Friday, June 30, 2006


My talk went pretty well on Wednesday – once I got past the slight issue of being told by the IT chap that there was nothing on the disc that was supposed to have my PowerPoint presentation on it, the presentation I was relying on so that I wasn’t speaking from notes. I tried to look totally unphased, like the professional I am, the professional who had failed to copy their presentation on to the disc.

Fortunately my lack of efficiency also meant that I had left the disc with the presentation from last week in my work bag, so I found that and used it instead. Always pretend to have a back up plan so that inefficiency looks like super-efficiency and then you can bluff your way through most situations.

I am, however, more fortunate than one of the other speakers. He set off in plenty of time for the conference but only arrived at 3.30pm – 20 minutes after he was due to speak. They did actually still give him the chance to talk but he had to rather cut it short. The train he was on had broken down at some backwater station and so he decided the only viable alternative was to get a taxi. What he hoped was a relatively short journey turned out to take an hour and a half with a taxi driver who seemed never to have ventured beyond the small town in which he normally worked. Still he must have made a good bit of money from his journey, particularly as he seemed to need financial incentive to drive above his normal 25 miles per hour.

Whilst an arduous journey for him, it was perhaps safer than mine to and from the station. I was later informed that the driver had recovered well from his recent stroke and could see reasonably well out of his one eye that still had vision. But I am living testament to the value of kerbstones and rumble strips. No wonder a couple of people shook my hand warmly and wished me well before I set off for the station.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I bit the bullet and put an offer in on the place I’m thinking of buying. I actually didn’t put it in until reasonably late in the day, as I had a couple of questions that I wanted the answer to first. Anyway, the owner rejected the offer, which I wasn’t surprised about. I chatted to the estate agent and he said that she reckoned that she would get just about the asking price, so he thought that it would be advisable to go back with my best offer and he would see if she would accept that. I’m not decided on what to do next, but might put in another offer later, but I really don’t want to pay the asking price because I think the size of the kitchen doesn’t make it with that amount and I am not so sure that the owner’s confidence is not a touch misplaced, not that I am an expert on these things.

My mum went to Cadbury World last week and came back with various freebies including a Cadbury Double Decker, which is my favourite chocolate bar and she also bought 40 packets of Murray Mints for £2.50. Bargain. However, Cadbury has had to recall something like a million chocolate bars as there is a risk that they have salmonella in them. The thing is that it must be a pretty old batch of chocolate as some of it was used to make Easter eggs. If you’re normal i.e. not me, then you’re Easter eggs will be long gone and I don’t think there has been an outbreak of salmonella in the country, so I think the risk is likely to be minimal. Obviously it could be serious for some people if they came into contact with it, but the thought of all that lovely chocolate being melted down and disposed of just seems criminal. I think if Cadbury were wanting a quality tester, I would be willing to give it a go at seeing if there were any side effects of eating it, but given my history of being a slow chocolate eater, I reckon it would take me quite a while to eat that much chocolate.

I’m off up to the Midlands later so won’t be in the office tomorrow. I might blog when I get back tomorrow night but I don’t actually know when I’ll be back yet. Someone new joined my team a few weeks ago and he’ll be there, which I feel a bit self-conscious about. It’s funny that I can stand up in front of loads of people that I don’t know and that’s fine but if there is someone that I know I feel kind of intimidated by that. I’m going through a phase at the moment where I’m speaking without notes and just rely on a few sentences on some PowerPoint slides as a prompt because I think it makes the talk better and more engaging. So, hopefully I’ll manage to get through the talk without losing the plot.

There’s a dinner tonight but I am hoping that at some point while I am away I’ll find time to engage my brain and get some thoughts together on some things I want to blog about that have been rattling round in my brain. We’ll see. Anyway, have a good couple of days.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's the start of Wimbledon, so it must be raining.

On the tube on the way into work this morning the driver said “London Underground is state of the art. It is also state of the Ark and therefore does not have air conditioning. Remember to carry a bottle of water and to get off the tube at the next station if you feel ill” I bet it took ages for him to think up that one.

I ended up spending most of yesterday afternoon changing bedrooms. My landlady’s son sorted out the power supply in the room so that I could plug things in and then basically there was no reason for me not to get on with moving my things. So, whilst not the same as moving house, it’s another move to add to the list. Still, it keeps my landlady quiet. Apart from her wanting to sell the house, she has also got some exchange students coming to stay during the summer and me moving rooms is part of some grand plan to do with who ends up with which bedroom. They are due next weekend, so it was best to just get on with moving my stuff. Puts me in good practice for if I actually move properly again. The only problems so far are that I did almost go into the wrong bedroom yesterday evening but remembered just in time that it wasn’t my room any more (her son is staying at the moment so it is now his) and I can’t get a very good signal on my TV. In case you are wondering, I do still sleep with my feet in a wardrobe, it's just a different wardrobe.

I’m still rather indecisive on the housing front but I think I am going to put in an offer today anyway. It will be reasonably low, so I would be very surprised if it gets accepted, but I’ll see how it goes and as long as I keep the upper limit in mind that I am willing to go to, I will hope that somehow this will turn into a plan and I might end up having an offer accepted. Of course, someone else may have put in an offer by now, in which case this will all be academic.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hair raising

I had a very nice day yesterday, it was reasonably busy and I even got to take a dog for a walk. I really need to hang on to the lead better. Fortunately the dog was kind of scared of his own lead when it came hurtling after him so he didn’t escape too far.

Anyway, I survived having my hair cut yesterday and don’t have to wear a balaclava. The thing is that I specifically said to the hairdresser that I only wanted my hair to be washed and cut but not be blow dried. I’d said this when I booked the appointment and she confirmed that was what I wanted when she started to cut my hair. When she’d finished cutting she said “Do you want me to just roughly dry it a bit, so it’s not quite so wet?” and I said that would be ok. However, she then seemed to fall into the same mindset that all other hairdressers do when they are drying my hair. They start by saying “isn’t your hair lovely and thick?” followed by “isn’t it nice and wavy” both of which are true but it then means that if they are blow drying my hair they decide either to make my hair very curly or they really straighten it. The hairdresser yesterday decided to make my hair straight and I just sat there thinking that I don’t now why I bothered to say anything at all. It’s not that it looked really awful, I just didn’t want it done like that. Hopefully I’ll be able to go to my usual hairdresser next time.

My landlady was her usual self yesterday when it came to preparing for a viewing of the house. She was going round at high speed tidying every aspect of the house. To the degree of removing the rug from my bedroom again and this time putting a different duvet cover on my bed because my single colour duvet cover was obviously not up to the job and instead a duvet cover with flowers all over it replaced it. Much more tasteful. She also wants me to change bedrooms, to one that is slightly bigger, which is nice enough of her but is motivated by her wanting me to put my stuff away in the cupboards in that room so that if other people come round and view the house the place looks a bit tidier. She has an ‘open house’ coming up in a couple of weeks (which is basically a time for people to come round and view en masse, which I am not very impressed about) so I would have to tidy my stuff up really well for that anyway. I think she wants me to move rooms this weekend but the problem is that there is a serious lack of plug sockets and her son was meant to be wiring some in for me yesterday but he hasn’t done it, so it isn’t going to be happening if I can’t plug anything in. Maybe by the end of today it will have been fixed and it will be more viable to change rooms, not that I particularly want to go through the hassle.

I still haven’t made up my mind what to do about putting in an offer on the place I am thinking about buying. There are points where I think I’ll just go for it but then I wonder if I am convinced enough about it. I reckon I could quite enjoy living there, and maybe that is as much as I can expect. We’ll see what I think by tomorrow as the estate agent isn’t open today anyway.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Decisions, decisions

So I went to see the place I’m thinking of buying again last night and now I’m in a dilemma. I do think it is a really nice place but the kitchen is very small. Very small. So very, very small. Can you see that I have an issue to resolve about how very, very, very small the kitchen is? 7’ by 7’2” is not actually really small for a kitchen but it somehow just is. I’m almost tempted to put a link to the place and then you could see a photo of the kitchen, but despite rumours to the contrary, I am not actually that daft nor therefore all that tempted. In fact the kitchen doesn’t look quite so small in the photo. I think a lot of the problem is that the fridge is in kind of a prominent position and makes it seem smaller. So I’m thinking – is it a matter of setting a limit of what I would be willing to pay for it or do I think it is enough of a problem to put me off putting in an offer at all. I’m thinking. You’ve probably picked that up already though, haven’t you?

I’m having my hair cut this morning. I usually have my hair cut by the same person and have done for about twenty years, with just a few exceptions when he wasn’t available. He’s also a trained social worker and counsellor and just cuts people’s hair on a Saturday so it’s pretty good value for money to get your hair cut by him because he can sort out your social and psychological problems at the same time. Anyway, today I am having my hair cut by someone else as it has been really difficult to find a suitable time to get my hair cut as normal. So I’m going to have to think of how to describe what I want done because I’m usually able to say “the same as usual” – not that I have had the same hair cut for the last twenty years. I’m hoping that I’m able to communicate what I want and don’t end up with some really awful haircut and then have to wear a balaclava until it grows out. I’ve got kitchens to be thinking about, I can’t be worrying about whether I need to be broadening my somewhat limited knitwear range. Why do so many big issues happen at the same time?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Weddings from Hell

I still have various things rattling round in my head and need to find some way to tap into them and blog them here. They’re just slowly coming together inside my head and some of it may escape here in the not too distant future.

Anyway, last night I was avoiding watching the football so had ITV on in the background which was showing “Weddings from Hell”. I’m not really sure what I thought the programme was going to show, maybe people being upset that the wrong colour flowers were delivered, or guests getting drunk and having a bit of a punch up. But no... these were weddings from the deepest bowels of hell. They spent a lot of the first half of the programme focussing on a couple’s story where the bride had decided to go to the church on a trike (it’s a sort of motorbike thing) and fifty yards from the church fell off it and sustained such serious injuries to her legs that they had to be amputated right there in the street. Or a couple who had actually got married but the groom and a friend got stabbed by a complete stranger when they were standing outside the evening reception. I couldn’t help but be horrified by the awful things that people went through on what is meant to be the happiest day of your life.

Fortunately no wedding I have been to has ever proven to be such a disaster. However, despite my sister specifically asking him to be well behaved my father got so drunk at her wedding that he passed out in the gents toilets and was unable to walk or talk and someone had to basically drag him out of the toilets. My sister was so angry with him about that and I don’t think he even apologised when he had sobered up. A few years before that one of my uncles had got married and his mother in law is a bit of a dragon. My sister was a bridesmaid (I had politely declined) and my uncle’s mother in law told her off for putting her suitcase on the bed because it creased the duvet cover. We then got told that it was inconvenient that any of my uncle’s family had been invited as if we hadn’t gone she could have invited more of her own friends. Yes, his mother in law was terribly charming. I don’t think my uncle sees her too often and we’re all hopeful that it isn’t genetic for the sake of my uncle and his children. But in comparison to the programme I saw last night any wedding I have been to has been remarkably tame. I haven’t been to a wedding for a couple of years and I’m kind of relieved given what could have happened.

*Draws up list for attending any future weddings* Outfit – check. Card and present of a toaster – check. Bullet proof vest – check. Paramedic – check. Life insurance – check. Crime scene evidence bags – check. Weddings really are getting far more complicated and more expensive these days.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Alive and back in one piece. I didn’t really get to see much of Hampshire (or Portsmouth to be more precise). My talk went well though and they were a good audience who just seemed to want to engage with what people were saying.

Back to work tomorrow, but I think my mind will keep wandering off to the fact that I am going back to look at the place I am thinking of buying. I think I feel a bit nervous and kind of wish I had got to view it again before Friday night because Saturday is often a major viewing day for properties and it would have been handy to get an offer in before the next round of visits. Anyway, my mum is going with me, not that either of us know anything about property particularly, so I’m not sure how much she will be able to suggest in terms of making better use of the space in a kitchen, but she wanted to see it so she’s coming with me. If I put in an offer, I also need to think about what offer to put in because you have to go through the whole “what’s a reasonable offer but not looking too keen? If the first offer isn’t going to be accepted (which it usually isn’t) then what am I willing to go up to?” and so on. Wow, this house buying thing is complicated.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Easter comes but once a year

As promised, it’s time to update you on the Easter Egg eating situation. I did finally eat a bit of an Easter Egg last night. It was a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Egg and there was even fruit and nut in the shell. So there you go, I threw caution to the wind and finally unwrapped one of my Easter Eggs. There is still a lot of it left and there are also two whole Easter Eggs still to eat. Obviously I can’t rush such a momentous thing, so maybe by the time winter draws in I’ll finally have eaten them all. But no promises.

I am actually meant to be on a bit of a health drive at the moment. A health drive is probably too grand a phrase for it. I am just trying to be disciplined and not eat any of the biscuits that are in the office. We seem to have a constant supply of biscuits, as people bring them back from meetings and if it’s not that, people are bringing in cakes or biscuits. So I am trying to avoid eating them. However, I seem to have an ample supply of various unequally unhealthy things at home so it isn’t that easy to be disciplined. I also did things like eat some very nice New York baked cheesecake the other day, so there have been a number of lapses. Oh well, one can but try.

I am off to Hampshire later because I am speaking at a meeting tomorrow. There is some kind of dinner tonight (which will probably mean more unhealthy food!) so I am leaving mid-afternoon. However, I am not sure if I am coming back Thursday or Friday. The organisers seem to want me to give another talk on Friday but as they haven’t given me the remit of what they want me to talk about and on Friday they have someone else who I reckon could give a suitable talk there anyway, I am trying to get out of being there on Friday as I think it will be a complete waste of my time. Whilst it is nice to be out of the office, I’m not really into sitting at conferences for the sake of it. I’ve spoken to someone several times to ask them to let me know what is happening but they seem to think that this morning they will know what is happening and will let me know. Most kind. Anyway, I might be back tomorrow night and blog then or it will be Friday at some point.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


A new chap joined my unit a couple of months ago and now works in my section. He has always seemed a touch highly strung but beyond that a nice enough chap. However, his manager has come to speak to me a couple of times because she is so stressed at his behaviour.

They’ve had to arrange a couple of big meetings recently and this chap has proved to be more of a hindrance than anything else. He had to be sent home from the meeting a few weeks ago. It was being held in a hotel and he got some room upgrades basically by lying and then kept pilfering everything in sight – he filled his pockets with humbugs and biscuits and anything that technically you could have but are not really meant to take by the handful.

Last week he came and spoke to me because he was really upset that he wasn’t invited to the lunch part way through the meeting taking place the next day. I said to him that numbers had to be cut so people within the unit would always be the first to be crossed off the list and it was more important that the delegates and speakers were fed than people who worked in the unit who could just do whatever they normally did at lunch time. But he just couldn’t understand this and was still going to complain to his manager (who was the person who had made the decision) until I persuaded him that it really wasn’t the best time. I did also have to tell him in no uncertain terms that it was entirely inappropriate to ask the delegates to bring him gifts. I had to explain to him how badly that would reflect on the organisation to do something like that. Is that something that really needs to be pointed out??

Anyway, he’s now thinking about putting in a formal grievance against his manager for discriminatory behaviour by not inviting him to the lunch. He thinks the decision was based on his grade (whereas some might argue that it was to ensure that there was enough food for everyone else). His manager is feeling really miserable about it because she knows she has done nothing wrong but it is threatening nonetheless. Yesterday she looked through his employment file and realised that he has put in grievances before, which makes it more likely that he will go through with it. I have tried to reassure her that she has nothing to worry about, various people have commented on how odd his behaviour is and would be happy to speak up for his manager, but it’s never a pleasant thing. He went home sick yesterday with stress, so we’ll see if he comes in today.

On the housing front, I can’t go and see the place again until Friday so I have to hang on nervously until then. At least the owner knows I am interested and so is unlikely to accept an offer in the interim (I hope). I just don’t think I can put in an offer at the moment without feeling really comfortable with what I am doing and going back to look at the kitchen again is key to that. So let’s hope the next few days go by quickly and then my plans to become a property owner become a reality.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Child's Play

Right, today I need to speak to the estate agent to see about whether I can go and have a look at the property again I might be interested in buying. I’m going to try and arrange it for tomorrow night because I am away with work a couple of nights this week. Despite my usual indecisiveness about such things, time is generally of the essence when it comes to buying property, so I need to get on with it and hope that no-one puts in an offer before I make up my mind about what I am doing.

Yesterday went ok. There was no hassle from anyone about not giving my father a card yesterday, although mum did (jokingly) try and encourage me to phone Magic FM to make a Father’s Day dedication. I politely declined.

Before my nephew went to bed yesterday he wanted my father to read some books to him. So he kept giving books to my father but dad would just leave my nephew to turn the pages and seemed to find it impossible to interact with him at all. My nephew is 15 months old so can’t read and I was saying to dad that he should just point out things on the page “look there’s a cat” and maybe give a quick meow or “look there’s a dog, woof” but he just sat there in silence seemingly unable to describe anything on the page. I just have no idea what goes on in my father’s mind. He’s not a stupid man but over the years seems to have lost his ability to interact with people even on a normal level. I think in some ways he is just so self-conscious that he doesn’t want to do something that he thinks could embarrass him. By contrast, I see messing about with my nephew as a great excuse to get away with acting like a bit of a kid and nobody thinks anything of it because they’re you’re alibi! You can’t normally do animal impressions, sing stupid songs, build things with toy bricks or just chuck a ball about even if you’re really rubbish at most sporting things. It’s marvellous! I think you miss out on loads of the enjoyment of kids if you just worry what other people will think. I guess if dad doesn’t want to do such things it gives me more opportunity to do it instead.

Enough of acting like a child for now and time to pretend to be an adult and make some enquiries about the place I might buy. Gulp.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Some progress. I think...

I’ve had a good weekend so far, I went house hunting yesterday and saw four places. They were quite mixed but really gave me a feel for what I want. I did almost have to put in an offer for one of the places just because the friend who went with me trod on the cat of one of the owner’s. But fortunately the woman, and slightly less so the cat, was forgiving. But... I think, maybe, I have found somewhere that I might want to buy. It’s a ground floor maisonette and as I walked round I felt myself thinking that I could live there. The problem with it is that it has a really small kitchen and I don’t see a way to fit a freezer in there and the way it is set up at the moment the fridge is positioned kind of oddly and makes the kitchen look even smaller than it actually is (it’s 7’ by 7’2”). But there’s a recess in the kitchen where the washing machine is currently and I am wondering with a bit of building work if it might be possible to come up with something much more workable. I spent a while talking to my landlady yesterday afternoon and she took me to MFI to look at various options of what can be done to maximise space in a kitchen and then when we got back she got out some graph paper and was trying to plot the kitchen to see what ideas she could come up with.

Anyway, the plan is to talk to the estate agent on Monday and say that I am kind of interested but have serious reservations about the kitchen. I’ll then probably try and arrange another viewing and take my landlady along who hopefully will come up with a magic solution to the kitchen problem. The place has actually got lots of plus points – a nice living room, two decent sized bedrooms, a nice garden, its own drive, big hallway, a good location, peaceful etc. The bathroom was fine but could do with a repaint and a general brightening up, but that is nothing too significant. So I’m feeling kind of hopeful about this one and am just hoping that no-one puts in an offer before I have a chance to work out if it is viable.

I went out for dinner yesterday evening to celebrate a friend’s birthday and that was really nice and a few of us just sat there and chatted and enjoyed ourselves. I seem to have eaten out for every meal over the weekend except breakfast. The trend continues today because I am meant to be going over to my sister’s for a barbecue today. The barbecue is because it was my mum’s birthday a couple of days ago but, unfortunately, it also coincides with Father’s Day. I haven’t given my father even a card in years. It just seems very hypocritical and meaningless to give him a card, so I don’t bother but it normally isn’t highlighted particularly, as we don’t see each other on the day. This year I wonder if I might get a bit of a lecture from my sister about not giving him a card, but we shall see. Some time I’ll try and explain why I don’t get on with my father. It’s not a particularly exciting tale and as the years have gone I seem to have become more immune to him, but I’ll write something about it another time. Anyway, I shall go and prepare myself for a day of family fun...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weird things

When I was at school, my Latin teacher once talked to us about the Sword of Damocles. She then said “Even if you have never heard that phrase before you’ll hear it again in the next few days because that’s that way it always works”. Sure enough, within the next few days someone used the phrase and I was in awe of my Latin teacher.

The other night I went out for a drink with a friend who runs a bookshop and I was for some reason mentioning ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as an example of something someone might order (not that I have ever read it). The next morning when I went downstairs there was a copy of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (on DVD) sitting on the table in the hall. My brain clicks through and thinks “that was a Sword of Damocles moment”. Then that evening I was reading Toxicsoup’s blog and that day’s post mentioned the Sword of Damocles. Weird – and proving that my Latin teacher is still right after all of these years.

I often get strange messages or texts on my work mobile phone. It has got a really nice phone number i.e. easy to remember, and people often comment on what a good number it is. But for some reason it also seems to be one that people dial by accident and I get drunken messages from people pouring out their woes, messages from taxi drivers waiting to pick someone up and so on. I don’t know why I explained that because this next bit is about my personal mobile, but I just thought I’d say it anyway. Er, I think maybe the point was I don’t tend to have very many unusual things happen with my personal mobile. Enough disclaimers there? Shall we move on? So…

The other night I sent a text to someone and almost immediately another friend texted me about something entirely unconnected. But then a couple of minutes later a text came in from a number that I didn’t know and the message just said “Who is this?” There was no name or anything else. I was rather confused and wondered if I had sent my text to the wrong number but according to my phone I hadn’t.

I decided not to reply, as my response could have been exactly the same - “Who is this?” – and then it would just have started to get complicated. So I don’t know if my text went astray somehow via the network or if it was some long lost friend trying to establish contact or what, but I declined to answer the question. It felt kind of weird to get the text though and made me wonder why I had suddenly received it. Other people may well have replied, but I obviously have no sense of adventure.

A while ago I got a text that said “Hi [my name]. Its Duncan are you ok I’ll send you a pic if u hve cam fone? Can you send me one?” Now apart from the fact that he seemed unable to use the Queen’s English, I was somewhat perplexed by this message. I only know one person called Duncan and I couldn’t think why he would be sending me that text. Then a few minutes later, my mobile rang and it was this chap Duncan. My mind was racing trying to work out if I knew this person. Now I *know* what I should have done was to say “who are you?” but for some reason this didn’t really cross my mind at the time and I just mumbled slightly incoherently. He just said “you sound as though you’re a bit busy at the moment” and I said that I was and he rang off. I assume that, by strange coincidence, I got a text intended for someone of the same name and it was probably going to turn into some budding romance between them and I ruined their chance of true love. Maybe I should learn something from the text I got the other night and learn to say “Who is this?” though, instead of feeling guilty for not knowing who a person calling the wrong number is.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Something in the Air

Ages ago there was a news item about an invention to dissuade troublesome youths from hanging about outside shops scaring people and (literally) lowering the tone. Apparently a machine has been invented that emits a tone that is really irritating to people below the age of twenty or so, but cannot be heard by people older than that. So oiks decide not to hang about outside the local shops and instead go and smash up a phone box in a secluded spot - and very possibly the local residents don’t get their copy of the Daily Mail or The Sun delivered as the paper boy’s ears bleed every time he tries to go into the local newsagents to pick up the papers to deliver.

Anyway, having been invented as a power for good, the high pitched tone has now been used as a tool to assist feral youth. It seems that you can now get the high pitched tone as a ring tone on your mobile. If pupils are in class and want to sneakily keep their mobile on they can have this ring tone and the teacher won’t hear it because the tone is not in the adult hearing range. Although if they answer a phone call, unless they have learned to actually speak in the high pitched tone, I suspect most teachers would probably notice.

So, lets get this clear... a tone is invented that is so repugnant to youths that they are instantly repelled by it. It is so effective that it is… now being used as a mobile ring tone by the very people that it is meant to repel. Mind you if they are the oiks they are meant to be they are unlikely to be in school anyway, so the ring tone is just going to protect the hearing of old fogies such as myself. Now if someone could invent something that means that I can’t hear people playing the radio on mobile phones at full volume on the tube that *would* be a good invention.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I wonder how suited I am to this house buying thing. A couple of places I wanted to go and view have already gone under offer. I don’t think my risk averse attitude suits me to the cut-throat business of buying property. Well, maybe not cut-throat business exactly but business that is faster than the snail pace that I would normally like to operate at when spending tens of thousands of pounds. I guess I’m going to have to get used to moving more swiftly in this process. It seems that a couple of places I wanted to see have been withdrawn from the market as well, so the number of places I am going to get to see seem to be getting less and less, although an estate agent is sending a whole load of stuff out to me in the post which I should get today so that might inspire me. I shall potter on at my own pace for now though.

Talking of things that are being done at someone’s own pace reminds me that in April we advertised a job that needs to be filled urgently and the closing date was the beginning of May. I changed bosses during that time and despite us now being half way through June, he has not even asked for the files to look at who has applied. He keeps saying he will do it and then something else comes up and he doesn’t get round to it. So one of my colleagues has the embarrassing job of fending off calls from people who are wondering what is going on. How we can expect anyone actually to want the job if we haven’t even had the courtesy to read their application form yet – or even acknowledge that we have got it – astounds me. I think my boss is on leave next week as well, so that will be yet another week where nothing is done about it. What a way to run an organisation.

On the way home last night I decided to wait for the bus. This turned out to be a bad decision as I was still waiting for it 20 minutes later and I could have walked home in that time. Anyway, just as the bus arrived two teenage lads on bikes cycled at speed across the road and the second one clipped his bike off a traffic island and made a very painful collision with the road.

He looked really upset which I think was a combination of pain and shock. His friend had cycled on so I went and picked him up off the road and helped him to the side of the road. Despite there being loads of people at the bus stop only one other person came over and he helped me get the boy up off the road and then picked up the bike. The boy’s friend then reappeared, as he had realised what had happened by then, and they both just kind of disappeared off. So I hopped on the bus and went home. He was definitely someone who should have been doing things as his own pace. Poor lad.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I’m feeling considerably better, so unfortunately I am back at work now. I spent yesterday sort of working from home which basically meant monitoring my work e-mails so that I appeared not to be watching repeats of lots of programmes that were originally shown in the 1980s.

One of the things that I learnt from the whole throwing up episode is that if there is any chance you might be sick then don’t eat cheese because it makes it that much more unpleasant because it kind of ferments in your stomach. Too much information?

Well, not quite changing the subject this may not be an entirely welcome thing either if you’re feeling a bit unwell. That’s right it’s “Stick on the Stilton” – cheese that has been turned into a perfume. Apparently it smells nothing like cheese, some people think it smells like flowers, others like herbs or a whole range of other things. I guess it would be a conversation piece at least. But why would you?

I’m trying to arrange to view some properties on Saturday but it seems to be quite hard work to sort out the logistics because none of the places are with the same estate agents. I phoned to book a morning viewing with one and an afternoon viewing with another and then planned to fill in the time gaps with other viewings once those were sorted. The one I had asked to be in the afternoon has been arranged for 11am, which last time I checked was not actually the afternoon. Anyway, by the weekend hopefully I’ll have lined up about half a dozen viewings, although I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to want their football viewing to be disturbed. Do they want to sell their properties or not? Hang on, what's the quote "Football is not a matter of life and death. It's much more important than that." I have much to learn.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It’s rare that I’m ill, but yesterday was certainly one of those days. I was feeling a bit odd most of the morning and took over an hour to eat my sandwiches at lunchtime. I then just sat at my desk with my head in my hands wondering what to do, thinking I’d really like to go home but not wanting to go out in the heat or travel on the tube, but then I suddenly felt really sick at which point D, who I sit next to ordered me to go to the loos and I made it there just in time… Very unpleasant. Then I decided I really should go home so I went home and went to bed. Then when I felt better I got up and dressed and then threw up again and was even more ill than I had been before.

I have no idea what the cause is but I am working from home today as my landlady reckons that even if I feel better I am likely to still be infectious for about 24 hours. The thought of travelling on the tube today is also not appealing. I should be fine by tomorrow though. My landlady was really nice and brought be breakfast in bed. I ate a bit of bread but really don’t feel hungry at all which is totally unheard of. I have worked at my current place for over five years and this is the first time that I have ever had to take time off for being ill (not that today should count as sick leave), so it’s a time of firsts. Anyway, hopefully I’ll regain my appetite and be back on full form by tomorrow.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Glimpsing the future

I feel like I had a good weekend. Starting looking at places to buy on my own made me feel like I do have some vague control of some part of my life. Of course I have to actually buy somewhere to really have sorted this, but we’ll call that a technicality for now.

I went over to my parents’ house yesterday as they were going out for lunch with a couple of people to celebrate my father’s birthday (which was last week). My father walks incredibly slowly and is generally slow about most things – thinking of the answer to any question, just talking generally etc. When we went to the restaurant the waitress kept asking him questions as though she couldn’t quite work out what was wrong with him and as though she couldn’t quite work out whether she should work out who his carer was and ask them instead. He just seems to be getting less capable as time goes on, but I think his biggest problem is that he keeps making his world smaller and smaller and isn’t willing to take a risk on anything. *note to self – take more risks or see your future unfolding in front of you…*

My mum really made me laugh though. I was at their house after the meal and dad was asleep on the sofa and mum appeared to be sticking two fingers up at him. When she checked what she was doing, she said that as tempting as it was to stick two fingers up at my dad she was in fact making shadow animals on the sofa because the sun was shining in behind her. Sure enough she had perfected a number of animals and proudly showed me a kangaroo, baby alligator and a crocodile (don’t get those two muddled up). I then suggested other animals and she came up with a pug dog, a jaguar and various birds. What talent. You’d probably have to have been there to quite appreciate this though – but even without being there you might gather that my mother is entirely insane at times. Have I once again glimpsed my future?

Sunday, June 11, 2006


So yesterday didn’t go quite as planned but was good anyway. My dad was ill – I’m not going to be too specific about in what way, but let me tell you it wasn’t pleasant. That meant that it wasn’t a good idea for my nephew to go over to my parents’ house, so I was going to look after him instead. Then the plan got really complicated and in the end mum came to the property viewings with me and I went over to my sister’s house in the afternoon as she was feeling in need of a bit of support in looking after my nephew because she was really tired. My nephew and I messed about in the garden for a bit and I just generally entertained him for the afternoon. Without meaning to go down the “my nephew is soooooooooooo cute” route too much (but he is), I was standing in the kitchen eating a slice of toast and he wandered in and reached up to me so that I’d pick him up. As much as I’d like to think that it’s because he thinks I am so great, he was intently eyeing my piece of toast and basically every time I took a bite of toast he then took a bite as well and he ended up eating far more of it than I did. It was very funny – but you’d probably have to be there appreciate the humour.

Anyway, the properties I went to see were interesting. I quite liked one of them but thought it was over-priced. It would need a new kitchen, carpets as there were just bare floorboards, and a stair lift removed. Those things wouldn’t be too bad if I didn’t think it was quite expensive in the first place. The second place was nice enough but I didn’t like its location at all. I would have been ok once I got the front door closed but would have felt uneasy until that point. I might speak to the estate agent about the first place to see if there is any negotiation on the price to get it down to something rather more reasonable, because it was a place that had definite potential, but we’ll see.

While I was at my sister’s I had a browse on the internet to look for other properties and saw a few that might be of interest and have requested the details. Despite the places I saw not necessarily being what I want, I actually felt kind of inspired and as though I might actually be brave enough to buy somewhere on my own. It put me in quite a good mood, as though I might have the courage to go through all the hassles that go with buying somewhere because at the end of it I will finally have a home, which would be quite an amazing thing.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Come on England, I want to go shopping...

I think I might be in the minority here, but I’m not actually very interested in watching England play in the World Cup. I’m not anti-football and have been known to follow how Arsenal are doing, but watching England play is not often a pleasant experience.

I always feel they are a bit too unpredictable, that no matter how much they are hyped they can wander out on the pitch on the day and play a match that is toe-curlingly painful and often seem to end up in a penalty shoot-out that is nerve-racking beyond measure and if I want to know the result, I can just wait until the match is over and look it up on teletext instead (that’s not really the spirit is it?).

I’m not one of those people who bemoans England’s sporting abilities and goes off on a rant about how terrible the English are at sport every time we get knocked out of a sporting competition - be it football, tennis, cricket, rugby. It just doesn’t interest me enough really.

But there are certain advantages to England playing in the World Cup the main one being that about half an hour before kick off most people start to settle down in front of the TV to watch the match s everywhere goes quiet. This is therefore the perfect time to go out and do all sorts of things that are normally over-run people. You can have a speedy trip around the supermarket, drive about without getting stuck in queues and a hush falls over places that are normally chaotic on a Saturday afternoon. So from that point of view I am a big supporter of the England football team and am looking forward to a couple of hours of peace and quiet this afternoon.

Anyway, I’m off to look at a couple of houses in a bit and then my sister is leaving my nephew with me to look after as she is going to a wedding. She phoned this morning to ask if I could look after him as my parents were meant to be looking after him but apparently they are ill. My sister e-mailed me a photo of him yesterday and he looked so cute that she is going to give me a printed copy of it too.

My landlady said to me yesterday that someone is coming round to look at the house this morning and did her usual “can you make sure your room is tidy?” which gets a bit grating in the end. I’m reading We Need to Talk About Kevin at the moment, forget my colleague at work, lets hope it doesn’t give me any ideas.

Friday, June 09, 2006

You can tell it's summer

Yesterday was the first day I hadn’t worn a jumper or similar item to work all year, so I must really believe summer is here. Today I am even wearing short sleeves. Fortunately I was in a very cheerful mood on the way in this morning as my journey to work was going well but suddenly ground to a halt due to traction problems on the tube. They then shut all the doors on the tube so no-one could get off, which was kind of strange, and then when we finally were allowed off the train, I had come up with a route that meant taking totally the wrong train and then hopping on a bus and arriving at work about 30 minutes late to work - not that we have to be in before 10 anyway. Strangely the extra time in the sunshine seems to have still left me in a reasonably good mood anyway.

Right so what is happening on the house buying front? I’ve decided to look for somewhere on my own for now because I have no idea what will happen with the friend who suggested we might buy together. She is away for another few weeks yet and then may have to wait a few months to be eligible for a mortgage as she will have to get a job when she’s back. I can always revise the plan and look with her if I don’t have any success on my own. If we did buy together, we would have a far more 50:50 split on buying it whereas it would have been 80:20 with my other friend (with me having the larger portion), which would means we could get somewhere bigger.

While I was on holiday a financial adviser called me to say that I will be able to get a mortgage without any problem and I was also very shocked at the rather large amount of money that I would be able to borrow. That plus my deposit should mean I can get somewhere nice. However, I have never been in debt in my life and the prospect of taking on a mortgage does not fill me with joy, so I am not keen to take on a vast amount of debt.

Anyway, tomorrow I am off to see two properties. One of them is more than I want to spend but is worth a look anyway and apparently they might be willing to lower the price for someone who can move quickly. Until now I have been looking at bigger places as I was looking with my friend, so I have no feel for what to expect from somewhere I could afford on my own, so at least it will start to get me thinking. One of my fears is that I will just be convinced by the estate agents banter and he’ll persuade me that something the size of a shoebox is my ideal purchase. So I’m leaving my chequebook at home and taking my sister along for protection and we’ll see what happens.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Being away did remind me quite how unfit I am. My normal exercise regime (believe me that word seriously overstates it) is walking up the escalators at the tube station and a twenty minute walk home from the station.

Had I walked a bit more during the week, I would have got rather fitter, but I was often a bit off the pace and would trudge in a couple of minutes after most of the rest of the group. My addiction to penguins did not necessarily help my cause those, all that chocolate, I’d forgotten how nice they were – and you get a joke on the wrapper as well. How can you resist such classics as:

What did the grape do when it got stepped on?

It gave out a little wine.

Why did the elephant take toilet paper to the party?

Because it was a party pooper.

They don’t actually get any better than that.

But sometimes I wonder if there are parallels between my walking ‘technique’ and my life more generally. Many years ago a friend said to me that I am one of life’s plodders (she meant this in a nice way!). Basically I keep plodding on even in adverse conditions. I grit my teeth and keep going, maybe occasionally losing my way or slowing my pace a bit but in the end I get there, regardless of all the trials or circumstances that may put me off my goal.

I do actually like knowing others have trodden a path before me, that I can say to someone “what do you think?” or “what did you do?” and from their experience they can tell me what path they took and why. Somehow it makes things less scary, more manageable.

So perhaps I am not unfit, but instead need to build up stamina, to work out where I need some strength and insight and then set my sights on the goal and see it through.

And one final joke...

Why did the lobster blush?

Because the sea weed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

For the doubters

A friend came round on Saturday night and I was showing her round where I live, as she had never been there before.

When I showed her my room, she said "You really do sleep with your feet in a wardrobe!" That was the first time I'd really thought that people might be sceptical about whether I actually do. So I thought I would take some photographic evidence so that my dear blog readers could also see for themselves.

I hope you don't find it shocking to see some of my bedroom and in particular my bed. For those of a sensitive disposition I suggest you look away now.

So first is my bed and you possibly can see that the bed looks rather short - the distance between the head of the bed and the wardrobe bit is probably about four and a half feet.

Then this is a picture with the wardrobe door open and you can see my duvet cover in the wardrobe bit - see I really do sleep with my feet in a wardrobe!

I apologise for my untidy wardrobe but I have to maximise space by packing things in. So, anyway, there you go, proof of my wardrobe-dwelling. Given the untidiness of my room, I dare not show you a photo of the rest of it, not that there is huge amounts more space in my room. But hopefully you can control yourself at having seen where I sleep.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Working for a living

I could get used to time off work, even though I didn’t do anything very constructive beyond going to the supermarket and sorting out my stuff from being on holiday. Sadly it’s back to work today but at least it is only a four day week. However, the first thing my landlady told me this morning was about the large amount of cat poo she had to clear up when she came downstairs. This wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience while I was eating my breakfast, but I’m hoping that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the week. Although having just got into work and found that a whole load of money has been deducted from my salary by mistake, it isn’t looking good.

I was planning on going to my parent’s house yesterday afternoon because my sister and nephew were due to be there as it was my father’s birthday, but my sister was feeling tired and dad had to go to the doctor’s anyway, so I ended up not going over there.

I seem to have a few things rattling round my head at the moment and so I’ll probably write something about them here at some point. It’s amazing what difference a bit of sunshine makes though. One of the things I find really frustrating about where I live is that it is so dark indoors. You have to have the lights on no matter what time of day it is, so it makes me feel as though a little cloud is descending when I think about going home – because I am literally going from being in the sunshine to semi-darkness. When I start looking at places to buy I really need to try and find somewhere that is light and airy because it really affects my mood. One of the great things about Scotland is that it was light until really late and I could look out the window at the mountains as late as 11pm and still be able to clearly see them. I went for a walk about 8.30 last night to soak in the last bit of daylight and also to try and inspire myself on the house buying front and it did actually kind of work and made me feel more positive about the prospect of trying to buy somewhere.

Anyway, I’d better get on and start to plough through all the work e-mails waiting for me. There are less than 100 e-mails to get through so that is better than expected. They won’t take very long to delete then.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I am not back at work yet, I decided to take today off work too so that I have a bit of time to relax before I go back to work. Although the highlight of the day might turn out to be going to Tesco, but it’s time off work so I shan’t complain.

We went on some good walks while I was away although to be honest I only walked at the beginning of the week because I wasn’t feeling too well as the week wore on.

Anyway, last Monday we went on a walk that involved climbing to a summit of 977 metres. On the national weather the night before we had been warned that it was going to be a “serious day for walkers” and that was true.

We set off in sunshine and some intermittent rain but we could see that higher up there was quite a lot of snow – and fresh snow at that. We kept walking and when we stopped for lunch it was in clear conditions but within minutes clouds has descended and visibility dropped to only a few metres. However, we still headed for the summit but by this point had reached the snow, which was very deep in places.

When we got to the summit it was zero visibility, but that wasn’t actually a disappointment. I felt the most amazing sense of achievement to have made it to the summit in snow and really low visibility that made the others I was walking with seem like silhouettes. It was great to make it to the summit and it felt a bit like getting to the top of my own little Everest – and it is about as near as I am likely to get to the real thing.

As there was no view at the summit because the cloud was so low and it was somewhat chilly up there in the snow, we immediately headed straight back down, at which point the horizontal hail started. We had to stop a couple of times because it felt like being simultaneously struck by dozens of pin pricks. It was an excellent facial but not an entirely pleasant experience. We slogged on through and eventually the hail turned to rain instead, but we then had a sweet eating competition to lift our spirits.

By the time we got back to the car it was glorious sunshine and was difficult to believe that we had been trekking through snow and hail only a short time before.

There’s something about facing the elements that clears the cobwebs out of your mind. However the sore throat and the fuzzy head that materialised about 24 hours later maybe suggests that the elements were striking back with a vengeance.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back to Sunny London

I’m back. It was a really good holiday, I spoke to a friend on the phone while I was away who said I sounded so much happier than I had in ages. The return to London wasn’t entirely welcome but it has been pretty good so far.

Anyway, it was great to get away from it all and spend time surrounded by mountains and lochs. I don’t think I said before but I was actually in Ullapool which is in North West Scotland. I have never been so far north in the UK before and it was lovely.

We flew to Aberdeen, which is just under 200 miles from Ullapool, because it was considerably cheaper to fly there than to Inverness. As an aside it was also far cheaper to fly British Airways than Easyjet. Some friends also flew to Aberdeen but on Easyjet and they booked weeks before me and paid a lot more than I did. We then hired a car and drove from Aberdeen to Ullapool, picking up another friend in Inverness and taking the opportunity to eat some fish and chips in the car. I’m dead classy I am.

It’s very light that far north and even though we didn’t arrive at the place we were staying until don 9.30pm, there was still plenty of daylight.

It was a very relaxed week, there were 10 of us plus two children and we could do as much or as little as we wanted. I was actually a bit under the weather while I was away, which started with rather a sore throat and turned into a horrible cold, which I still have. This was probably due to walking through snow and hail one of the days, but I’ll post about that in the next day or so.

Regardless it was a great time away, with fantastic views, good company and lots of time to relax. Marvellous.

Sadly, I didn’t bring you back a present as they wouldn’t let me take a real live Highland cow on the plane, but the thought was there.

Oh and I am, of course, pleased to see the return of The Gripes of Wrath. Sounds like an excuse for me to eat some cake in celebration. Woo hoo!