Lucy in the sky with….fairy lights.

So it’s that time of year again. Every year it seems to go by a little quicker. It does only seem like yesterday when my daughter was having her first Christmas in her little red dress. Turns out it was actually three years ago. This year, for the first time, I shall be attending midnight mass. I’m not religious, as I’m sure most of you know… Not even a little

fairy-lights

My wife revealed to me that she would like to attend, as it was always customary in her family. (Irish/Italian living in New York) I put up my usual defense of not wanting to go and stated clearly that I didn’t want to go…So naturally after 3 or 4 minutes of silence I agreed to go. I figure 45mins singing Christmas Carols and hearing the story of Jesus’ birth was a far better option than spending the rest of 2014 with the silent treatment. But there was another reason for agreeing to go…

I watched a TED video a few weeks ago which the premise was ‘Getting what you want’
If you have a free 21mins I would recommend watching the video.
One point was trying to get out of the rut you’re in, which we all get stuck in from time to time. Getting out of your comfort zone, doing something that’s new. Going to church on Christmas eve at midnight, for me, will be new. I’m usually found propping up a bar of some description. The only way we, I, will ever grow as a human/man/husband/father is to experience new things. Getting a perspective from the other side of the fence. Breaking out of a routine that makes days fall away like the old needles of a Christmas tree. So with that in mind the four of us will trot off to church. I’ll keep of copy of Christopher Hitchens in my coat pocket… Just for moral support.

So we have our tree up, the girls are little older, which brings back that Christmas sparkle that we had as children, that somehow gets lost in the haze of adolescence. We bought a bottle of mulled wine and the cakes, sweets & chocolates are starting to roll in. Whatever you plan on doing this season, be it going to church, learning about the winter solstice or learning about how other faiths/non faiths celebrate this time of year..I hope it’s a good one.

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Tight arse

Money - Black and White Money

Money – Black and White Money (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

We all have one. We love them just the same, try and treat them equally and afford them the same opportunity as everyone else. I’m talking about tight fisted misers. We all know at least one person who’s happy to ponce drinks off people all night but who is conveniently absent when it’s his/her round. If you don’t have a friend who’s a tight arse then it’s more than likely to be you.

With this in mind I have devised a series of social scenarios to determine once and for all…

Am I a tight arse?

1. You’re having dinner with a group of friends and the bill arrives at the end of the evening. Do you:

A. Stand up and instruct your fellow diners to stay their wallets as tonights banquet is on you?
B. Glance at the bill and do a quick tot up in your head, taking into account a tip, land on a rough figure and stick on an extra fiver?(Just in case)
C. Pull out a calculator and work out exactly what you had. You pay on card to ensure you only pay for what you had?

2. It’s the middle of winter and you’re leaving the house for a few hours. Do you:

A. Leave the thermostat on 30.. That’s what it’s been on all day and you’re not going to come home to a cold house?
B. Turn the thermostat down to 20. Keeping the house at a moderate temperature?
C. Turn the central heat completely off. Why should you pay to warm an empty house?

3. You’re in a bar with friends and you’re happily knocking back your favourite tipple. It’s now your round. Do you:

A. Order 2 bottles of their finest champagne?
B. Ask everyone what they’re having and get a round in?
C. Sneak off to the toilet and hope someone else gets the drinks in?

4. You come home to find your teenage son has had a few friends home and he turned on the hot tub to impress a young lady. Do you:

A. Phone up and get a DJ/Band to come over to really get things going?
B. Let them continue, insuring that nothing gets broken or gets out of hand. After, have a frank discussion with your son?
C. Inform him that the extra electricity he’s wasted will be coming out of his allowance?

5. You have your extended family over for Sunday dinner. Do you:

A. Get the biggest bird in the shop, Serve it up with all the trimmings and wash it down with half a dozen bottles of France’s finest?
B. Put on a moderate dinner and half expect guests to bring along a bottle or a desert?
C. Put on a moderate dinner at the end of which you present each of your guests with a bill for their share

6. You’ve just paid for a family holiday to Orlando with Christmas just around the corner. Do you:

A. Inform your children that christmas will go ahead as planed and they shouldn’t expect any sort of ‘bump in the road’?
B. Inform your children that with the cost of the holiday christmas might have to be scaled down this year?
C. Inform your children that the trip to Orlando is their present and if they want a tree this year they’ll have to buy themselves?

7. It’s your daughter’s sweet 16. Do you:

A. Throw her whatever kind of party she desires?
B. Throw her a modest party but you keep an eye of the expenditures?
C. Present her with her newly arrived national insurance card and tell her that as of tomorrow if she wants to live under your roof she is to start paying rent?

8. You’ve sold a friend a pair of shoes and he wants his money back as they don’t fit him (He’s owned them for 5 minutes) Do you:

A. Tell him that they are no use to you and tell him to give them to the charity shop, whilst refunding him his money?
B. Refund his money and try and sell the shoes elsewhere?
C. Tell him the deal is done and that it’s his tough luck?

9. You live in on ground floor flat and the lift has broken. Do you:

A. Pay for the repairs yourself to ensure it’s fixed the next day then try and recoup your money?
B. Attend the tenants meeting to ensure the lift is fixed as soon as possible and make sure you contribute, if necessary, towards its repair?
C. You don’t really care if it ever gets fixed as you never use it. And you certainly wont be coughing up any money?

10. You win the lottery. Do you:

A. Give it all away. The acquisition of money won’t make you happier?
B. Make sure you and all your family members are finically set for life. Set up a charity or two to help the needy?
C. Horde it all into various trust funds and bank accounts to keep it safe. You now have to keep an eye on even more money?

Mostly A’s: Daddy Warbucks! Recession is just another word for ‘Buying cheaper houses’

Mostly B’s: A well rounded individual. You’re careful, but not a dick when it comes to money

Mostly C’s: You have a sickness and you need help.

We’ve all seen ‘surveys’ like this in magazines and newspapers, and most of us have gone through them, answering the questions and going through the results. As if something like this will give you a hidden insight into your own psyche. I don’t have a psychology degree or a masters in cognitive brain therapy. But I do know that if you are the kind of person who answered mostly C’s then you are more than likely to be in the process of segregating yourself from your peers. 8 of those scenarios either happened to me personally or happened to a very close friend or relative. Most of the real scenarios where caused by one family member, who chose option C. I won’t name names but if you do happen to be reading this you should be utterly ashamed of yourself.

But I will offer a few words on the subject.

No one likes being broke, no one. But saving £5 here or £10 there is not really going to make a difference. If you can’t afford to lose that £5 or £10 then you shouldn’t accept any kind of invitation where you would have to ‘pay your way’ or you should at the very least explain that you’re not in a position to pay back/chip in etc… But to gleefully wash down dinner with a large glass of merlot that someone else prepared and paid for or have someone else pay for your child to go to Thorpe Park and have zero intention of paying them back or reciprocating the favour then I’m afraid to tell you that you are a grade A, first class ARSE HOLE!

But there is hope. If you are the kind of person that answered mostly C’s then I implore you to try any of the following:

*Buy someone you know a gift anonymously
*Offer your services for free
*Lend a stranger money and not expect them to pay you back
*Help out a fellow in need

All of the above have one thing in common. They are acts of kindness that offer nothing in return. Please trust me when I say the utter joy that can be found in simple acts of kindness is immeasurable. Simple acts to you and me, but to the recipients they are a beacon of hope that mankind hasn’t gone to shit, that just below the surface the vast majority of us are good and we will lend a hand if you’re in need.

I was once in the queue at a pharmacy and the guy in front of me was 30p short for his prescription and the pharmacist wasn’t budging on the price. So without thinking, I dropped 50p on the counter and said ‘There you go’ which I honestly thought nothing of. The guy turned around and thanked me profusely, he had nothing to offer me as he’d left his wallet at home. He told me that he owned a pub in Windlesham (I think) and said if I was ever in the area there was a pint waiting for me. A favour I’m yet to cash in 🙂

50p to me isn’t a lot of money, but to someone who doesn’t have it

it’s about a 45minute round trip to pick up your wallet in order to pay for your asthma medication. Or in other words, a pain in the arse.

So if you can, be a little frivolous with your cash. Let your purse strings fly in the wind and let your generosity fill the dinner table, warm the home and earn you a free pint at a pub somewhere in Surrey.

T