Sunday, April 30, 2006

This duck is no more! He has ceased to be! He's expired and gone to meet his maker!

My weekend has started at last! I slept for about 10 hours last night which is really unlike me. I must have been very tired. Work went ok, although I was slightly frustrated at some of the stuff that I did. If I was writing my own school report it would have said “Could do better”, which strangely enough was what it often said.

Last week was really busy for a variety of reasons. One of the people in my team was at the gym at work on Wednesday and slipped over and fractured her shoulder. She went home and has now been signed off sick for a couple of weeks to recover. So we had to cover all of her work. She did phone a couple of times to say she was bored and ask if she could come in, to which I said “no”. Then because we were all working this weekend, as the week progressed people had to go off to set things up, so there were less and less people in the office, but still lots of work to do.

I was also on call last week and seemed to get an awful lot of phone calls. Only one of the calls was in the middle of the night though, so that was a relief. I did also get paged on Friday night, which was actually after I had stopped being on call. I was slightly concerned when I looked at my pager and saw who had paged me, particularly as I thought it might take quite a long to time to deal with and I was really busy because of the weekend work. However, when I called back to find out what they wanted, the chap said “Sorry to disturb you. I know you’re not the person on call and this has absolutely nothing to do with you, but I couldn’t think of who else to call.” My brain was wondering what he was going to say and whatever I considered, it wasn’t this… “I’ve found a dead duck and I don’t know what to do with it”. “A dead duck?” I replied, thinking that I also had no idea what to do with deceased avians. “Right…” I said “Would you like me to see if I can find out who to tell?” “Yes please. Sorry.” So I had a quick look on the internet and came up with DEFRA’s emergency dead bird finding telephone number (08459 33 55 77)and gave it to him. He went away happy, as did I as I just sat there and laughed.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Very secure

Yesterday’s work went fine, but it was a very long day yesterday and I finally got back to my hotel at about 10pm - to then go to bed to go back to work again…

I was on the tube the other day and was quite deep underground when I realised that there was a chap chatting away on his mobile phone. My brain took a bit of time to process it but then the penny dropped that mobile phones don’t work underground. There were a couple of blokes opposite and one of them noticed this chap too and he got out his mobile phone to see if it had a signal. It didn’t. He then motioned to his friend, pointing to this chap and showing the lack of signal on his own phone. Then other people noticed and people just kept looking at this chap, who really did sound as though he was having a conversation with someone, thinking that he must have been a little bit insane, as surely he could only be talking to himself in reality. Very strange.

I was also a little bit naughty this week. Someone in my team was off and she wanted us to log into her computer so that we could retrieve some information from her machine. Officially, you’re not supposed to give anyone else your password, but she did, and so D attempted to log on to her machine. But the password didn’t work, even though he checked it with her. So the password got locked and we had to get it reset. Only then D told me I had to pretend to be her because he didn’t think that our IT people would believe that he was a middle aged woman. So we tried to think of the answer to all the questions they would ask and I was tasked with phoning them. They didn’t seem to take much convincing of who I was and I answered all their questions with a small bit of guesswork. But then they said that for security reasons they would have to phone me back to confirm I was the person I said I was. So he rang off, called me back on the number I had given (which was actually my extension and not hers) and asked if I was my colleague. I said I was and he reset the password. As security procedures go, I’m not absolutely convinced that they have a foolproof plan.

Friday, April 28, 2006

No more blue sky thinking

So it’s one of those weekends when I have to work. I could really do with not working this weekend, as I have not had the best week, mainly due to having somehow injured my left arm (but more on that another time – not that there’s much to tell).

Anyway, weekend working… It began with an early start today, which is why I am in the office already and then working through until 9pm tonight. Then starting again at 9am tomorrow through to 7pm tomorrow night. As ever, my head of unit has turned this into a complete logistical nightmare. I was doing day shifts, then I was doing nights, then I was back on days and then she wanted me to do a combination of the two but in the end I am back on days. Very long days, for no pay.

I stayed in a hotel last night because of the early start today and am staying in a hotel again tonight. Last night there were three of us in the hotel but tonight it’s just me. So it’s not going to be the most exciting evening ever. We told my head of unit that hotel will be £84.50 a night and this look of disgust went over her face as if we’d said we were staying in a cardboard box on the Embankment and she said “Are you sure you’ll be ok with that?” We assured her that despite slumming it in a three star hotel somehow we would soldier on. Although having said that it was the world’s smallest hotel room, but as I usually sleep with my feet in a wardrobe, I suppose I am used to compact.

I was staying at the hotel with someone else from my office and we went out for dinner and then in search of some food supplies to keep us going during the day today. I am not terribly into gossip but the things I learnt about some of my colleagues were surprising and eye opening, to say the least. Anyway, it was a nice evening despite only leaving work at about 8pm.

It’s going to be another long day today, in every sense of that phrase, so when I need to drift off to a happy place, I shall peer out the window and do some cloud appreciation and watch the world go by.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about embalming but were afraid to ask

So, my dad’s cousin died recently. It’s not something that had much of an impact on me, as I didn’t really know him. I think I might have last seen him about 15 years ago.

Anyway, it was his funeral earlier this week, but no ordinary funeral because he was more than just a man- he was a Catholic priest. I should explain that I have a decided fear of anything Catholic, mainly due to my granny saying to me many times as a child “You are going to burn in hell because you’re not Catholic”. Nice lady.

I’m not sure if they normally do this for priests, but he was also a Bishop of some place I have never heard of, and in order to mark his death there seems to have been an official mourning period which included his body lying in state. Which meant they had to embalm him… My dad did ask if I wanted to go and view the body. After giving him a totally aghast look, I politely declined.

On Sunday, I was quizzing my mum about how you embalm someone and neither of us was entirely sure. So I did some research. Not for any particular reason, I just wanted to know. There are a lot of people out there who know way too much about embalming.

I was heartened by some of the process though. It seems first they need to check that they’ve got the right person. I think it would be slightly embarrassing if they muddled up your beloved grandmother with a Chihuahua for example. Oh no hang on that’s taxidermy isn’t it? Your grandma definitely would not be impressed to go through that process...

Anyway, then it seems they check the person is dead. I find that comforting. Waking up from a deep sleep and finding them injecting you with embalming fluid and putting foundation on your face would be enough to kill you.

Next they set the persons features and try and make them look as natural and relaxed as possible. As natural and relaxed as possible, what with them being dead.

Then they inject them with embalming fluid, wash them, put some make up on them and dress them in clothes. I guess as a priest he was dressed in his official robes - and was then ready for lots of people to view him. My mum and I were pretty convinced that at least one person would comment that he looked even better now he was dead than when he was alive.

I wasn’t really sure how long the embalming process lasted and as this is meant to be the definitive guide to embalming I thought I’d better find out. So I phoned my friend who knows about these things and asked her. I asked her something totally banal to begin with, which was something like what she was having for lunch, and then asked “If a body is embalmed how long does it take to decay?” This was greeted by rather a large amount of laughter and a “Do you really want to know the answer to that?” I assured her I did and she got out her manual on such things and looked it up for me. She had a whole chapter on embalming and told me that, as it is basically done for cosmetic reasons, it normally only slows the decomposition process down by two or three weeks, so if you were to exhume a body after a year or so the difference would be negligible. Do you see how hard I try to find out this information for you?

Regardless, I have to say that the embalming doesn’t really appeal, nor being buried for that matter. I think cremation is probably the way for me, not that I am planning on this happening for some considerable time - or will have much of a say when it comes to it. Mind you, if they did embalm me some of the *many* mourners might say I looked even better dead than alive, but I say how can you improve on perfection?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I've seen sunny days

At the weekend I watched the film Running on Empty. As I have said before, I really like that film, although I am not entirely sure that I can explain why.

I apologise in advance for giving away some of the plot to the film, but in a lot of ways it is the relationships and the interactions within the film that are what it’s about, as opposed to the plot.

Anyway, the basic premise of the film is that a couple had to go on the run after they seriously injured a janitor who was in a building that they planted a bomb in when they were protesting against the Vietnam War. For all the years that followed they had to keep moving from place to place every time someone got too close to who they really were. They had a couple of children and the eldest one, Danny, played by River Phoenix, is a really talented musician and wants to go to the Julliard School of Music, but knows that he can’t go because it will split up the family.

His mother, Annie, played by Christine Lahti, learns by accident that’s what he wants to do and you see her go through the pain of wanting her son to have the life that he should have and the realisation that he’s reaching an age where he needs to be able to do that, even if it means losing him.

There is one particular scene in the film that really struck me and, without meaning to sound really pathetic, actually made me cry. Annie asks someone to arrange a meeting with her father. She hasn’t seen or had any contact with him at all in the fourteen years since they’ve been on the run. So she turns up at this restaurant and there he is waiting, not knowing that it is her who is coming to meet him. He looks shocked when he sees her and in his anger tells her how painful it has been for her to have been gone from his life for those fourteen years, wondering where she was and if she had been responsible for the death of other people. Wondering whether she ever gave even the smallest thought to her parents. But then he can’t help but tell her that he knows what a talented and beautiful daughter she was and you know that his anger is because he loves her and has mourned her loss all those years.

Annie tries to explain why she had to do the things that she did and apologises for the pain that she has caused. She tells him that her son wants to go to Julliard, but the only way to do this is if he is able to live a normal life, which would mean him going to live with his grandparents. Her father points out the pitfalls of this plan – they would come under the constant scrutiny of the FBI and she would never be able to see her son again. She knows that this is a lot to ask but she needs to do this for the sake of her son. After his protestations, he says that he will take Danny and she knows that by doing this she will feel that loss that her parents have felt all those years, by herself giving up her son. They say a few closing words and she walks back out of his life again.

If I look at that scene, I think there are a few levels on which it gets to me. The interaction between a father and his daughter- he wants to be angry with her because it has hurt so much losing her. But when he at last has the opportunity to talk to her, his anger quickly subsides because he loves her and is willing help her even though there is great sacrifice involved, for all concerned, in agreeing to take her son. That a father would love his child so much, despite everything, and be willing to make that sacrifice is something that gets to me.

But it’s also that you can feel the sense of loss that both of them experience. Her father at having lost his daughter and his grandchildren, not able to know what is going on in their lives. But also Annie, feeling the loss from not being able to contact her parents, knowing how much pain she has caused them. She then is also going to suffer the pain of losing her son - and it’s also about that willingness to give someone up because you want what’s best for them.

I look at that and it reminds me of losing A. I don’t spend much of my life dwelling on it, although A is often there at the back of my mind. The loss is there because of the good stuff, something that I wouldn’t change for the world, and sometimes something taps into that underlying pain. That relationship coming to an end and ultimately A disappearing from my life was about both loss and a willingness to give someone up.

It was complicated, and I don’t need to explain it here, but whilst we were still in contact, I had to be willing to make a decision to let A go. I could see that it was the right thing to do and that by trying to hang on to that relationship it would in its own way destroy it. I had to push A at times to make decisions, decisions that were not mine to make, even though I knew that they would have an adverse effect on me. But I’m not one to give bad advice or to just say something for personal gain, particularly to someone who I love very much and want what’s best for. Sometimes what’s best for someone, those things that they need to do or go through, are things that you can’t go through with them. You have to look on from the sidelines and hope that someday they’ll come back to you.

We did actually maintain contact for a while but then when A couldn’t cope with it any more, contact was severed and for me it was like someone dying. There was one particular point, about three months later, when I was really angry about it and I wrote A a letter and explained how hard it all was. It was probably the wrong thing to do, but to be honest there wasn’t much to lose and at least by some feeble means I was sticking up for myself by saying how much it hurt and that those choices that had been made were not what I would have chosen to do. It’s not that I didn’t understand or couldn’t see why those choices had been made, but if it had been up to me, I would have done it differently. I would at least have made sure it was finished business - that those things that needed to be said were said, those things that needed to be done were done.

But over time wounds heal in their own way. You never forget, you never stop feeling the sense of loss, but life goes on. Life is normal. Life is still full of possibility and hope. You know that the loss comes from the good that was there, and although that brings sadness, it also brings gratitude and you love them because of all those things that made them matter to you in the past and them continue to matter to you now. It’s not that you want the past back because that’s exactly what it is – the past - but you want the chance to at least know that they’re ok. Sometimes you don’t get that chance, sometimes you never get the answers that you want, and you don’t get the finished business or the chance to start afresh. But still you live in hope.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Better get looking...

So... my landlady has contacted some estate agents to ask them to come round and value the property. She mentioned this to me, as tidying my bedroom could considerably increase the value of the property.

She hasn’t actually got a new job or found anywhere to move to, but she thinks the whole process could take so long that she needs to get going on it. I still have no idea what I am doing about buying somewhere. My friend who I might be buying with still doesn’t know what she is doing about possibly moving to Bristol, so I’m not sure what to do.

I could afford to buy somewhere on my own, but it would be rather different to what I could buy with someone else. I may have said this here before but the thing is that it feels much more daunting thinking about buying somewhere on my own. If you are buying with someone else you share the concerns and the stresses of it. But if you’re buying on your own, ultimately it all comes down to you. People can give you as much good advice as they want but at the end of the day they have to conclude by saying “but the decision is yours”. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat about such things really. I think that is why I am so willing to procrastinate about getting round to buying somewhere.

As I’ve said, I find the process daunting and so am trying to put it off. There are huge pay-offs, not least having a permanent roof over my head, which is what I have wanted, and needed, for so long but still it’s daunting. It’s also that feeling of potentially having to rush things. If I can’t live where I am now for as long as it takes to sort it out that puts a different kind of pressure on and I also don’t like to be hassled my estate agents who say they have “the perfect property”. Well maybe they do, but I like to do such things at my own pace and not be rushed by an over eager estate agent.

Anyway, time to start applying my brain to this and hopefully in the near future start to make some progress.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Driving me crazy

Blogger seems to be refusing to publish anything today, so everything has been a bit delayed. Apologies.

Anyway, one of my landlady’s sons was home this weekend. Quite a lot his post comes here and he found that he had a parking ticket for some recent parking violation. Once he had thought about how he was going to afford to pay that on his meagre student income, he then opened another envelope to find that he had been caught for going through a red light. Oops. He can’t even remember going through a red light and isn’t really a reckless driver in his Mini Metro. Anyway, he has to pay a fine and will get points on his license. It was an expensive weekend for him.

So far, I have never had a parking ticket or been done for speeding. Certainly on the latter it’s more by luck than good judgement. Not that speeding is a good thing, but I do have a slightly heavy accelerator foot on occasion. I think I got flashed by a speed camera one night but nothing ever turned up in the post.

You have to learn the rules of London driving in order to survive. Basically, as a London driver you have to have the mindset that absolutely everybody else on the road is merely there to inconvenience you and to slow down your journey. They should therefore be ignored at all costs- at junctions, if they’re pulling out from the side of the road, or wanting to merge into a queue (although they’ll have probably snuck along the outside of the queue and be trying to force their way in anyway). The only exception to this is at roundabouts, where you must watch like a hawk for the most minute gap between cars and then pull out. Failure to follow this guidance will merely end in tears, as someone may well drive into the back of you. You have been warned.

A once sent me a copy of ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths, I like to think that it was a humorous compliment to our relationship rather than an indication of the likelihood of death from being driven by me. But, again, you have been warned...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Keep on running

So it’s the London Marathon today. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it. Running 26 miles is not my idea of fun. I know someone who ran it last year in about two and a half hours, which is quite some feat.

Let’s face it, I am not very in to sport. I quite like walking and did walk the West Highland Way last year which is 95 miles and included one day of 21 miles. I also walk up the escalators at tube stations but that’s about it really. But neither is likely to qualify me for Olympic stardom.

When I was at school I was decidedly unfit so sport wasn’t really my thing. But I did play hockey for the school. I was the goalkeeper which was always an interesting experience. There was one time when I was wearing different kickers to normal (they’re the things the goalie wears over their boots so they can kick the ball) and couldn’t get my boots to grip on the ground. We were just about to practice penalties i.e. the whole team in turn practicing flicking a ball at me, and I slipped over backwards and briefly knocked myself out by striking my head on the back of the goal. Let me tell you it hurt. That was about the pinnacle of my hockey playing career.

The whole running thing never was, and never will be, my thing. I generally have a rule that I don’t even run for trains. There will always be another one. Although I can actually do a pretty good sprint if I need to. So I will look at the marathon today from the comfort of my own sofa, not wishing that I had decided to dress up as a giant rabbit to struggle through 26 miles of hell. Those who can - run. Those who can’t - sit on the sofa and eat cakes. Sounds fair to me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Well, it’s almost a week since Easter and I haven’t eaten any of my Easter’s Eggs yet. I find this concerning myself but I have eaten many bad things this week, so am pacing myself. I had three Easter eggs to eat but one of them seems to have gone AWOL (and it was a Cadbury’s Creme Egg one as well…), so I have two left to go. Given how exciting my life is, I’m sure you’ll get to hear about it when I eat them.

Anyway, someone told me this week that you can now get Dairy Milk Creme Egg Bars, so a Dairy Milk bar with a Cadbury’s Creme Egg filling. I have since seen some chocolate machines at London Underground stations selling them, but haven’t succumbed. I mentioned it to someone at work and she said she’d been disappointed when she’d tried it recently, but judging by this she is in the minority. Who knew there were so many chocolate bar stalkers out there? It’s kind of scary... Anyway, they’re available all year round (which I think in some ways is a shame), but seem to be selling out fast. So go forth! Seek!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Ma'am

Our director is a good chap and is someone who it is generally easy to respect. However, he is somewhat preoccupied at the moment because he is getting married next weekend. So, I should perhaps give him some leeway on the note he e-mailed out yesterday.

He was explaining about some of the reorganisation that is going on at work and in it said who my new manager is. This was the first I had heard of it – and in a note that went out to hundreds of people. I was not terribly impressed. The thing is that there were two problems with him communicating it in this way. First, I had specifically asked that the team were given advanced warning of any announcements. Not that we needed to be consulted as such – people don’t generally get to choose their line managers- but it is common courtesy to tell the people who it affects, before you tell everyone else. The second issue is that no-one has told the chap who is now going to be my manager either– and he’s on leave. So he’ll get a nice surprise when he comes back.

I also go back on call tonight having only had a week off. In fact I got paged late one night when I wasn’t on call as well, so it hasn't even been a week. Oh well at least it’s Friday.

Not that I’m a Royalist particularly but it is, of course, the Queen’s birthday today. She does look good for 80 but I guess she has had plenty of staff to take some of the strain off her. Actually, maybe I am a particular fan of hers as she is the only person whose photo I have in my purse, but it might make it difficult to pay for anything or send a letter if I didn’t...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hardback Writer

I could become a published author! What do you mean I already write a blog? *thinks* But this would be in a book. You know, one of those things that are made of paper and you can get out of the library. Except I won’t be becoming a published author, as I said “no”.

I may be very slightly overselling quite what this would have entailed. It was never going to be the next Harry Potter or Barbara Cartland – neither of which I have ever read now I think about it so if I did go down that route at least I couldn’t be accused of plagiarism.

It was actually one of the speeches that I gave a while ago. Apparently the organiser of a conference I spoke at thought my speech was so great that he wants to publish it. In a book. I did actually write the speech and so I do feel very slightly smug about it, but it wasn’t written to be used in that way, so I don’t want him to publish it. He wasn’t very impressed by my refusal and tried to persuade me. Not that I was going to be paid for this or get anything other than a nice warm feeling about it. Anyway, as he was so persistent I said I’d go away and think about it. Then I just sent him an e-mail and said “no” in writing instead.

I am slightly suspicious that he might publish it anyway and just not attribute it to me, so I will have to scour every book that is published over the coming year to see if my speech appears in it, but I’m hoping that he accepts my answer.

I actually give a huge number of talks, usually a minimum of one a week - and they are of variable quality. When I went into work on Tuesday someone said to me “Are you still alright for the talk this morning?” I looked back at him blankly and then realised that last week I had foolishly agreed to give a talk, but had failed to write it. So I quickly wrote a PowerPoint presentation and then delivered the talk about an hour later. I made some of the audience laugh, so I’ll gauge that as making it a success of some sort. Fortunately I didn’t have that one written down so they can’t ask to publish it.

Anyway, I *could* have been a published author. I could...

*Mind wanders off imagining my book appearing at the top of the Sunday Times best sellers list*

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Razor Sharp

It was painful getting out of bed yesterday morning. It was much too early. I had a serious lack of sleep over the weekend. Sunday night I was planning on going to sleep at a reasonable hour but got engrossed in something and it was 2am before I knew it. Someone told me how tired I looked at work yesterday, so that made me feel much better.

As I have mentioned before, one of the joys of living in London is travelling on public transport. When I was waiting for the bus yesterday morning a chap came and stood near me and got out some nail clippers and started clipping his nails. That constant clipping noise was horrible. Then he got on the bus and continued and then got on the same tube train as me and STILL he was clipping his nails. It was horrible. This is the third person I’ve heard clipping their nails in public in the last six months. I seem to think I blogged about it happening a few months ago but I was also at a main line station a couple of weeks ago and went into a newsagents and the man standing behind the counter got out nail clippers and was just clipping his nails behind the counter, while the clippings just went wherever they pleased. I am beginning to wonder if I am being stalked by people clipping their nails. Surely it isn’t normal to come across this phenomenon?

Then on the way home I sat next to someone who decided he would use the radio function on his phone, but without the encumbrance of headphones. I was quite tempted to turn to him and ask “Why is it that people who play music loudly always have really bad taste in music?” Except there were likely to be two possible reactions- either he wouldn’t realise the pointedness of the question or... he would and I might feel the pointedness of a weapon other than my razor sharp wit. Instead I just sat there like a true Brit and pretended to be oblivious to it. It’s safer that way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Extraordinary Pets

I was watching a strange programme yesterday called ‘Extraordinary Pets’, but we’re not talking about dogs that have rescued their owners from a burning building or a cat that can tap out the entire works of Shakespeare in Morse code. No, for ‘extraordinary’ read ‘dangerous and likely to kill you’. One man had eight Cayman crocodiles and they just wandered around his home. He said that usually it was fine but sometimes you had to be careful. I think those wise words.

At one point the narrator said “Mike has been collecting exotic animals most of his life. He started with his ex-wife.” They didn’t say what sort of exotic creature she was, but I assume another crocodile. I would have thought marrying animals was generally discouraged but this was channel five so things can be more risqué there.

Mike then decided that the crocodiles were not spending enough time in a domestic setting so took one round to a friend’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving (it wasn’t a replacement for the turkey, in case you are concerned). So they just walked in with a four foot crocodile under their arms. In future the friend’s invite will probably include the line “No gifts”.

There was also a chap called Adam and he kept tigers in his house. At one point they showed him cuddling a full grown tiger and the tiger got a bit boisterous and Adam said “He tried to eat my hand, obviously if he meant it that would be bad”. Yes, I think that would be bad. I think it could also be quite bad even if he didn’t mean it. A little nip from a tiger could probably sever your head.

My sister is trying to discourage her husband from getting a dog. Little does she know how lightly she may be getting off.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sugar Rush

So, yesterday was fine. It featured a fair amount of chocolate, although all I ate was one small Cadbury’s Caramel Egg. I actually have a kind of love-hate relationship with chocolate. Despite really liking it, if I eat it in any quantity, after the initial sugar rush I lose all my energy and end up wishing I hadn’t eaten it. That’s why Cadbury’s Crème Eggs are the perfect size. I have been known to leave Easter Eggs uneaten for months. I ate an Easter egg in August last year.

Anyway, I was generous enough to allow mum to cook me Sunday lunch yesterday. What with my landlady’s children being about, I just thought it easier to keep a low profile. Incidentally I find it weird that my landlady’s daughter in law calls her ‘mum’, particularly as her own mum is still alive. Maybe that’s just me?

The disturbing stories about my parents continue. I was sitting in the living room talking to mum after lunch and dad walked in and went over to the other sofa and just undid and then lowered his trousers and then pulled them back up, did them up again and sat down on the sofa. Mum asked dad what he was doing and he just didn’t answer the question. So we were kind of perplexed why he would do this. He really isn’t the clowning about sort and I just have to conclude once again that he is a very strange man. I am just hoping that it isn’t genetic.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Every Easter I think back to a time when I was a child and we went to visit a friend of my mum’s. I think she lived somewhere like Sheffield. We woke up Easter morning and had to go out into her garden for an Easter egg hunt and there were loads of Cadbury Crème Eggs hidden all over the place. It was... all my Easters come at once.

A couple of years ago mum’s friend came to visit and both my sister and I were really excited at the thought of seeing her because to us she was this person who we always did fantastic things with and this usually involved food of some sort. It’s funny how people you know from when you were really young can have such an impact on you, even if you don’t see them for years.

A friend sent me a couple of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs in the post, which quite made my day yesterday, particularly as the eggs didn’t get crushed in the Royal Mail machinery. I have some very lovely friends.

Then... just as I was writing this I got summoned outside to take part in an Easter Egg hunt! My landlady had hidden some eggs in the garden so one of her sons, her daughter in law and I had to go and search for them. I have to say I was particularly successful and there were Cadbury’s Crème Eggs, Caramel Eggs and full size Easter eggs. All my Easters come at once… again…

So maybe I’m not going to get a miracle this Easter, but I certainly got chocolate.

Happy Easter

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Monkey Business

I spent most of the day with my parents yesterday. Do you see what happens when I don’t have specific plans? Anyway, my sister was there for a lot of the time and we went out and had lunch and it was fine. I stayed and chatted to mum for a bit and we completed a crossword – which involved much cheating and looking words up in the dictionary, but completed is completed. I then taught mum how to use predictive text on her mobile phone. So I had to come up with sentences for her to type, which *may* have included her writing a text that I then sent to my sister telling her that she had been disinherited and all my parents’ money is now going to me. My sister texted back and said “Have you two been drinking?” Apart from the incredibly strong coffee I’d had in the restaurant earlier in the day, the answer was ‘no’.

I ended up with a bit of a sore throat due to singing to my nephew and doing various animal noises, which made him laugh. They probably sounded nothing like the actual animal, but he is one years old, so what does he know? The chap who I sit next to at work regularly does otter impressions for me (don’t ask...), so I feel my repertoire is fairly extensive.

There’s this song that I learnt when I was a child called “I Went to the Animal Fair”, but neither my sister or I remember quite where we know it from. I sing it to my nephew and it goes:

I went to the animal fair
And who do you think was there?
The great baboon by the light of the moon was combing his golden hair
The monkey fell out of his bunk.
And slid down the elephant’s trunk.
The elephant sneezed.
And fell on his knees.
And what became of the monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey...

It’s a round, so now you have to sing it. Go on, I won’t laugh. What do you mean you don’t know the tune? Picky, picky, picky... Ok then, what about “I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor (and I don’t like it one bit)”? It does contain the very racy line “Oh heck, it’s up to my neck”, which as a small child I was really shocked by. What can I tell you? I was young. You see there is much to be learned from the songs of our youth- such as the unpleasantness of being eaten by a boa constrictor. But I never did find out what happened to the monkey.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Despite being on leave, I had a remarkable amount of work to do yesterday. I got woken up my pager at 1.15am yesterday morning, then had to phone into work at about 9am. As the day progressed my mobile or pager just seemed to keep going off with the final call coming in at about 9pm. At one point I had gone out to try and pick up some bits but the number of things I was having to deal with meant that I had to give up and go home. However, someone else has now taken over being on call so hopefully that’s the end of it (until next weekend…).

I looked out the window at one point yesterday afternoon and saw that the cat was enthusiastically eating something. I very bravely went outside to have a look at what it was and discovered it was looked like a baby pterodactyl. I think it was more likely that it was a bird, but it was a very weird looking bird. Mind you as the cat had eaten part of its head, it’s not surprising it looked a bit weird. Anyway, I left the cat to munch away at the creature and when my landlady got home told her about it so she could clear up the remains. It will come as no surprise that clearing up carcasses is not something that I would choose to do.

My landlady is generally pretty laid back. The other day I asked why a panel had fallen off one of the walls and she replied “well, it’s not a complaint, but when you shut the front door it sometimes loosens the board”. I live in a really old house, so you do have to be slightly careful with it sometimes. Anyway, the thing is that it really wasn’t a complaint. I’d asked a question so she answered it, but she wasn’t telling me off. What a contrast to evil landlady...

I was going to say that if this had happened when I lived with evil landlady she would have had me up against a wall, but somehow I think the more smutty of you might have misinterpreted that... *shudder*. However, she would have made me do press-ups and then punished me severely for my negligent behaviour. So, my landlady’s reaction of “it doesn’t matter” (and meaning it) was rather a pleasant surprise. Mind you as her previous tenant amongst other things flooded the bathroom and destroyed the iron and ironing board, I have quite some leeway. Phew!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

An apology in advance

I was talking to my mum a couple of nights ago and for some reason she suddenly told me that when I was being born she had to have an episiotomy (if you don’t know what one is then perhaps you should ask your mother. If she gives you an evil look then she probably had one too). She then added – “And without an anaesthetic!” Apparently she can still remember the pain now. I did explain that although I was there at the time, I really couldn’t quite remember it, but was sorry for any inconvenience. She assures me she has forgiven me but that any presents I wish to give her would ease the pain. Most generous of her.

The conversation got worse though...

Mum: Your father’s just come into the room and he’s naked

Me: Erm, thanks for telling me. I don’t think I really wanted to know that.

Mum: Believe me being at the other end of the phone is preferable to actually being able to see him with no clothes on.

Me: Erm, yep, I think you’re right there.

*Parents then proceed to have a minor disagreement because dad can’t get to his pyjamas as mum is sitting in the way. Mum passes him his pyjamas*

Mum: *dissolves into laughter and can only speak incoherently*

Me: Should I ask what just happened?

Mum: *still laughing lots* I can’t tell you, I just can’t explain. I’ve got to go.

Me: I think I’m going to go deaf as a result of this conversation.

*Mum laughs even more and hangs up*

Isn’t there just something totally morally wrong about that conversation? Apparently I am too old to call Childline though. Should you speak to me in the street and I totally ignore you, I apologise. It’s the deafness.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Battle Wounds

Going back to work was as irritating as I might have expected. Lots of e-mails to read through and then at some point work out if I actually needed to do anything with them. I get lots of e-mails ‘for information’ but to be honest I don’t really want that much information.

Anyway, it was one of those days where a number of people in the section came and spoke to me to discuss their battle wounds from the last week. Several of them had to speak to my boss about where they might end up in the restructuring. The problem is that most people seem not to want to go with him when he moves on to head up a new team. So, one person asked me if there was any way I could create a post so that she could be in my team but, as she already knew, that isn’t going to be possible. I have another person in my team who is being asked to move and her response was “I would rather resign altogether than move out of the team”. Erm, right...

It’s not that I think that I am some fantastic manager and they can’t bear the thought of being parted from me. It’s that most other options mean they will end up working for a control freak. So they would rather stay in my team because I try and shield them from much of the flack and will sit there and listen when they want to walk out and never come back. I work in a really great place.

Actually in the restructuring I think things will get better. We’re merging into another unit and as we will no longer have our current, psychotic, head of unit, things are hopefully going to improve.

I’ve only got to make it through to the end of tomorrow and then I am on leave again...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Listen very carefully

Yesterday was a mixture of getting back into work mode, largely due to having to deal with various issues while I was on call, and some eating. All the calls I received seemed to happen just as I was about to do something important. Anyway, I dealt with them and hopefully there won’t be many more during the week.

Fortunately the calls didn’t distract me too much from eating waffles yesterday afternoon. I met up with a friend and we went for a chat and a cuppa and ate waffles. I had a waffle with chocolate sauce and ice cream and it was very tasty. It was my treat on the day before going back to school. Then it was time to go home and pack up my books and homework and lay out my school uniform.

One of my landlady’s sons goes out with a girl who is blind (I originally typed that as blond, which may to all intents and purposes be very similar...) and on certain channels you can get a commentary of what is happening in a programme. This function has been switched on and I have no idea how to turn it off. So last night as I was watching Invasion, a mysterious voice would appear and, sometimes somewhat inaccurately, describe what people were doing and their facial expressions etc. It is slightly strange to have this going on in the background but also operates as a bit of an ‘idiots guide’ to the programme “John takes the man away, but he’s the bad guy who was pretending to be a good guy earlier, so everybody now looks very worried”. So, if you can never follow the plot to programmes I’d recommend this. However, then Desperate Housewives was on next, and let me tell you, there really are some things that should be left to the imagination...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Would you Adam and Eve it

I woke up annoyingly early this morning and I really could have done with a good night’s sleep. Hopefully it means I will sleep well tonight though instead of having that ‘Sunday night before going back to school’ feeling.

Yesterday, I wandered through Leicester Square, which is always a mistake on a Saturday afternoon and definitely was yesterday afternoon as there were just people everywhere. My heart sank when my pager went off but I phoned in and just got a big apology from the person because they had wanted to speak to someone else who happened to have the same surname as me, but had called me by mistake. My pager was actually on vibrate so it wasn’t all bad.

I was going to meet up with WWDD and go for something to eat at a particular restaurant but it turned out to be closed, so we went and ate pancakes instead and had a wander by the Thames. A woman stopped me to ask how to find London Bridge. Being my slightly geeky self, I then proceeded to tell her that I thought it was unlikely she wanted London Bridge, as that is a very boring bridge, and she probably really wanted Tower Bridge, so told her where that was instead. If you search in Google Images you’ll see a) the confusion over what London Bridge looks like i.e. there are pictures of both London Bridge and Tower Bridge; b) that’s it Tower Bridge that everyone really wants to see. This is the second time I have pointed this out this week, as Anna over at Anna Overseas also confused the two in her blog earlier this week. Very strange.

Anyway, WWDD really offended me by suggesting that I wasn’t actually a proper Londoner. This despite the fact that I was born, grew up and still live in London. Admittedly I don’t talk in cockney rhyming slang or spend my whole time hanging out at the local launderette or pub like they do in EastEnders, but there is slightly more to being a Londoner than that. I’m just glad that I spat in her coffee now.

On the way home, I used some public toilets in a station. Maybe it’s just me but I found it slightly freaky that the toilet seats were basically silver mirrors. Why would you want a toilet seat that was a mirror, particularly in a public toilet?? Actually I’m not sure that I want to know the answer to that.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I didn’t really use my last day of official leave very well. I just messed about at home for most of the day and then finally went for a wander in the afternoon which included going round to my parents’ house for a while and eating any food I could find in their cupboards.

My sister and I went to the airport to collect mum but we had to wait ages for her because one of the people she was with was detained by immigration. Mum wasn’t best pleased by this and spent ages talking to the immigration officers but they insisted the woman couldn’t enter the UK and took her off somewhere. By the sounds of it, although one of the immigration officers was a but officious the other one was trying to advise the woman that she really wasn’t helping her case by keeping on repeating the same information that had caused them to stop her in the first place.

We managed to track down the woman’s daughter and explained what had happened and she seemed remarkably unfussed at her mother having been detained and said she’d just wait and see if she came through in a few hours time.

I am not sure I would be very impressed at being stopped by immigration if I was flying somewhere. I always feel really awkward when they ask you questions at US immigration. Although I have nothing to hide, I feel as though they are going to find some reason to prevent me entering the country and I’ll just have to get on a flight home. Shortly after 11 September 2001, I flew to America and one of the things you have to tell them is where you will be staying. Except I had no idea where I was staying, as a friend was collecting me from the airport and taking me to stay at his house and I didn’t know the address. So I just had to make up a hotel and hoped they didn’t question me too much. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend this as a course of action but I didn’t really have much choice.

I was also concerned when I flew to New Zealand as you have to declare any foodstuffs that you are carrying. I had some cereal with me as the friend I was staying with really wanted some UK cereal, so I had to declare a box of Fruit and Fibre to the customs staff. Fortunately it wasn’t on their watchlist so they let me take it in.

Anyway, hopefully they’ll let her back into the UK at some point, as some of her family is here.

I am off into London later to meet up with What Would Dana Do? or perhaps I should call her ‘What’, as we are on first name terms. I am not entirely sure what we’ll be doing this afternoon, but I do know that we are starting off by eating, so it bodes well that we will have a good afternoon.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Check your pockets

I went over to see my brother in law on the way to collecting WWDD from the airport. He hurt his back yesterday morning by picking up a biscuit. I don't know quite how you do that but it was a shortbread biscuit in case you want to take any necessary precautions. It wouldn't have happened with a chocolate digestive. You can't go wrong with them.

Anyway, I collected WWDD from the airport. Airport car parks are a total rip-off. I was parked for no more that 20 minutes and it cost £2.30! Anyway, practicing her spontaneity meant that WWDD was suitably enthusiastic about my car and said all the right things. I therefore did drop her off at her ex's and was rewarded with a nice dinner of homemade lasagne followed by some mini Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. So whilst it had similarities to my previous night’s meal, it was much more wholesome and tasty. There was also a very enthusiastic new dog that seemed to take a liking to me and had I not already washed yesterday I would have been very grateful for him licking my face many, many times. Lovely. He also took rather a liking to my watch and I think I should have checked my pockets better in case he had gone through my them as well.

Tonight I am actually off to the airport again, this time with my sister, as Mum is coming back from Athens and we are going to collect her. My sister is obviously a much better daughter than I am, as she has been staying at my parents' house the last couple of days to keep dad company. I have been remarkably good at keeping a low profile this week but think I will go round there later to see my sister and we'll go out and do something.

I can’t believe this is my last day of leave! It has been a really good week off but has flown by. Unfortunately I go back on call tonight so I should probably phone work later to check in but I don’t really want to.

I believe it is an important day for a certain Norfolk Broad today. I hope it’s a good day. *tips hat*

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Arriving on a jet plane

Yesterday was fine, I met up with S and her husband and we had lunch and saw another friend briefly and just had a general catch up. They’re heading back to The Gambia on Friday and will be in the UK again in July so I guess we will catch up then. Because we had been out to lunch I couldn’t be bothered to have a proper dinner so I had some smoky bacon flavour supernoodles and a Cadbury’s Crème Egg. Very balanced and healthy.

Anyway, I'm off to the airport tonight to collect What Would Dana Do? and drop her off at her ex’s. It may not be immediately apparent to people that we know each other in real life but in fact we do. You shouldn’t really be surprised, as what they say is true – southerners are such a friendly bunch and we all know each other.

I am slightly miffed that she is flying on an airline that doesn’t give you free stuff when you fly cattle class, so she won’t be able to pilfer any of the little milk cartons or a slightly dry sandwich to give me when she arrives. Does she think that I am generous enough to do this for free?

The thing is that she can’t be left unattended for long periods of time, so she has to be accompanied to the airport at the northern end, supervised by a stewardess during the flight and then met at the other end. It’s one of the conditions of her release on a community order. I wouldn’t want to disclose the nature of the offence (or offences…) but maybe you should be more concerned about the silences on 30-Something’s blog than you may have otherwise been. That’s all I’m saying.

Anyway, WWDD is under strict instructions to make suitably admiring comments about my new car or she’ll be making a sharp exit from it onto the outside lane of the M25. Take that as a warning.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

And so it goes...

I had a really lovely walk in the hills yesterday with a friend. Wandering about in the sunshine and stopping and having a lunch in a pub. It was great to catch up and just wander along and chat. I do have a bit of a blister on one of my feet now due to wearing walking socks that I’m not used to but beyond that it was a good day.

Anyway, the main reason that I decided to take this week off work is because my friend who lives in The Gambia, is back in the UK for the week. I could have just taken one day off to meet up but figured I had so much leave that I might as well take the week off and find stuff to occupy me for the rest of the days.

We used to be really good friends and I suppose as far as S is concerned, she would say that we still are. But things have changed so much over the last few years that I think our friendship is a pale shadow of what it used to be.

S got married about three years ago and when she started to go out with the chap who is now her husband, I suddenly found that I had become a bit redundant. She had other priorities and those times when we would normally have met up, like when she went home to visit her parents, became times when she would see her boyfriend instead.

We talked about it and I explained that I wasn’t very impressed to be kind of pushed aside. She said she’d try harder to make more of an effort, but somehow we just continued to drift apart. We went from me spending Christmases with her and her family and seeing each other every few weeks, to seeing each other a few times a year.

Then about two years ago I went to talk to her about something really difficult. Something I knew she wouldn’t necessarily react well to, but I hoped that our friendship would stand us in good stead. It’s fair to say that she didn’t react well. She said something to me that I can’t be bothered to explain here but will always stick in my mind as showing how different we truly are. Our friendship did survive, but from that day onwards I realised how far apart our lives had drifted. How little she really understood me or what makes me tick. How much she liked everything to be ‘just so’ and to run with the regularity and predictability which, whilst perhaps comforting, means that you potentially know what every day will be before it even begins. To err from that path upsets her because life should be ordered and logical.

I sometimes think she expects me to be exactly the same person that I was five or even ten years ago. But to lose that ability to change and grow would fill me with horror. I don’t want to be the person that I was all those years ago. Not that there was anything wrong with that person but part of what makes life interesting and challenging is that we have the ability to change. We can change our minds, change our views, be more - or less - certain about things and so on. But that’s just normal life isn’t it?

So today we’ll catch up, she’ll see where I live and we’ll talk about all that she has been up to while she’s been away. Then she’ll go back to The Gambia and the thing is that I know I won’t really miss her because somehow our lives have moved on.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

So misunderstood

I know I said yesterday that there would be caves but, quite simply, there weren’t. I apologise if this disappoints you, but maybe another time.

Instead yesterday I went off to see a friend and we had lunch and then went for a civilised stroll around some village type places. It was really lovely wandering about in the sunshine, particularly as normally I would be at work.

We stopped and had a cup of tea in a café and it was like walking into a time warp. A very badly decorated and under-funded time warp. It was the kind of café that you get in a sitcom set decades ago – but would have thought ropey even then. We both had a cup of tea which they made in really small cups and they put a teabag in a cup swished it around briefly and then removed it, along with all of the flavour. But our choices were limited and we wanted a cup of tea, so needs must.

I went home via the supermarket and one of the things I bought was some Diet Coke with Cherry. I really like Dr Pepper and wondered if it might be similar. I have to say that I was not entirely enamoured with this new Diet Coke. It’s almost like drinking two separate flavours that haven’t blended together properly, so you taste the cherry flavour and are then left with a Diet Coke aftertaste. Weird.

Of the flavoured versions of Diet Coke, the one with lemon is the worst that I have tasted. It is like drinking Lemsip. Disgusting. However, I believe there is also a Diet Coke with Cappuccino. So that would be combining coke with a frothy coffee – a cold drink and a hot drink that have nothing in common. Erm, right… I have to say that if I saw some I would have to try it, but I cannot imagine what that bizarre concoction must taste like.

I must admit to liking Diet Coke with vanilla. I first tried it in Australia, which was before it came to the UK. They gave it to me by mistake in a restaurant, but fortunately I liked it. It feels like I am drinking sunshine, if that is possible.

As I have said I do love Dr Pepper and let me tell you, it really is so misunderstood. I was in Texas a few years ago and went to the Dr Pepper Museum, which is in Waco Texas. So not only is Waco the place where a massacre took place a few years ago but is also the shrine to a magnificent drink. I went to the museum with a friend, who was in fact the person who introduced me to Dr Pepper (the drink, not the person) and he always described it as “the nectar of the gods”. Indeed it is...

Monday, April 03, 2006

It's all in the planning

What a relief to not be going to work this morning. I had a leisurely lie in and have a nice day ahead, as I am heading off in a bit to meet up with a friend for a chat and a wander. I think we are going to look at some caves. As you do...

I spent a lot of yesterday sorting stuff out. I went through loads of paperwork and chucked various bits away. My very small bedroom was beginning to reach a point where I was going to have trouble fitting anything else in, including myself.

I also finally booked my flight to Scotland for my holiday at the end of May. Ideally I would fly to Inverness but it is so much cheaper to fly to Aberdeen so that is what I have decided to do. I now need to sort out a hire car for the week. I do like organising holidays. I’m going to have to start to think about where to go next.

My laptop keyboard seems to be doing weird things at the moment. The latest problem is that the @ and “ keys have switched round, so you press the shift key and the number 2 and expect to get a “ but in fact get @. There are various other keys that are producing the wrong character, but only some of them. Very strange.

Oh and I realised that this week is the one when my mum is away and so she wanted me to go and stay with my father. Good planning on my part there then.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Come on the light blues

Where I live is pretty well served by tube stations and there are a whole variety of routes I can take to get into London. Except on tube strike days.

My boss: So there’s a tube strike tomorrow. Will you be able to get in to work?

Me: *serious face * Ooh… well… it could be difficult. I think it would be very hard to find a route into work because of where I live. So probably not.

Anyway, I set off yesterday as I had an appointment in London. I left loads of time and it was just a matter of getting on one tube train and sitting there until I got to my destination. Only then there was a signal failure, so I had to change trains three times and take a really long-winded route to get to my destination. I was late. I hate being late. They were fine about it, but as I had left my hours two hours before the appointment. I was not best pleased to be late.

When I was on the tube on a couple of occasions yesterday passengers offered their seats to women of “more mature years” and were given a somewhat indignant “no thank you”. Maybe they were offended that someone might think they were old. But if someone were to offer me a seat I would say “thanks very much” and gratefully accept. People complain that they don’t get offered seats but when people do make the effort, they get shot down in flames. You can’t win.

I went for a wander in London in the sunshine. I sat in Trafalgar Square for a few minutes and ate a sandwich and then wandered along Charing Cross Road for a bit. I was going to visit a really great bookshop Murder One - except that it wasn’t there… I did later realise where it had moved to and went there and had a browse, but I was a bit concerned that a really great bookshop had closed. If you like Crime novels or thrillers then it is a fantastic shop and stocks pretty much everything. They also stock various romance novels, not that I have ever paid that much attention to that part of the shop. It seems to have moved to a far smaller site, which is a shame, but still is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

I also went to various other bookshops and also looked at some DVDs, but went home entirely empty handed. By the way, Waterstones are doing a 99p deal on about a dozen books at the moment, so if you want to pick up a cheap read then there may be something that takes your fancy. I would have bought a book but I just have nowhere to put them, so resisted the urge.

Today is the boat race. I don’t know why the boat race interests me but it does. I always support Cambridge, despite having no connection to either Cambridge... or the university... or rowing... or do any sport particularly... But I have always supported them and have watched many a race. So here’s hoping that they win this year.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

And relax...

I finally made it to the end of the week and am now on leave. What a relief. However, I am now wondering if I have left a yogurt in my desk. I’m not entirely sure what happens to a yogurt if you leave it for over a week. Do they explode if they are at a reasonably warm temperature? Unfortunately my desk is locked so I can’t even phone the office and ask someone to throw it away. It will be something to look forward to when I go back to work.

I seemed to eat a lot of bad stuff at work yesterday. Because someone was leaving she had brought in lots of boxes of chocolates and somehow one of the boxes ended up on my desk (Cadbury’s Heroes) and I just seemed to guard it with my life anytime anyone came close. And then there were the muffins as well…

There are many things that I won’t miss while I am off work but one certainly is that there seems to be someone who is unable to use the toilet properly. I went into the toilets the other day and someone had sprayed the toilet seat - and with more than just urine. I didn’t want to think about quite how they had managed to achieve this but did wonder why they didn’t think to clean up after themselves. I decided to use another toilet instead.

Don’t forget it’s April Fools Day today. If someone gives you a phone message to call a Mr L. E. Fant, don’t forget to check if it’s the number for the local zoo before you call. The old ones are still the best.