Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Unexplained Orkney Part 1 : Visitors From Above

As I have mentioned before, it was my Dad who encouraged my interest in the unexplained - rather surprising since Dad was a very logic-driven guy, sometimes maddeningly so! As a Royal Navy petty officer and a civilian engineer who, one way or another, spent all of his adult life working for the MoD, it was even more surprising that he had a healthy distrust of taking the word of our government and military overlords…or maybe that's not so surprising! Anyway, he encouraged my interest at an early age when he gave me a copy of Erich von Danniken’s book Chariots of the Gods, and then steered me toward many other such writers including Charles Fort, Zecheriah Sitchin, and Jim Marrs.

I’ve lived for more than a decade now in Orkney ( for the geographically-challenged, Orkney is one of those remote island chains at the very, very top of Scotland, the ones which often look like an accidental ink blot on some maps and most TV weather forecast graphics ) and although I’ve long known of the rich depth and breadth of its mythology - everything from scary sea monsters to the helpful hogboon - I have only recently thought to take a closer look at the area’s history of UFO sightings and mysterious happenings. And there was more of it to be found than I had imagined.

What set me off on my research was an incident occurring in April of 2014 when a massive power outage saw the entire Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland blacked-out for several hours starting around 8.30pm. Almost two-thirds of the country was in total darkness because something hit the power lines at some point along a 55-mile stretch of extremely remote line in the Highlands. The mysterious thing about it was that despite a ‘full investigation’ by Scottish & Southern Electricity no actual cause has ever been found for the disruption. The best anyone has been able to say is that “something” must have hit the power lines - birds, flying debris, lightning. Problem with this is that there were no storms, no adverse weather conditions at all, and birds or debris tend to leave physical evidence in the vicinity, of which there was nothing, despite extensive ground searches. That’s when my mind drifted to other possible explanations… 

Sure, a very earthly military craft could have hit the power lines and the MoD would have calmly and believably denied having any aircraft in the area, it’s not like they haven’t got a track record for such bald-faced denials, right? It is true that as the jet-fighter flies Cape Wrath, one of the MoD's flight-testing sites, is a mere blip on the radar away from the area where the power lines came down. And I certainly have no problem recalling how we spent our second summer in Orkney having our satellite signal constantly and violently disrupted, much to the puzzlement ( and chagrin ) of our local satellite engineers. Everyone knew there had been test flights of new jet-fighters over Orkney, originating out of Cape Wrath, you couldn't miss the regular sonic booms they made, but no one seemed able to explain how those jets would have interfered with our satellite signal...well, what if it wasn't the jets doing the interference but something else that was following the jets, mm-mm...? Anyway, for the MoD to deny that one of their craft blacked-out almost an entire nation and for nobody to have blown the whistle, or at least started a rumor or two…? I have a harder time believing that than I do believing that extraterrestrial craft might have been shadowing the jet-testing and disrupted our satellite signal so badly we ended up being given a brand new dish free of charge by the despairing engineers! So is it really much more of a stretch to ask what if it had been some less earthly craft which got tangled with the power lines over the remote Highlands?

Then, by chance, I found a couple stories in the Yesteryear page of the local newspaper, The Orcadian. Both stories were from 1914 and concerned the launch of local lifeboats after sightings of ‘red flares’ were reported by several witnesses on land. In one instance it seemed to the witnesses that there was “a ship on fire off Burgh Head”. In this case, the lifeboat set off a flare to signal that help was on the way at which point “the light further out to sea immediately disappeared and despite close searches no trace of any vessel was ever found”. Nothing was ever found in either case, in fact.

Fast forward to April 2009, just around midnight, and the thunderous roar of a helicopter flying window-rattingly low over our house disturbed myself and Housemate watching a late-night movie. It was the coastguard helicopter joining a search which also involved a couple of lifeboats and the on-land emergency services, sparked by several reported sightings of “red flares” over Kirkwall Bay. Despite an intensive four-hour search, nothing was found. Sounding familiar yet? Yes, well, unlike the 1914 incidents, after which everyone ( meaning, the Establishment and the newspaper who were likely at the mercy of the Establishment at that war-sensitive time ) just shut up about it as if it had never happened, in 2009 the blame was placed on the reason du jour for any kind of unexplained lights being seen in the sky…Chinese lanterns.

I’m sorry, pardon me, but whaaaat -?

Apparently these days we are to believe that people all over the UK are merrily setting off Chinese lanterns which other people are merrily mistaking for everything from distress flares to UFO’s…because the Establishment assume we’re all dumb as fence posts, I suppose. Also, sorry again, but Orkney is a tiny wee island ( in comparison to, well, just about anywhere else except perhaps Shetland or the Faroes ) and if anyone had been setting off Chinese lanterns that night, you better believe that dozens of people would have known exactly who it was and where they were, and someone of those would have informed either the coastguard or the police or both. So, Chinese lanterns my sharny arse! But hey, too bad the Establishment didn’t have Chinese lanterns to blame in 1914, eh?

Anyway, back to the present and these incidents, put together in my fervid little imagination, set me off on a research quest ( which I haven’t quite completed yet but I have enough to make a start here ) and what I have found is kinda fascinating. First of all, I noticed that there is a [ tenuous? ] link between extreme weather events and meteor events, and rashes of UFO sightings and other mysterious happenings. Severe thunderstorms, blizzards, gale force winds, torrential rain, and at other end of the scale, unseasonable heat-waves. Also earthquakes and other mystery underground rumblings and venting seem to occur in a loose conjunction with other phenomena. I’ll write about this other phenomena in the next post.

In 1913, for a period of about 16 weeks from roughly January to April, there were a rash of what have come to be known as ‘scareship’ sightings all over the UK, sightings of what were assumed to be German airships or Zeppelins. There has never been any verification, either official or unofficial, that what people were seeing were Zeppelins, however, and the descriptions of the behavior of some of these craft make you doubt that they could have been anything as lumbering as a Zeppelin. Sticking to Orkney, there were ‘scareships’ spotted on 28th February, off the isle of Sanday, heading southwards, and again in March, when one was sighted over Sanday again, also heading southwards, seen also by people in Deerness on Mainland ( the biggest of the Orkney isles ). "Considerable importance" was attached to this sighting because it occurred in daylight. Despite this, the report made stated only that "a great aerial craft [was] seen hovering over the island on Monday afternoon, March 3rd". The 9th April sighting was even more descriptive and intriguing. This time the 'scareship' hovered over Stronsay ( and outer isle which turns up time and again in relation to Orkney's weird happenings ) for two hours before midnight, displaying a "bright light seen at intervals" and with the hum of an engine being distinctly heard despite the ship being stationary. It then headed in a northwesterly direction off Stronsay and disappeared.

Moving forward to June 1940 and Hoy, where an anti-aircraft unit member tracked for 10 seconds a “flattened sphere moving rapidly on a horizontal course at an estimated 38,000ft”. Moving forward again to March 1962 when an object with “capabilities and appearance beyond earthly aircraft” was spotted somewhere over Orkney ( not specified in report ) and another similar object spotted “on the sea”. Not over the sea, but on the sea. And the most intriguing one of all…in 1992 there was a well-renowned rash of UFO sightings all across Scotland, including one over Orkney. On December 20th a UFO was tracked on radar near Orkney and an RAF fighter jet sent to intercept and investigate it. The incident was never reported in the media, but if you go to this site and read Tony Dodd’s article you will see that he claims a 'reliable source' to have informed him that at one point the jet fighter and UFO merged on radar and contact was lost with the jet-fighter. A search and rescue plane was dispatched to look for the missing jet and did indeed find it, hours later, intact, sitting in a remote and inhospitable spot in Orkney where landing would have been impossible. And no pilot.

Okay, I find the latter part of this story hard to credit. As I said, Orkney is a tiny wee place and anything like a downed jet-fighter, whether it landed there under its own steam, crashed, or was deposited out the arse-end of an intergalactic spacecraft, would have been bloody well noticed and no amount of government or MoD shushing would have stopped the island residents from jawing about it far and wide.

But what is intriguing about this story is Dodd's claim that another of his 'reliable sources' informed him of heavy UFO activity on the same day along the coast of Iceland. There is rumored to be an underwater UFO/maybe joint-MoD base in that area, and, well, remember that there are parts of England lie further from Orkney than does Iceland. And that makes me believe that the first part of this sighting story at least may be true.

Two last things about Orkney that makes me inclined to take the UFO thing seriously.

One is the rich deposit of uranium ore in Orkney. Many places around the world with deposits of uranium ore are visited by UFO's in noticeably large numbers. Mining for this uranium ore has been blocked for years by the islanders and their MP's. But that wouldn't stop others from benefiting from it, would it?

And two are the mysterious rumblings heard under parts of Orkney. The most widely-reported one of which occurred on 18th November 1955, on the isle of Shapinsay when a farmer there reported three rumblings within 45 minutes and another 6 hours later. The sound, he claimed, was like "a cartload of stones being emptied". His dog, normally a calm beast, was particularly perturbed by the incident. The 'official' explanation given was "venting from a natural gas reservoir running through a geological fault beneath Shapinsay". Funny, but it's either never happened again there, or no one on Shapinsay has ever bothered to report it since and the beasts must have got used to it! But this has not been the only strange underground rumbling heard on Orkney...there are others. Indeed, myself and Housemate have even heard one of these strange events! I can't recall the exact year but I think it was either 2008-09, one early evening we were sitting in the living room of our home when we heard - and felt - a deep, loud rumbling, like thunder but not thunder. We could feel it vibrating through the floor beneath our feet. It went on for maybe 3-5 seconds and then there was a loud, sharp bang that made both of our hairs stand on end. The kind of bang that would suggest ( it certainly did to us ) lightning striking an electrical transformer. However, there was no lightning, no storms, and no transformers went down that evening. Believe me when I say we have experienced the downing of a transformer, during the 'thundersnow' storms of 2014, and the power just goes out like, well, like a light! Some of our neighbors also noticed the phenomenon and it was reported to various agencies, but no official explanation was ever forthcoming. More like a collective shrug of Establishment shoulders was all we got.    

I have yet to finish my trawling through the island’s unexplained history, but so far these are some of the most intriguing stories I have found. Also, they are all ones which could not be easily dismissed as meteors or other fully explainable phenomena, such as the Kirkwall and Aberdeen coastguard’s reporting of a “bright spherical object with tail moving NW to SE, splitting in two” on 25th January 1985, or the “giant fireball” which lit up the skies over Orkney in vivid purple and white, traveling at a speed of 50,000mph from NE to SW on March 5th 1933. So, until next post…keep watching the skies. But try not to trip over any little grey men might be standing in your path!

And while you're at it, go visit this site to read more about mysterious Orkney. You won't be sorry!

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Muse Has Landed

A while back - okay, a long while back - I suddenly found that I just could not write any more. There were several things contributed to this, some purely personal to my life, others that related directly to the reality of being a published writer. The rot began to set in when I was partway through the 2nd book in the Vampires of Hollywood series and I was sensing a strange and distracting discontent roving through my usually creative brain. Then there was the Infamous Computer Crash in which I lost everything I had struggled to write of Dante’s Choice, necessitating a complete rewrite with nothing substantial left to reference, and after that something which I had loved to do since ever I learned to read and write, became the thing I hated most. I could not write at all. What’s more, I had zero interest in doing so. I could have quite happily walked away from the whole business forever and not given a single blue fuck.

In fact I did walk away from it. Eventually I had to walk away or go bat-shit insane. At first the inability to write was depressing, and then it became frustrating, and finally everything about writing just made me so mad that walking away seemed the sanest, most reasonable thing to do. So I took time out and did other things - any other thing so long as it didn’t involve creative writing - and in doing so I rediscovered a liking for ( and a fair talent for ) crafting. I also caught up on a slew of reading. Really whittled down my To Be Read list.

Tongue-in-cheek Gothic goodness!
Then, just before Christmas 2014, I came across a file of short stories, some unfinished, none published, and I began tinkering with those, re-writing, re-shaping, and lo, I began to feel the stirrings of creativity once again. So I dug out a bunch of small press publications in which I’d had short stories appear and I began going through those, looking for suitable ones to include in a compilation, mostly of horror stories which are either a little tongue-in-cheek or poke gentle fun at the Gothic tradition of scary stories. And that compilation, to be titled A Night At Castle Kozlak: Or How I Became A Vampire Hunter! ( And Other Stories ) will be my next published work. This will be followed by a horror novella which I am working on completing at the moment, titled Down At Pomba Gira’s. Reconnecting with my old short stories, the place where I began writing, has rekindled my desire to write, if not quite made me love it again…not yet anyway. But it's a start.
The horror...oh the horror...!

As for the next installment of my New Orleans Mysteries series featuring Willie Rae Flynn & Co., titled Summertime and the Dying is Easy, I have picked that up again in the last week but I have no idea yet when anything will be ready for actual publication.

Book 3 in the Vampires of Hollywood series will hopefully be out in December 2015. I can’t say much about what it will look like except that another major character will die ( but it won’t be Dante, or Lydia! ), and that the powerful enemy of whom Dante was warned by the dying Robin will be revealed. Everything else is still being knitted together, slowly and painfully at times, because there remain certain issues of discontent with this series.

But it’s nice to be able to write anything at all again. One of my own all-time favorite authors, Stephen King, once described writing as being like sitting staring at a blank piece of paper until somehow, magically, a hole opens up in the paper and you fall through that hole into a world of your own creation. Waiting for the hole in the paper to open up can be frustrating and sometimes even frightening, and when it closes for an extended period, leaving you locked out of your creative world, you feel like you’re losing your damned mind. I’m not sure if King said that part but it was sure as hell how I felt for a while after the hole in the page slammed shut on me.

It's said also that everything in life is a learning experience and I did learn some lessons from my experience with this closure of the creative world. I learned to be choosy about which writers I am in contact with, to stay out of writing groups online ( with the exception of one very, very good group to which I still belong, Book Junkies ), to recognize wannabe kingmakers who are using review sites to play their little power games and avoid those like the plague, and to whittle my social media presence down to just the sites that I use most often and which don’t make me want to go out and burn down libraries. More importantly, I also re-affirmed my belief that a writer should just write, and not get involved with the back-slapping and ass-kissing side of the business of writing.

Just write!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Not One Iota of F**k To Be Given!

So another birthday goes by ( in a suitably beer-flavored blur ) and with the passing of one more year of life I find myself giving one less iota of fuck about the opinions others may have of me or of the way that I do things. I mean, I stopped giving much of a fuck about all that a long, long time ago ( not that I ever was overly-concerned with what others were thinking of or about me ) but with every year older I get the negative balance of fucks given increases exponentially.

I doubt I would ever have been the kind to give much of a fuck but for sure the circumstances under which this tendency developed into an integral part of my makeup occurred early on in my life when, through events beyond our control in the 1970s, my folks and me had to move from the city to a small town. Unfortunately it turned out to be a small town which could have taken a starring role in any Stephen King novel…only minus the decency to be at least cool enough to be terrorized by a psychotic clown named Pennywise or infested with vampires. The evil of our small town was just as banal as most real evil is and grew largely from the twin roots of insularity and ignorance. For me, going to school there was a daily waking nightmare. Sometimes I think the only reason I got through it was that the whole experience quickly became fodder for my imagination and love of writing stories. Anyway, I spent years striving to get away from that small town and once I did, I spent more years scrubbing from memory all trace of that part of my past which had held little joy but altogether too much resentment and bitterness. Then one day, long after I’d left it behind and was just visiting my parents there, the one-time best friend of a girl who had spent every school day of our lives creating as much merry hell for me as she could get away with, buttonholed me on the street and began chatting away as though we had been the best friends. She particularly could not wait to inform me how that once BFF of hers had wound up spawning three kids to three different guys and super-sizing herself before the age of twenty-five. I realized two things that day: one, bullies really don’t recall that they were bullies, and there really is no point in either reminding them or holding a grudge over what they did to you; and two, that you really shouldn’t put too much stock in how others feel about you because there is nowt so fickle and wont to change as human feelings about other human beings. The person who was your best friend one day may indeed be your mortal enemy next day.

As a result of this now-forgotten past in the ignorantly evil mire of a small town, the very notion of things like school reunions and friending old classmates on social media sites just fucking baffles me. Truth is, I stopped giving a fuck about those people so long ago that today I fail to see any value in either my knowing what they are up to nor in them knowing diddly-squat about me. Yes, some people do like to indulge in “Look at me now!” with the citizens of that foreign country called The Past but to me their motivation for this is a mystery. Are they so starved of adult self-esteem that they need to prove something to people with whom they shared a mutual dislike thirty years ago? People whom they haven’t seen nor heard from since the last day they all ran out of the school gates, breathing a collective sigh of relief that this hideous part of their lives was now over. Or have their adult lives turned out to be so drearily disappointing that they feel the need to relive their glory days as the teenage Prom Queen? Does it make them feel better to know that at least they haven’t been through as many husbands as Betsy Whatserface? Does it boost their flagging ego to think, “Hey, Johnny Whosit is only a welder and not the manager of a second-hand furniture store like I am!”

How ineffably sad. For them.

Today we live in a world which moves faster - and arguably moves through shallower waters - than ever before, a world in which people come and go from our lives with dizzying rapidity, people who might live halfway around the world and whom we’ve never event met except in an online forum. Out of the many hundreds of these ‘friends’ we all have, we may make an actual connection with a mere handful, the rest being just monikers attached to thumbnail pictures with whom we occasionally share a meme or like a link. We should be concerned even less than ever with the opinions these amorphous others have of us. It further baffles me then why anyone should be so concerned with their online image, to the point of carefully editing every comment they type, and selecting only pictures and links that will put them in a favorable light. Favorable to whom? That housewife from Bumfuck, Idaho who friended you because you listed ‘knitting and baking’ amongst your hobbies and because you had ninety-nine friends in common ( the one-hundredth person unfriended you just prior to this because you stopped liking the Lol Cats )? Or the guy who used to sit three rows behind you in high-school Biology and whose once-only exchange with you consisted of “Outta the way!” on the stairs? And even that you don’t recall because you were too busy gabbing to your girlfriends. Or are you one of those writers/artists/whatevers who fear that your ‘fans’ will desert you in droves if they find out that you aren’t the down-home Chatty Cathy always smiling and baking apple pies for the neighborhood folks that you spend all that time and effort trying to come across as, but that you are in fact as capable as the rest of us of being a downright foul-mouthed bitch on wheels when you get a raft of martinis in you?

So you’re human. My, my. Imagine that. Now get the fuck over it. And yourself.


Monday, 26 May 2014

A Woman's Work Doing A Man's Work Is Never Done

I don't often come down on the side of the more radical feminists but just occasionally I'll grant that they make a point or two, and even more occasionally I even find myself thinking that they are just too damned soft on the male of the species!

Case in point. In April two of our male neighbors were instructed to have their overgrown gardens cut back and the landlord ran an inspection of the expected work in early May. Of course it wasn't done. At all. Nada. So the landlords told them again. One guy ran all the pat assurances that he'd get it done in the necessary time ( don't even bother with the other guy, he's just being a total creep and the landlord is dealing with that ). We've waited since to see even a glimpse of intent to do anything about these assurances ( we even intended to help the guy do the work ) but...nothing. More nada. With the deadline up and work due to start on our garden next day, me and Housemate had to spend two hard hours cutting back years worth of bush and tree overgrowth ourselves. At the end there was a huge pile of garden waste which we simply dropped on the property of its rightful owner. After all, he should have been doing the job, not us. Why should we have to get rid of his foliage?

Only this guy doesn't think so and he comes pouting at us that he's going to chuck it all back into our garden and we can get rid of it because we cut it. Well, as we pointed out, we cut it because he wasn't doing it even after being told to do so twice.

His response?

"I was going to do it!" Followed by a blank look when asked when exactly that might have been since the deadline was up? Seriously, do males learn to stick out their lower lips and sulkily utter this statement in childhood when Mother asks them repeatedly to tidy their rooms and why do mothers a. believe this shit? and b. not nip it in the bud if they don't believe it? It sure isn't the same for girls. Not in my experience and I'm sure not in the experience of other girls who also had mothers would not accept anything less than definitive answers to questions which began "When are you going to...?"

It crosses my mind that this guy really never intended to do anything except wait it out and force us to do exactly what we did, thus letting himself off scot-free and with the smug self-assurance that he won. It further crosses my mind that had the situation been reversed and the neglect been on our part, I'm pretty sure this guy wouldn't have hesitated to do exactly what we did and if we'd chucked it all back into his garden there'd have been one hell of a row about it.

And what self-respecting male then goes into a diva-ish huff because two women of hardly imposing physicality HAVE UNDERTAKEN A TOUGH OUTDOOR PHYSICAL JOB THAT HE SHOULD HAVE FUCKING WELL DONE HIMSELF? PLEASE, YOU SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT THAT WOMEN DID WHAT YOU KEPT PUTTING OFF DOING! Not sticking out your lip and crying at the perceived injustice of having to clean up a mess that belongs to you anyway. I daresay there are those who'd be of the opinion that we should have just kept waiting, even if it meant holding up work on our garden ( at our expense ), and spent perhaps weeks or months going through proper channels whilst our neighbor continued to be always "getting around to it" but we ain't anyone's mommies and we're not prepared to wait around until the end of time listening to some guy emptily flap his lips.

I've had the misfortune in my life before to have had this kind of guy as a neighbor. The kind of guy who always wanted to be an alpha male but who was never, never going to be that, and who has harbored a resentment his whole life for it, becoming instead the kind of petty martinet who lords it over anyone he thinks is smaller, weaker, or less powerful than he is. And because he is the kind of nasty little bully who makes sure to only bully people who won't or can't fight back, often using well-honed passive-aggressive tactics in his bullying, he gets his way, sometimes for a long time. Until one day he doesn't. Until one day he picks on the wrong target and it turns out that person can and will fight back. That's when the pouty little boy comes out and goes crying back to Mommy.

Sure, anyone can be a jackass regardless of their gender but it does seem that this kind of bully is more often to be found among the male of the species than the female, even though it tends to be women who are blamed in the situations created by these men for being 'fussy' and 'nagging', which makes the outrage of the feminists even more understandable. Even if I do wonder if the ire of the feminists - and those of us who simply don't want to put up with the shit - shouldn't be directed at least in part at the women who are the mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives of these men and who condone their behavior by letting them away with it. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

It's A Dirty Job And We've Probably Done It

Lately me and Housemate have had occasion to rework our current business plan because, well, things in business rarely go as planned. Doing so led us the other night to reminiscing about our first foray into business and our own early jobs...

We got into the whole idea of self-employment in the early 90s when I becamse possessed by the overwhelming notion that dating services were going to be HUGE in the future. Back then there were only maybe two majors in the UK, neither of which were utilizing the burgeoning new technology known as 'the internet', and maybe a handful of those homemade penpal-mag types. The idea took real hold after I joined one of the agencies as part of the market research ( they were having a half-price sale and it seemed like too good an opportunity to waste ) and found that most of the clients using them were ordinary folks, not a bunch of sexual deviants and serial killers. That came later with the internet...Anyway, fast forward and we had this brilliant business plan ( "Sitting on a goldmine" as one of our business advisors put it ) and we couldn't get the funding we required for love nor money ( pun intended ). Not just were the banks and the government leery of such an idea, it was actively prohibited as a loan or grant option! Which, I think, proves that those bland-faced financial types in their boring pinstripe suits really don't have a scrap of creative vision to pass around between them. So we had to go sideways, starting a cleaning business instead to get the funding we needed, with the intention of quickly diversifying into the online dating service. I mean, us? cleaning? You can all stop laughing any time.

Remember those best laid plans? We got stuck in the cleaning thing for so long that by the time we were in a position to diversify, the online dating market had already boomed and for us to enter it would only have been us adding a whisper to that increasingly loud white noise. So we diversified into something else that we'd never intended to do. Such is self-employed life.

On the My Weird Job subject, Housemate once sold teatowels and other gimcrackery to tourists on a boat. Which wasn't too bad except that most of the tourists were drunk and quite a few were obnoxious ( what is it about being in someone else's country that makes some people think it's okay to act like an ass-clown? Or do they behave like that at home too, and if so why are they still living? ) and Scotland's lochs, although very picturesque, can also be surprisingly choppy, and cold. Freeze-your-tits-off cold. She also cleaned houses for a while. Until one day she found herself standing on a rickety wooden chair, scrubbing the baby-food handprints off someone's patio doors with some Windex and a crappy little excuse for a chamois, beautiful day outside, the pub just a couple miles down the road beckoning to her, and she suddenly thought "What the fuck am I doing here? I went to college for this?" And no, don't even ask how a baby's hand-prints got to the top of a patio door. She once found a dildo inside the lamp shade in another house. The lamp shade in the kitchen. Do not even go there. Please. Housemate also had a more recent cleaning job where she accidentally let a rather expensive brand-new Vax vacuum cleaner fall down the stairs. I swear I almost ended myself laughing when she came home and told me that!

As for me, my wackiest job was manning one of those 0800 read-your-Tarot phone lines. The office was one of those rent-a-lemon places at the arse-end of a badly-lit street in a crappy part of Glasgow that you'd be dubious about going to in full daylight with an armed escort. I took a friend along to the interview and when the guy interviewing me said "You shouldn't really bring your friend to an interview" I laughed at him and pointed out, "Do you seriously think any female in her right mind would come to a place like this, for a strange job interview like this, alone? You're not from around here then, are you?" I guess he liked my cheek because I got the job! It was a relatively easy job, you just sat back on a comfy couch, drinking tea, and suckers phoned up to have their fortunes read. It was all storytelling...the longer the story you told, the more money the company made from their £1000-per-minute number. And it wasn't all tea that was being drunk by the storytellers either. You worked from 7pm-11pm ( because those are the hours when the suckers were most likely to be unable to resist the lure of the 0800 number ) and Glaswegian women do enjoy their vodka...even in a cup of tea. I stuck with that job until the boss began asking us to work the 'other' lines...the ones which had nothing to do with Tarot cards. Don't get me wrong, I didn't give the job up because I found it disgusting or sick or any such thing. Hell no, I could sit there and talk dirty to some stranger on the phone until the cows came home and never have a single moral qualm about it, because sex is only dirty if you're doing it right, right? No, I had to pack it in because I couldn't stop laughing. Seriously, that was the problem... I just couldn't take it all seriously. And let's face it, the last thing that the bloke with his knob in his hand wants to hear is the woman he's talking to laughing like a maniac! So I left the employ of the 0800 numbers.
In an interesting little twist, it turned out that I actually possess something of a real talent for reading Tarot cards. I have no idea how, nor where it comes from, nor do I even believe in fortune-telling or any of its offshoots, but apparently I have a spooky accuracy when reading cards. Maybe I just read people well, who knows?
"Hello caller...yes, I can tell you that a feeling of sexual supremacy is definitely not in your future!"

Less wacky and more I-can't-believe-this-shit-goes-on was the job I had in a bingo hall. This was one of the early mega-bingo places, not so much a palace, however, as converted from a one-time fleapit cinema which might have been called The Palace but that's about as close as it ever came. The boss was a Hitler-in-tights, so twitchy and tightly wound that you spent the whole time wondering if that severely scraped back hair in the impossibly tight bun was really the only thing keeping her head from exploding. She would make us stay behind at lunch time, or after our shifts had ended, to count all the loose change and bag it. Unpaid, I should add. Labor laws in the late 80s under a Tory government were a joke. She also decreed that females were not allowed to wear trousers, only skirts, which really made me wonder about her because the punters were mostly women and they were so intent on their bingo numbers they wouldn't have noticed if the attendants were naked on rollerskates, nor would they have cared. So long as you hustled with their change. I left that job after less than one week and in the wake of *ahem* having had words with Madam Hitler over her whole there's-a-dress-code-if-I-say-there's-one-and-never-mind-company-policy demands.

Anyway, I daresay we shall find our way now to diversifying and reworking, as we have always done. But it was fun to have a laugh along the way reminiscing about the weird and not always wonderful things we have been paid to do in the past.

Combining housekeeper with sexy bingo caller who might also work an 0800 number in her spare time?