shelf of bread and said, ‘No, we ain’t got no poppy seed.’

Our eyes met. We both knew she hadn’t really given the shelf much of a check at all. But there was nothing I could do other than collect up a loaf of disappointing tiger bread.