The Pizza Routine

One thing I learned, from last week’s look back over ten years of blogging, is that you never know which scribble might turn out to have more value than another. 

As I looked back over the years of posts, I could see that things of seemingly great import at the time now looked irrelevant and, frankly, a bit dull while some of the tiny details now seemed quite evocative and relevant.

This was rewarding to see. I’ve always been consistent in not trying for a ‘showstopper’ blog post every time I sit down to write one. Therein lies the way to ruin. The object has always been to just get something down. Something that has coloured my week in some way. It doesn’t have to be brilliant, or even obviously interesting to anyone but me. Just get it down. Last week confirmed that those ‘tiny posts’ can be just as good as the big noisy ones… at least for me.

That’s why I’m going to write about the Pizza Routine this week. It’s hard to see how anyone would be bothered with the details of this but it meets the criteria for a blog post. It’s real and it’s something I’ve thought about (and done) this week. 

So here it is. 

On Saturday evenings, Sam likes a takeaway pizza. He’ll have worked hard in school all week and he deserves it so there’s no argument there. Patricia and I don’t go for  pizza so we usually have some dinner made at home which gets eaten while Sam has his pizza. 

I have a routine around this pizza which is more calculated and more rigorously enacted than any other single aspect of my life. This is partly because Sam has liked takeaway pizza on Saturday evening for quite some time now. The routine has had time to evolve and cement into what it is now. Something that is completely set and reliable in an otherwise busy and often uncertain week. Something that gives me more pleasure than you might think possible. 

The routine starts with the making of the evening dinner. That’s a variable, depending on what the dinner is, but it will most often be a rice-based meal and the moment when the rice goes on to cook is the moment that the routine really kicks in. 

The rice goes on, it’s now time to order the pizza. Get to the computer, get to the pizza website, re-submit last week’s order. Yes, I will collect. Yes, I will pay when I get there. The moment the pizza is confirmed as ordered is the moment that I set the stopwatch on my phone. 

A quick check that the rice is doing okay and into the car. Drive to the garage, park up, go in, buy a Dr. Pepper in a bottle. One Euro, Sixty Five. No, sorry, it’s gone up to One Euro Seventy now. That held me up by a  few seconds in the first week it happened but then I adapted. Correct change, back to the car, walk don’t run. 

Drive to the pizza place. Go into the supermarket car park across the road to turn the car around so that it is pointing for home when I park outside the pizza place. Park up. Check stopwatch. It will be between nine minutes thirty and ten minutes thirty. The pizza take ten minutes to make. 

I walk in the door and greet the staff behind the counter as I walk up to them. They all know me and we exchange a line and a smile or two. The pizza is ready and is handed to me as I get to the counter. I hand over the correct money, turn and leave, wishing them all a good evening. They are smiling collaborators in my little routine. Although they probably don’t know I am actually on a stopwatch, they do know that I am an immovable constant in their world of impatient customers and cold uncollected pizza. It is a peculiarly specific contract is a rather loose world. If they make it on bang on time, I will collect it bang on time. They always deliver their end, no matter how busy they are. I think they may even jump me up the queue sometimes, knowing that I will open their door ten minutes after they see the order. 

On the drive home, Lyric FM is playing the Saturday Night Opera and I always listen to it as I drive to the pizza place and back. The best drives are when the opera is coming live from The Met in New York via the Toll Brothers Network. I love to hear the generous sponsors listed and the breathless description of the opera storyline then the applause as the conductor comes out and the incredible fast start as soon as he hits the podium.

Then I am home. Sam meets me at the door and takes his pizza and Dr Pepper while I check the rice, which is now done. Sometimes I steal a slice of pizza as Sam doesn’t eat it all.

Our dinner is ready. Sam has his pizza. We settle down for some junk TV. All is pretty right with the world. 

And that’s all there is to it, the Pizza Routine. What’s the point, Ken? Why waste the time it took to write this down? 

It’s like I said, I learned something last week, when I was reading back over the writing stuff of ten years. In another ten years time, the things that seem tiny and irrelevant now may not seem such any more. The Pizza Routine will be long gone. Who know what else, apart from that silly routine, may be done with? In ten years time, if I am spared, I may look back and smile and say, “Gosh, yeah, remember that?”

And, who knows, you the reader may find something to hold in my silly little routine. Something quite unknowable to me may be evoked in you as a result of this waffle. That’s how it works sometimes. That’s where the magic lies.

But that’s your business, not mine. 

Ten Years

So, yes, I’ve been writing this blog for ten years, as of this week. 

Celebrations have included a bowl of Corn Flakes and de-icing the windscreen of the car, so it’s a complete social whirl here, as you might imagine.

I’m not inclined to get all philosophical about the anniversary. The blog is a low key thing these days, more for my own benefit than for anything else. 

I do always appreciate the people who come and have a read and I’m always keen to re-emphasise that there is absolutely no obligation to do so. I fear most for those good people who drop in weekly. Do they now feel tied into some perceived requirement to turn up? If so, please don’t. Drop in now and again, when you’re passing, and that will be great. If my blog was somebody else’s I definitely wouldn’t read it every week so I don’t see why you should either. 

But I do like to see you coming and always welcome the feedback.

Well. How to mark the ten year milestone?

I went back over my posts and picked out one that I liked from every year. I didn’t mull too hard over it because that might have kept me at it all day. 

Here, then, is a link to a post from every year of the blog. For God’s sake, don’t go reading them all, that would be daft. But, if you have two minutes, you might click one and have a look, for old time’s sake. 2016 (the second last one) is my favourite of these, I think. 2015 proved the hardest to pick, nothing really stood out. 

Here’s the posts. Thanks to everybody who dropped by over the last ten years. I’m quite proud of the 642 posts and the approximate half a million words I’ve amassed here.

A couple of them are actually quite good. 

2008 - Goos-ey Goose-ey - One of my more mortifying true stories. People laughed, which was nice.

2009 - Eavesdropping on the Movies - Lots of posts were about memories from my younger days. This one caught something I like to remember.

2010 - A Shallow Grave for the Dice Man - About books and such. Things I like a lot.

2011 - Naked Ladies of my Youth - Not quite as provocative as it sounds.

2012 - Summer Holidays - If the blog has had minor preoccupations, I would say one of them has been that of being a Dad and being a Son. 

2013 - Getting into Valentino's - I haven't blogged about my writing too much. I think this post has a  good level of honesty in it.

2014 - What Charlie Haden's Song Means to Me - A general point turned into a rather personal memory.

2015 - Draw Rein, Draw Breath - Some thoughts on Yeat's Grave and what his headstone means.

2017 - Maggie's Year - My first year in college will be remembered by me as 'Maggie's Year'.

Next week... who knows?

Sorry, Happy What?

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m not sure what to say to you.

On New Year's Eve, when I was young, too young to go out and party, my Dad used to take down his twelve gauge shotgun at midnight and go out into the front garden and blaze both barrels into the night sky. Our neighbours would do the same and, for a minute, the street was filled with the clap-clap noises that shotguns make. 

This may sound like criminal, backwoods, behaviour but it wasn’t. The people on our street were fishing people. People who sometimes hunted for their dinner. They came out and made a noise and saluted each other across the gardens then went back into their homes, another year older. 

When I was bigger, and able to get out to parties and dances, those big New Year’s Eve moments were taken up with the kissing of every willing girl in the vicinity. Booming music and flashing lights and a manic scramble from  mouth to mouth. More kisses were exchanged in that ten minute period than would ever be meted out through the entire rest of the year.

These type of celebration had some things in common. They saw off the old year with a little unusual excess. Perhaps more importantly, they allowed little or no opportunity to say anything out loud. You kissed someone or you shot your gun. You didn’t have to speak. 

Perhaps this was no accident. The more the years tick along, and the more we learn, the harder it is to know exactly what one should say when the minute hand finally skids across into another year. We can say what we always say and we can get away with it. ‘Happy New Year!’ We shout it, we whisper it, we mime it across a crowded room and it seems okay. It gets us through the moment. But it doesn’t really stand up to an awful lot of scrutiny, does it?

It’s a tall order, to wish someone an entirely happy new year. It’s a sort of an unattainable goal, like wishing someone a huge lottery win or eternal life. A noble sentiment but, by the very nature of its remove from any reality, it becomes something less than a simple greeting. It becomes almost a kind of a taunt. 

If I wish you a happy new year (and I probably will), we both know, deep down, that you’re probably not going to have one. This isn’t rocket science or even excess negativity. It’s just the way it always is. None of us will have a simply happy new year. The new year, at best, will be like all the other new years. There will be moments of personal sadness and stress. The world will throw up a number of disasters and man made horrors. There will be elements of struggle and worry and fear. There will be good times too, though. Great times, we hope. But it won’t be a happy new year or, on the off chance that it is, then the one that comes after it probably won’t be and next year’s wish will just become the same taunt only slightly deferred.

But I don’t mean to be churlish or petty. Not today. I want to wish you something. I want to wish us all something.

So, can I just wish you a Year? A New Year.

Can I wish that it will be as full of happiness and good things as it possibly can be and can I wish that the bad things, when they inevitably come, are bearable and that they may a least make us a little stronger or wiser or kinder than we were before.

I wish you a year. I wish you 2018. And I wish that we may all be here so that I can wish you a 2019 too, when that finally comes around.


Sod it. 

Happy New Year! 

You know what I mean.