Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking back, looking forward

It seems like a good time to have a quick think back over the last year and a look toward the coming year.

As year’s go 2005 was quite reasonable. 2004 was quite possibly the worst year I can remember (although it did start as a very good year), and this year was certainly an improvement on that. I made some new friends; changed jobs (within the same organisation); had a great time walking the West Highland Way; finally got my act together on trying to buy a house- although I still need to actually purchase somewhere so I am actually maybe overselling that one; went on some very nice dates; and survived turning 30. Nothing earth shattering, but on the whole quite a good year.

I am not really into New Year’s resolutions. I don’t really need the turn of a year to encourage me to make changes in my life. If something needs altering then hitting my head against a brick wall until I finally accept that I need to take action usually turns out to be enough incentive to encourage me to get my act together. The pressure of a specific 12-month period in which to achieve a particular objective is just setting myself up for failure. But I think it would be fair to say that I need to make more effort to get involved with things. My life seems to go in cycles where I am totally run off my feet doing things, followed by periods where I seem to have not got around to arranging to do anything.

I am also an expert at putting things off "I’ll do that when I have bought a house", "I’ll go and see that when I have someone specific to go with" and so on. Only then I sometimes forget to enjoy life along the way. So maybe I just need to decide to enjoy life more, to do things because I want to do them rather than looking for a reason why I can’t do them at the moment.

So, once again, not exactly earth shattering ambition. If I was still at school and my homework was to write an essay on what I was going to do in 2006, saying "I’m going to try and enjoy life more" would not get me top marks, but to be honest I was never very good at doing my homework.

Friday, December 30, 2005

It's only money

What a freezing and miserable day. I tried to put off going out in the rain for as long as possible but I had to get to the sorting office before it closed at 1pm. A friend had sent me a Christmas present and, annoyingly, even though I was in I hadn’t heard the doorbell when the postman tried to deliver it yesterday. Anyway, it was three books, one of which was particularly amusing. It was the Christmas Story as told by Lego characters. If you like Lego stories then this link may be the one for you, although some of the stories may be a little less wholesome than the one in the book.

Then I decided to head into the big smoke (that being London). I had to renew my annual season ticket on the way as it expires tomorrow and I needed to get a new one before the fares go up in the New Year. It cost me the most phenomenal amount of money, about £1500, so it was a very expensive day.

Then I wandered about in London and got a bit of shopping, although most of what I bought wasn’t in the sales. Typical. However, I got some work clothes and a CD. I decided to go to a cafe in Selfridges for lunch. Not because I didn’t feel I had already been fleeced for enough money in one day, but I wanted to go somewhere that sold soup and all in, it only cost me about £5, which isn’t bad for London.

On the tube on the way home, this bloke kept turning and looking at me. Such things don’t normally bother me but I felt like he was keeping an eye on when I was planning on getting off the tube. I found it quite disconcerting. Then when I got off the tube, he looked at me and carried on watching me. Very weird and made me feel a bit vulnerable. However, he stayed on the train so that was a bit of a relief.

Sadly, I go on call tonight for the next week, so I had to phone work to ask if there was anything that I needed to know. It was only my boss and one of my colleagues who were in so I chatted to each of them briefly and wished them a happy New Year. I don’t mind being on call in that it doesn’t really stop me doing anything. I have to wear a pager 24 hours a day, whether I am the named person on call or not, so I am used to that and I just have to remember to dig out my work mobile. If anyone else had been on call they would probably have had to arrange a more low key New Year, as they would have to ensure they were sober enough to deal with any calls, whereas I don’t drink so it doesn’t make any difference to me. So in a moment of madness I said that I would cover the New Year period. The problem with being on call is that I have been known to get calls at three or four in the morning and because I am a bit paranoid that I won’t wake up if someone calls, my sleep is never as deep as it is normally. I have never failed to wake up, but even so I don’t sleep so well. So I now have a week ahead of poor sleep.

Anyway, I am off to Bristol tomorrow to see in the New Year. I might post some stuff later on the year coming to an end and some thoughts on 2006, but it depends if I have time. Otherwise, it will be in the New Year. So just in case, Happy New Year and I hope you have a good time seeing it in New Year tomorrow night, whatever you are doing.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Going straight to hell

I met up with my friend last night and we had a catch up. We didn't really make any progress on the housing stuff but just basically concluded that we would keep looking in the New Year. Anyway, she runs a bookshop and they were selling nativity scenes in the run up to Christmas. Apparently someone dropped a heavy object on one of the nativity scenes and broke Jesus’ arm. That’s right - broke Jesus’ arm. I think that in itself is probably enough to send someone to hell because breaking the arm of the Son of God, particularly given who his dad therefore is, just can’t be a good move. You are never going to win in the "my dad is bigger than your dad" type arguments either.

But not only is that person probably hell-bound, but so am I, as I found this story hysterical and kept laughing at the fact that someone had broken baby Jesus’ arm – social services would have been called in if it happened now (not that I would condone genuine child abuse or find that even vaguely amusing). I said that they could use it to scare shoplifters "don’t even think about nicking that book, look what happened to Jesus". Maybe somebody will take him in out of sympathy, apparently the RSPCA find it easier to re-house three legged dogs than those with the standard four, so maybe this will prove to be the case with Jesus, particularly if they put his arm in a sling. That would get extra sympathy points.

Anyway, today I went to my uncle’s house and various other relatives were there. I have very young cousins, a couple of whom are nine and six. They decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to get me to sing along to some karaoke type game. I can actually sing, but only when I know the words. I am obviously very out of touch with youth culture because I didn’t recognise half the songs. Or maybe that just reflects that fact that I have GOOD taste in music. It was a laugh anyway and I did manage to do reasonably well by just keeping pace with the words on the screen regardless of knowing the tune. Maybe I am already reaching the stage when I start thinking "music in my day used to actually have a tune and I can’t believe some of the lyrics in these songs. Disgraceful!" Perhaps a New Year’s resolution needs to be getting in touch with the part of my life that appreciates badly written trashy pop music. It’s always good to set major and life changing goals.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Entirely sober

Despite spending yesterday evening in the pub I was entirely sober. I don’t drink anyway, but even if I had I wouldn’t have last night because I was driving.

It was really cold last night and so I decided to make a hot water bottle to warm my feet up. Only when I was pouring the boiling water into the hot water bottle, I decided I also needed to scratch my head and rather than completing one task before starting the next, stupidly, I tried to scratch my head using the same hand as I was holding the kettle with and managed to pour boiling water all over my hand. Very painful. I also have really nice hands, so have no particular desire to damage said items. Bizarrely many people have said this to me, and not in some dodgy sex related kind of way, I just have really nice hands. I also apparently have really nice eyes and even my parents’ 70 year old (female) neighbour told me this once. Maybe people feel the need to say such things because they think the rest of me isn’t really worth commenting on. Oh well, you’ve got to take the compliments when they are offered.

Then this morning I woke up and had a really awful headache that made me feel quite sick. Kind of like having a hangover without having to consume the alcohol to cause it in the first place. I dragged myself out of bed anyway and pottered about for a bit. At lunchtime I went back to bed briefly to see if that made me feel any better. It didn’t, but then I remembered that many years ago those things called headache tablets were invented and took a couple of those and am now feeling decidedly better.

Good job, as I am off to the pub again tonight to meet up with my friend who I am trying to buy a house with. I really need to have a plan of action for that one because it is doing my head in to potentially be back in the cycle of moving house a lot and this time I would probably have to put stuff in storage which would not be great. I don’t actually have a lot of stuff, but what I do have I would like to have with me. So, hopefully some progress tonight even if it is just coming to the conclusion that I will have to buy on my own.

Catching up

Tonight I met up with some friends for a drink. It was organised by one of my friends who moved away a few years ago but he was back to see his family for Christmas. He is off to Australia for a month and I am dead jealous.

He is a remarkable chap. About five years ago he came home from work one evening and his wife had cleared all her stuff out of the house and disappeared. He was totally devastated and hadn’t expected it at all. After about 3 or 4 months of persistence, I managed to track his wife down and persuaded her to meet up for a bit of a chat to find out what was going on. We sat in a restaurant in the Midlands and just talked about what had prompted her to leave and in the circumstances that she had chosen to do so. Then I had to drive back down to London and talk to her husband and break the news to him that she still wasn’t willing to see him. It had been just a brief return to the UK and she was leaving the country again the next day. To see the pain and loss of hope in my friend’s face was hard to take, but probably not as hard to take as the news was for him.

A few weeks later she did agree to see him and a while later they were reconciled. They moved away to try to start again and I went up to see them not long before Christmas. I asked my friend how it was going and he just said to me "Not great, but she has said she won’t leave before Christmas". He phoned me on New Year’s Day to say she’d gone - but this time she had told him she was going.

A couple of years later he went out with my housemate, which sadly had a negative impact on my friendship with him because it felt weird to phone him or go and visit him. But they split up about a year ago now and it has been good to rebuild our friendship.

He is a very resilient bloke and whilst I don’t suppose you ever totally get over such things, he has coped much better than most probably would have. I don’t know what it is that gives some people the ability to heal and recover, but my friend most certainly has that ability. Thank goodness.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Exactly what it says on the tin

So, here is some randomness. Things that have just crossed my mind today.

1. I was driving round the M25 today and the traffic was pretty bad in several places. This meant that the traffic came to a stand still a few times. Twice I saw people get out of their cars to talk to people in other cars. Not because they’d had an accident or anything like that, I think they just knew people in the other cars and decided to get out and speak to them. I have to admit to not having read my Highway Code in some considerable time but isn’t it actually illegal to stand on a motorway carriageway and, regardless of that, just plain stupid?

2. I was reading Gripes’ blog earlier and just very much liked the fact that she would write this post. I am not entirely sure I can explain why but maybe just because basically, to me, it says that it’s alright that sometimes everything isn’t alright and it’s ok to ask for help. A friend came round this evening who had a particularly awful Christmas and is dreading New Year and we were talking about how it can be difficult to show people that weakness and vulnerability and admit that things aren’t always ok. I would tip my hat to you Gripes if it weren’t for the fact that I managed to lose said item on Monday.

3. I don’t really do profound or poetic, but Gripes’ post made me think of a poem we were given when I was at school. I am not entirely sure of the connection, but here it is anyway:

He always wanted to explain things
but nobody cared.
So he drew.

Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky,
He would lie out on the grass and look up in the sky and it would be only the sky and things inside him that needed saying.

And it was after that he drew the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under his pillow and would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every night and think about it.
And when it was dark and his eyes were closed, he could see it still.
And it was all of him and he loved it.

When he started school he brought it with him.
Not to show anyone else but just to have it with him, like a friend.

It was funny about school. He sat at a square brown desk
like all the other square brown desks and he thought it would be red.
And his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms.
And it was tight and close. And stiff.

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk
with his arms stiff and his feet flat on the floor, still,
with the teacher watching and watching.

The teacher came and spoke to him.
She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys.
He said he didn't like them and she said it didn't matter.

After that they drew. And he drew all yellow
and it was the way he felt about morning and it was beautiful.

The teacher came and smiled at him.
`What's this?' she said.
`Why don't you draw something like Ken's drawing.

Isn't it beautiful?'

After that his mother bought him a tie like everyone else
and he always drew aeroplanes and rocket ships like everyone else.

He threw his old picture away.

And when he lay alone looking at the sky,
it was big and blue, and all of everything,
but he wasn't any more.

He was square and brown inside and his hands were stiff.
And he was like everyone else.
And the thing inside him that needed saying didn't need it any more.

It had stopped pushing. It was crushed. Stiff.
Like everything else.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Christmas, kind of

As you may have gathered, I am not the biggest fan of Christmas. After much indecisiveness I decided to go to my sister's for Christmas - the first one I have spent with my family for years.

It has been pretty good really but I find it really difficult with the whole presents thing sometimes. I know that I am difficult to buy for, as I don't particularly want anything, but I do find it a bit upsetting when I get given the same presents year on year - by which I mean exactly the same book or DVD (and I don't even have a DVD player at the moment) as I was given last year.

It's not that I am ungrateful but it just reminds me how little my family know me anymore, and despite that being down to me keeping myself to myself, I still find that hard to take. I ended up getting quite upset today by it all and that then upset my mum, who gave me some money because she thought I was just so disappointed by it all and then that upset me even more.

It's not actually that I am materialistic - like I said, I don't particularly want anything but it's really hard when I realise how little I allow people to know me sometimes.

Strange day. Happy Christmas anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Meme

Well, here's your opportunity to learn a bit more about me. You can't wait I am sure.

What time did you get up this morning? 10am – rudely awoken by my alarm or else I would probably still be asleep now.
Diamonds or pearls? Neither. Not really into such things.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Chronicles of Narnia. Pretty much every film I have seen this year has been aimed at children in some way. I am not sure what that says about me.
What is your favourite TV show? Erm, there isn’t much on TV at the moment that I am interested in. I like Creature Comforts and CSI but beyond that just tend to watch whatever is on if I happen to be home.
What do you usually have for breakfast? Shreddies and a soda farl with marmite on it. I have the same thing most days and really enjoy my breakfast. There is also a reasonable possibility that I might injure a fellow commuter if I went into work without eating, so I am carrying out a public service by doing so.
Favourite cuisine? Chinese probably. I was in Hong King a couple of years ago and like dim sum and there’s a nice dim sum restaurant a few miles from where I live that I like going to.
What food do you dislike? I eat pretty much anything, which could explain why I was overweight when I was younger. Nothing really comes to mind, as odd as that may sound.
What is your favourite CD at the moment? I haven’t bought a CD in ages, but I like music a lot. I tend to listen to Xfm and Virgin radio, so whatever is on there.
Morning or night person? Night probably, but I do sometimes suddenly run out of energy in the evening. I usually find that if I go quiet, if someone feeds me I wake up again. I am easily pleased.
Favourite sandwich? I really like Pret a Manger’s Christmas sandwich. A nice bit of turkey, bacon, stuffing and cranberry. You can’t beat it.
What characteristic do you despise? People who are unable to say "I don’t know". Not knowing everything isn’t the worst thing in the world, I think it is just being human isn’t it?
Favourite item of clothing? I don’t think I have one. Although when I was very young I did have a pair of brown tracksuit suit trousers that I was inseparable from. The 1970s has a lot to answer for.
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? I love both New Zealand and Canada (particularly Vancouver). I have been to both already but would like to go back to Vancouver and see more of Canada as well.
What colour is your bathroom? Blue, blue, blue. Very of its era. Once again the 1970s has a lot to answer for, but as it is not my house you have to take what you’re given.
Favourite brand of clothing? I am really not very into clothes at all, so I can’t say I have a particular brand I go for. I do, of course, wear clothes so I am in to them from that point of view. I wouldn’t want to mislead you there...
Where would you retire to? Vancouver.
What was your most memorable birthday? It was my 30th birthday this year and that was pretty good, I saw various friends, went to a concert, went out for a late dinner with another friend. It was good, it was memorable, including for a reason that I am not going to explain here!
Favourite sport to watch? Athletics probably.
Who do you least expect to complete this? No idea
Person you expect to complete it first? No idea
Person who is least busy? I am not sure I understand the question. At work? In their life generally? At this moment?
When is your birthday? 31 July.
What is your shoe size? 6
Pets? Nope. Might get a dog or cat at some point though.
Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? No, except that it’s Christmas, but you probably knew that anyway...
What did you want to be when you were little? I wanted to be an archaeologist or some other thing to do with history. As I got older I wanted to do something to do with crime. I had a diversion into another sphere of work, but have kind of achieved that second ambition. I think I should clarify that I mean against crime, I am not a shoplifter or drugs runner or anything like that, but I am not going to tell you what I do for a living.
What is your favourite flower? Poppy. I think they are kind of beautiful and you can have this totally untended land and there can still be some poppies that have come through.
What date on the calendar are you looking forward to? Probably July 2035, as I can retire then (my contract says I can retire at 60).
One word to describe the person who you snaffled this from? Tubeish. If there is such a word.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Scared of Santa

Seems I am not the only on who isn’t necessarily into the Christmas spirit. Follow this link to see an array of children who are not so thrilled by the man in the big red suit. He doesn’t always look too thrilled by them either and at times seems kind of drunk. Too many glasses of sherry while he was delivering the presents I guess.

Happy Christmas!

An attempt at finding christmas cheer

I am not a huge fan of Christmas. Enforced time with family. Trying to avoid said enforced time with family (which I have managed to do successfully for the last five years or so but this year have caved in and am seeing my family on Christmas Day). Searching for presents and never knowing what to buy – nor being able to think of things to ask for. Bad television. Sending Christmas cards and wondering if it’s ok to say that I have actually just had a very average year and haven’t changed the world or achieved some great ambition. Instead, I have just pottered on and had a reasonably boring year, with an occasional highlight. (In reality I just avoid writing anything much in cards and do the usual “it’s been so long since we last saw each other, must catch up in the New Year” but then never quite get round to it, despite good intentions).

But here are some things that I do like about Christmas:

Christmas Carols – because you can’t beat a good sing along. Well, possibly you can but it’s one of the few times you can sing in public without needing to either be very drunk or insulting an opposing sporting team. And I can actually sing reasonably well.

It’s a Wonderful Life – one of my favourite films. There’s nothing like watching a film about suicide and despair to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Chocolate log – because it’s a great excuse to eat both chocolate and cake at the same time.

Christmas dinner – turkey, sausages, stuffing and even Brussel Sprouts. I really like proper Sunday lunch and this is it par excellence.

Christmas lights – unless they are really tacky like the ones on Regent Street at the moment. Whatever possessed someone to think that sticking some cardboard cut outs from the film Ice Age 2 on some lights was actually festive?

Fairytale of New York – I really like that song and it is one of the few Christmas songs that I am always pleased to hear on the radio (assuming it is actually December when it is being played).

The Radio Times – the only time of the year that I bother to buy it, but somehow needs must. It is also the only thing I can ever think of to give my father for Christmas, as he does absolutely nothing except watch TV. Given that his birthday is on June, I renew the subscription on a six monthly basis. Sorted.

Time off work – speaks for itself really.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I tried to be helpful earlier by signing for a parcel for one of my neighbours. I don’t actually know my neighbours and there doesn’t seem much point in getting to know them as I may be moving on again in about a month’s time. Anyway, I went and dropped it off a little while ago, only to discover that the person no longer lived there and it seems had moved out a while ago. The woman said she would take it anyway, but it does seem a bit odd for someone to have ordered something and not check that it was being sent to the right address. At least I tried.

I went in search of a Next with a homewares department and found one. Only the homewares department consisted of one sofa and a couple of chest of drawers – that isn’t a department, that isn’t even the contents of a living room. So I gave up on Next and found somewhere else to buy what I was looking for.

I was out shopping with my sister and at one point said to her that I just wanted to stop and have a complete strop and stamp my feet. But you’re not really mean to do that when you get beyond the age of about eight. Life can be so disappointing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Next next

London was fine, no bloodbath, but no shopping purchased either. I am currently in an anti-Next phase. All I wanted was their homewares department, so I wandered to Oxford Street and went to the Oxford Circus branch. I asked if they sold homewares they said “No, but the Marble Arch branch does”, so I dutifully traipse down to the Marble Arch Branch and ask the same question, to which they said “No try the Oxford Circus branch”. But I had just come from there... So I just gave up at that point and will try elsewhere tomorrow.

I did however go to Selfridges with my friend and drank tea and ate scones, so that was good. I am wondering if my latest posts make me sounds as though I am about 90 – having afternoon tea and singing the Boar’s Head Carol. I assure you I am not- try dividing that number by 3 and you will be spot on.

Anyway, I spend way too much time messing about on the internet when I am on leave. But here are a couple of thing that have amused me of late:

This link really made me laugh. Just a typical day out dressed as a milk carton.

Also, ‘Tis the Season indeed for reflecting on Christmas, but not as we currently know it...

Disaster Management

So, I am off to meet up with a friend in a bit. We are meeting in Trafalgar Square and then might have a wander round the National Portrait Gallery followed by a bit of shopping. I actually hate shopping, I am definitely not a browser and like to go out and buy whatever I have gone out for and then go home. My friend J loves shopping and spends hours wandering aimlessly buying presents when she doesn’t even have anyone in mind to give that particular item to. It could end in bloodshed.

I have known J for years and there is normally some level of disaster connected with us meeting up. A few years ago we went to Slovakia on holiday and on our second day away J left her passport, money, plane ticket and entire life on a cable car (well probably not her entire life, but most women are totally lost without their bag). We happened to be on exactly the opposite side of Slovakia to Bratislava where we would have to go to get a replacement passport. So the next day we got up at 5am and took various trains that finally got us to Bratislava. After a bit of waiting about we managed to arrange a replacement passport, but had to come back for it later. Unfortunately this was the summer of 2003 which was about the hottest there has ever been. Wandering about in the middle of the day didn’t really improve me and I managed to get heat stroke, was sick in a really beautiful Bratislavan street, and had to find a pharmacist, who I had to communicate with through sign language and a very out of date Slovakian- English dictionary in order to get some medication to make me well enough to face the long train journey back to our hotel.

We spent last New Year together as well and were staying with a couple of friends in Sheffield at the house of another friend of mine who had kindly lent me his house in his absence. It all went fine except for J opening the curtain one morning and pulling down the entire curtain and curtain pole. Fortunately my friend was very understanding when I called to tell him.

And then there was when we went to Barcelona and had a run in with some pickpockets and some bloke who was pleasuring himself in a local park. Anyway, you get the idea... Adventure and mayhem usually ensue whenever we meet up. So I shall see what the day holds and given our track record I will be very disappointed if we have an uneventful day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I am going to a carol concert at the Barbican tonight. It should be good and might help to get me into the mood for Christmas a bit more.

Thinking of Christmas carols reminded me that when I was at school, in the last assembly before Christmas, the Upper Sixth used to have to sing The Boar’s Head Carol. The head girl, regardless of singing ability, used to have to have to sing the first verse and each of the deputy head girls would sing one of the following verses and then the rest of the year would sing the chorus. We would all be dressed in black and carrying candles and they would turn off all the lights in the hall and we would walk in behind the head girl who was carrying a papier mache boars head. Now I think about it, it sounds a bit like some cult ritual, sadly my school days were never that exciting.

I have to admit that I did go to a private school, but it wasn’t very posh (despite what the above may suggest) and while I was still at school the mother of a friend said to me “The girls who go to your school are all so well spoken and so well turned out. What happened to you?” Enough said.

On another matter, I did enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia. I am rubbish at writing reviews, so won’t even attempt one, but I would recommend you go and see it if you get the chance.

Christmas letters

I got a Christmas card today from someone I have known for years and enclosed was a Christmas letter. This letter entirely consisted of writing about her young child. There was apparently no other news in her and her husband’s life. When you have children do people cease to have anything else to talk or write about?

I also got a Christmas letter from one of my housemates from university. She and her husband have gone abroad for 18 months and this is their first Christmas away. Their letter contained the vomit inducing line “what we appreciate most about being here is that we get to spend more time together”. Some may think this is a really nice thing to say (which it is), but this is the same couple who just cannot bear to separated from each other for even a moment. They could be in a room with 100 empty chairs in it and S would have to sit on her husband’s lap. The worst thing they have ever done- and I think most normal people would agree that this crossed a line – was when we were about to go up an escalator and S said “P and I have to carry on our usual tradition whenever we go on an escalator or ‘kissalator’ as we like to call it” and they then proceeded to kiss each other for the entire time it took to get from the bottom of the escalator to the top. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself and certainly didn’t watch, so focussed on hoping the escalator was a particularly fast moving one. So I was just thrilled to learn that they get to spend even more time together.

I am sure I am just bitter because I am single and have nothing of any particular interest to write in a Christmas letter. But even so, am I the only one to find such things somewhat nauseating?

Monday, December 19, 2005

The number you have dialled is incorrect

I just switched on my work mobile because I wanted to call work to ask something. My voicemail immediately called me and there was a drunken message for Alison (which is not my name) from a very drunk chap called Pete, which he had left in the early hours of yesterday morning.

It seems he is not having the best of times and has lost custody of his daughter and seemed somewhat depressed. I feel kind of guilty that this message was left on my phone, even though it was not down to me that it was.

Anyway, if you happen to know someone called Pete who has a friend called Alison and they haven't spoken for a bit, perhaps you could mention that he called the wrong number.

Thanks very much.

Confirmation of why I don't go to the doctor's

I saw this on the BBC News website earlier. I hate going to the doctor's and I'll take this as one more reason to continue to avoid doing so. Ick.

Day one of freedom

So, it’s my official first day of leave. The rat man was meant to come and seal up a vent but was running late, so is coming this afternoon instead. Then I went to the dentist, which wasn’t too bad. Despite having a really nice dentist, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

I was meant to have lunch with a friend but her husband phoned to say she had a migraine and was in bed, but hopefully I will catch up with her later in the week. I went to Tesco instead which was nowhere near as exciting but served a purpose. You can tell what an exciting life I must lead.

However, tonight I am off to see The Chronicles of Narnia, which should be good. I was talking to someone about the film last night whose main focus seemed to be on describing the hairdo and outfit the queen was wearing in the film. So if I hadn’t read the book I would be none the wiser on the plot.

Anyway, here is a slightly tangential review of the film by Creepy Lesbo, but I rather like it. (Warning: be cautious about reading Creepy’s main blog if you are bashful).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

An Extravaganza

It turned out to be a really great afternoon and evening. I went to see one of my housemates from when I was at university for some mince pies etc and then we went to a carol service. However, the term 'carol service' doesn't quite cover it, more of an extravaganza really. Some carol singing, a bit of drama, some dancing, as sermon that included clips from Polar Express* and even some pan pipes (I only actively participated in the carol singing part, the rest I was merely an observer).

The pan pipes were slightly bizarre and included a rendition of "The Wind Beneath My Wings". Very concerning and I think not the kind of thing that should be repeated in a hurry. The rest was good though and then we went back to my friend's house and had more of a chat and ate some more food. It turned out to be a really good day. Just what I needed.

*If you follow that link it will take you to IMDB and the listing says that Jim Hanks is the main voice in the film, who apparently is the brother of Tom Hanks, although I have never heard of him. However, surely it is Tom Hanks who is in Polar Express?


Feeling most unfestive and still somewhat miserable but I am going to a carol service later preceded by going to a friend’s house to eat mince pies and other festive fair. Hopefully that will cheer me up a bit.

When I got home from work on Friday there was a card from DHL saying they had tried to deliver a parcel and asking me to call to get it redelivered. I phoned yesterday morning and was going to suggest they deliver it on Tuesday as I am off work all week. But before I could suggest it, he said he could drop it off in 45 minutes time. As it turned out it was almost spot on an hour later that he delivered it (bizarrely, wearing a Royal Mail uniform but he assured me he was DHL) and even apologised for not turning up when he said he would. I was really impressed and as it was some Christmas presents I need to give some people, I was pleased to get it so promptly. I thought that was really good service and worthy of mention.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A rolling stone

Looks like I will probably have to move again. The people whose house I am living in will probably need it back at the beginning of February. They will confirm on the next week or so.

I feel a bit miserable about it really. I hate keep having to move house. I went out for a rink with some people from work last night and I mentioned it to a chap that I used to work with and he said I could probably stay with him for a bit if that would help. It would mean moving to a totally different part of London, but I might well take him up on the offer. I am just hoping that it wasn’t a slightly drunken offer that was then promptly forgotten.

It was actually a really good time at the pub and I had a laugh with my colleagues. It also gave me the opportunity to say thank you to one of my colleagues for being a really good friend to me over the last few months and tell her how much I have appreciated that. I am now off work until the New Year and that is certainly worth celebrating.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I went to Porters last night in Covent Garden for a work Christmas meal. I think this is the third year in a row that I have gone there – and each time I have been working with different people. I can never quite work out what people think is so great about eating there as it never strikes me that the food is all that exciting.

Anyway, it was a nice evening and I had a good time with my colleagues and there are no embarrassing stories from it to haunt people for years to come. We have a work party later this afternoon, so maybe people will do all the things they live to regret then!

It’s my last day on the office until the New Year so that is something worth celebrating at least. However, I am not in a terribly good mood as I have got a message to phone the person whose house I am living in. I am slightly concerned that plans may have changed and that I might have to move out. Hopefully not because I haven’t sorted anywhere else out yet, but we shall see.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Listening to the public

There seems to be a lot of anger out there about the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the July bombings.

One of the bombing victims, Rachel, wants an inquiry because she wants answers to a whole range of questions and to know what factors led to the bombing taking place.

Annie Mole has also commented on it and people have expressed a range of views about the decision on her blog. I suppose my thoughts are that I am not necessarily sure what a public inquiry would achieve. Those really important questions that might be what people really want answered probably would never be able to go into the public domain. For example the Security Service is never likely to reveal its surveillance techniques or what they didn’t which that meant that the July bombers were able to carry out the attacks. The more that is put into the public domain the more it could highlight our vulnerabilities – and therefore make us more of a potential target.

However, this does not mean that there is nothing being done to address issues that came up during the bombings. The London Assembly has held meetings on what happened – although some might question the wisdom, or taste, of playing a phone call made to the emergency services in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Also each of the emergency services involved will have had de-briefs and identified lessons learned.

That isn’t necessarily any comfort to those who are looking for answers though. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel any safer out there or help people to feel that the likelihood of it happening again is in any way diminished. So I think it is about finding a balance. Allowing people’s voices to be heard and for them to raise their questions. After all if all the “official” people involved i.e. the emergency services, government etc are able to put forward their issues then why aren’t the very people who were directly affected by the bombings? Why can’t their questions and concerns gain some level of official recognition even if it isn’t through a full public inquiry? Are their views somehow of less value?

After any major incident the government put a lot of effort into the “getting back to normal” message, but what if you no longer know what normal is?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Finding the festive spirit

I still haven’t decided what I am doing for Christmas yet. I could go and stay at my sister’s but I haven’t spent Christmas with my family for years as it always seems to end with arguments, which distract from the ‘festive season’. However, if I don’t make up my mind about what I am doing I might end up spending Christmas on my own which isn’t an appealing idea. The last few years I have spent Christmas with various friends, but none of those seem to be options this year.

I am not generally a huge fan of Christmas, I just tend to find it rather a miserable time of year. However, this year in order to get into the mood I am taking next week off work and will catch up with a few people and find some Christmas related things to do. This is the first time I have ever booked leave from work with nothing major planned – which could explain why I still have so much leave left to take. I am hoping that it will encourage me to take more leave from work. However, as the first two things I have planned are a visit from the ‘rat man’ to seal a vent and then going to the dentist, those are perhaps not the most enjoyable use of leave.

So, now I just need to come up with some ideas of what I can do to get me in the festive mood. Any suggestions?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Early starts

I went to Liverpool for the day today. I therefore had to get up at 5.30am in order to get the 7.13am from Euston. I got there with plenty of time to spare – only the person I was going with didn’t make it in time so we had to wait an hour for the next train. Not a good start to the day.

I also tried to post a birthday card while I was waiting at Euston but they have only left a really letter width slot to post items through, presumably to stop bombs etc being put in there. However, this was a standard size card and the slot was not wide enough to fit the card in so I ended up taking it all the way to Liverpool and back again and then finally posting it on the way home having missed today’s post.

We could see Hemel Hempstead from the train and there was a huge plume of smoke curling into the sky. I have spoken to a few people, one has a son who lives in Hemel Hempstead and his front door was blown out. Another friend, who lives a reasonable distance from Hemel Hempstead, had a board covering over her fireplace and that was blown into the living room. Another friend works at Dixons Headquarters, which is right next door to the depot. Apparently the impact on the building has been quite bad, but my friend is off to Paris for a couple of weeks, which is good timing. It’s still amazing no-one was killed.

Feel really tired this evening. Early starts do not suit me. I did manage to get all my Christmas cards written on the journey back from Liverpool though so at least I feel as though I have made some progress in my preparations for Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Torture and untruths

I was thinking about the decision not to allow evidence obtained by torture to be used in the UK courts. I have to say that I think this is a good decision. If you allow evidence to be used that has been obtained in such a way then you are in some way condoning that behaviour and allowing it to continue. The fact that the torture did not take place within the UK is irrelevant in my view, you are still saying there is something acceptable about it by using the evidence.

In Friday’s Metro they summarised some of the questions posed by the ruling. Here’s a snippet:
Q: Why does it matter if evidence emerges under torture?

A: Someone being tortured may say things that are untrue.

Those pesky torture victims - what are they doing telling untruths? Erm, maybe I am being a bit naive here, but isn’t the fundamental problem with obtaining evidence under torture that it is totally unethical and is against human rights. Perhaps I am in the minority on that one.

I shall leave you with some words from Amnesty International Secretary, Irene Khan:

“Human rights are for the best of us and the worst of us, for the guilty as well as the innocent. By failing to protect the rights of those who may be guilty, governments endanger the rights of those who are innocent, and put all of us at risk.”

Things that go bang in the night

Well, that was quite some explosion in Hemel Hempstead today. I live a long way from there but got woken just gone 6am by the sound of the explosion at the oil depot. I even got out of bed and looked outside because I though there must have been a crash or something similar. I then went back to bed and wondered if it was the sound or burglars breaking in and decided that if it was then I didn’t want to come face to face with them so went back to sleep instead.

When I went out just before 11am, the birds were screeching in the trees. I have never heard anything like it but I assume they were traumatised by the explosion. Not as traumatised as the people at the oil depot I imagine. It is fortunate that it happened when it did, so there were relatively few people about.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Journeys on the underground

Really annoying journey to work today. When I got on the tube someone pushed passed me to get the last available seat. We then travelled a couple of stops and a bloke asked if I wanted a seat that had just been vacated. I thanked him and sat down and was thinking how nice it was to sit down - but when I looked up there was a pregnant woman standing in front of me, so I offered her my seat. She didn’t even say thank you.

So I was standing up again and when we got to the next stop two people stood up and got off the train. A woman to my right was looking as though she wanted to seat immediately to my left but I pointed out there was a vacant seat right behind her and she sat down. At which point a woman pushed passed me and sat in the other seat that was vacant that I was about to sit down in. I did say “thanks very much” in a slightly sarcastic tone to her and she seemed kind of surprised that I was bothered. She did kind of offer me the seat but I said it was ok – and then the woman who had just taken a seat offered me hers, but I said it was ok too.

So the lessons from today are to barge my way passed other people on the tube to get a seat and bury my head in a book so that I don’t notice pregnant women. It’s such fun travelling on the tube.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I was talking to my mum on the phone yesterday and she said that she had been driving home a few days before along a dual carriageway and noticed that cars ahead were suddenly changing lane. She then saw that a dog was running backwards and forwards across the road through the moving traffic.

The dog then stopped in the road in front of mum’s car and so she had to suddenly come to a halt and sat there staring at the dog, which was dressed in a t-shirt and (dog) coat, trying to decide what to do. She got out of the car and just picked up the dog and put it in the back of the car and drove off.

Mum tried to phone the RSPCA who apparently were hopeless and there was just an automated message to say contact the local dog warden. Except the dog warden only works 9-5 and this was the evening. So in the end mum contacted the police and dropped the dog off with them.

I have no idea what I would have done, as I guess it isn’t every day that you get stopped driving by a dog eye-balling you in the road.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Some further thoughts on forgiveness are on their way, but in the meantime here are some thoughts from someone who is far better informed than I am.

A few days ago I wrote about Rachel from North London and her ordeal at the hands of a rapist and then, more recently, in the London bombings. Her original article is here.

Today in the Sunday Times her father, Phillip McFadyen has given some further thoughts. I imagine it was a very difficult article to write because no caring father would want his child to go through what Rachel has. I thought he showed real insight when he said:

"Communication, openness and trust are the basic requirements that make for healing and reconciliation."

Of course, the need for healing and reconciliation is not just for the victim, but those who love and support that person. So, Phillip McFadyen is living out what he has said through his communication in the Sunday Times today – and I hope that not only Rachel, but also those who love her find that peace.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thought for the day

"The ageing process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball"

Doug Larson
Hurry up and snow...

Friday, December 02, 2005

The wanderer returns

So I have made it back from Poland. It was a good time away and my speech seemed to be well received. This might in part be because I was the only person who provided the translators with my speech in advance, so that they were able to prepare. Given that most of the audience was Polish, mine was probably the talk that most people could understand. So the audeince seeming to appreciate it might mean nothing more than that they couldn’t understand other people!

It was quite cold over there but bearable, and people were very hospitable. A few observations:
- An awful lot of middle aged men have moustaches.
- People wear wedding rings on the other hand than we do in the UK.
- I don’t know if it is a Polish thing specifically, but on the flight there and back to the UK, the Polish passengers had undone their seatbelts and stood up as soon as we touched down and were still taxiing to the gate. On the way home today, the stewardess had to very sharply tell someone to sit down because the plane was still moving. Maybe they are less safety conscious.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I ate some nice food, my speech went well and I even got some gifts for speaking. Now I am back in the UK and it’s probably time to start thinking about Christmas, as we have finally made it to December.