Thursday, November 23, 2006

African Adventure

Okey dokey. It’s almost time to depart on my hols. Just one more day of work to get through and then I am free for a week of sun, sand and… some more sun. I am going to the Gambia to see a friend from university who works there. I am off to stay with her parents tonight because they are going as well and we will set off for the airport at some ridiculously early hour tomorrow morning.

I’m not really sure what we’re doing while we’re there beyond staying at my friend’s house for a few days and we’ll be going to a resort for some of the time as well. Getting to the resort will involve a boat trip and so I have been warned to bring travel sickness tablets, not because it will be a particularly rough trip but because I have a history of throwing up when there is any combination of a boat and water (my friend was with me at the Great Barrier Reef, so believe me she knows…).

I’ve realised I should have one more anti-malarial tablet than I do, but am going to take them at their word that I can start to take them “one to two days” before I set off, as its probably more important to continue the course for longer at the end. Should I die of malaria then I’ll know this was not the right decision. Mind you, I was talking to someone at work who told me that someone we work with took the same anti-malarials and was rushed to hospital with kidney failure, so it seems that if death is after you there may be no escape.

I was talking to my credit card company a couple of days ago and I mentioned that I was going to the Gambia (it was relevant, I wasn’t just bragging!) and the woman replied “Are you going hunting?” Hunting?? Er... yes I am and have packed my spear for that very purpose. I shall, of course, post pictures of my successful kills, including the severed head of a lion.

I also checked with my solicitor about what they wanted me to do about giving them the rest of the money for the purchase of the place I am buying. They told me that I should hang on to my money as I may as well gain the interest because it was unlikely to delay anything by me waiting until I got back to give it to them. Hopefully I will exchange in the next week anyway. I’ve signed all the documents and done everything I need to so that can happen while I am away. Hopefully…

Anyway, I’m off to Africa! I’ve never been there before so that’s a *whole* *new* *continent*. Woo hoo! Bring on the sunshine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Has anyone got a stamp?

Dear Obsessive Landlady

Thank you for your texts instructing me on various issues. Why let basic pleasantries get in the way of communication? Why bother to pick up the phone and speak to me when you can instead use txt spk to give your orders? Of course your ability to phone me is somewhat limited by you disconnecting the telephone service last week, so it is understandable that you would be too tight to actually phone me on my mobile.

I was somewhat alarmed to get home on Monday night to find that someone had been in the house leaving lights on, had shut the cat in the living room and moved my clothes and other items about in my bedroom. Whilst I have been somewhat perturbed by your actions in the past, I was truly impressed and astounded that, given you live in Cardiff, you must have tidied my room by mere power of thought. Upon inquiring with you I was disappointed and not entirely pleased to learn that it was your 70 year old father who had in fact been in the house. Whilst I understand that certain traits run in the family, I had not realised that your propensity to go through my clothes and underwear had been inherited from your father. Although I am sure you know your father well, I do not and so his having gone through my possessions is not something that I welcome. However, I shall add him to the list of suspects of who may have purloined my top and suit trousers.

I felt that we had made a major break through recently when you at last acknowledged your obsessive nature. However, I feel that we have sunk to a new low in that you are now controlling events from afar. Should I end up in prison for your murder, I will seek inspiration from you by not being limited by either geography or the law in terms of my dealings with the outside world. Prison life may not be much different to now in that my current living conditions mean that I inhabit a room that is 7’ by 8’ and my actions are presided over to the minutest degree. Of course, I will only end up in prison once they have prised the bloodied axe from my hands.

But let me return to that point about the law. There is that little inconvenience known as tenancy law, which I naively believed gave me the right to some notice if you or one of your ‘agents’ wished to seek entry to the property and allows me not to have my own private space invaded just because the landlord wishes I were more tidy. Given that I am 31 years old it is not necessarily surprising that I have more possessions than would normally fit into a cell sized room.

I see that in your judgement I am good enough to look after your cat and clear up its excrement, but I should perhaps point out that ‘judgement’ and ‘being judgmental’ are not the same thing. Might I be so bold as to suggest that your judgement is somewhat impaired whilst your ability to be judgmental is spot on. It is perhaps normal to focus praise on someone’s achievements but in this case I think it is not necessarily something of which to be proud. I might also add that there is a difference between empathy and being a control freak. I will leave you to ponder which of those traits you most ably exemplify.

I am aware that you will be in residence this weekend, which will coincide with me being on holiday. I would ask that you resist the urge to reorganise my possessions as you see fit. However, in anticipation of my return next week I shall sharpen my axe.

Best wishes


Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I feel absolutely exasperated at the moment (landlady stuff) and cannot even put it into words at the moment! So instead, I shall give you a possibly slightly bizarre insight into my life. I think this originally came from Zanne Ado

1. Dated outside your race? Nope
2. Singing in the shower? Not where I currently live as my landlady would probably appraise my singing note by note. But it has been known when I have lived elsewhere…
3. Spit in someone’s drink? Nope.
4. Played with Barbies? Nope.
5. Made someone cry? Sadly yes.
6. Opened your Christmas presents early? Not without explicit permission.
7. Lied to a friend? I would imagine so but can’t think of an example right now.
8. Watched and cried while watching a soap opera? Probably in my youth when watching some moving installment of Neighbours.
9. Played a computer game for more than 5 hours? Nope.
10. Ran through the sprinklers naked? Nope.
11. Ate food that fell on the floor? It’s food, you can’t waste it.
12. Went outside naked? As a young child but I think it would be more than the world could cope with now.
13. Been on stage? Yes.
14. Been on stage naked or close to it? Nope.
15. Been in a parade? Yes.
16. Been in a school play? Yes.
17. Drank beer? I have tasted it but I don’t like alcohol.
18. Gotten detention? Nope, which as I was not very good a doing as I was told when I was at school is surprising.
19. Been on a cruise? Nope.
20. Broken into a house? Nope.
21. Gotten a tattoo? Nope.
22. Gotten piercings? Nope. That would involve jewellery of some sort and I’m not a big fan of jewellery.
23. Gotten into a fist fight? If defending myself from my dad counts then yes, but otherwise no.
24. Gotten into a shouting match? In the past, but if I shouted now I think I would just end up coughing a lot, which tends to look a bit pathetic!
25. Swallowed sea/pool water? Yes, and I try not to think what else was probably in that water.
26. Spun yourself in circles to get dizzy on purpose? In my youth but I actually hate the feeling of being dizzy.
27. Laughed so hard it hurt? Oh yes, I love that feeling.
28. Tripped on your own feet? Occasionally, but fortunately it’s not one of the things I have inherited from my mum who has done that a number of times and sustained serious injuries as a result. Ouch.
29. Cried yourself to sleep? Yep.
30. Cried in public? Yep, including most recently in my office.
31. Thrown up in public? Yep, Great Barrier Reef, a beautiful square in Bratislava, in the toilets at work. For someone who hasn’t been sick very often, I certainly do it in style!
32. Lied to your parents? Not about anything major - my mum would say I just tend not to tell them things.
33. Skipped class? A few times at uni, it was inhumane to schedule lectures at 9am. Or 10am... or 11am...
34. Cried so hard you threw up? Nope.
35. Had a one night stand? Nope.
36. Left restaurant without paying tab? Nope.
37. Been Fired from a job? Nope.
38. Wanted to make out with your massage therapist, therapist OR hairdresser? Nope.
39. Had a drink "sent" to a stranger at a bar? Nope.
40. Been winked at and loved it? On the few occasions it has happened I have appreciated it, but it has tended to just make me laugh which probably isn’t the best reaction.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I seem to think that a couple of weeks ago I had been blogging for a year. What do I have to say about that? Not a lot beyond having met some very nice people through blogging (both in person and in cyber-space) and my blog not being as I had expected i.e. I had never intended to say anything particularly personal. But what can I tell you? It’s cheaper than paying a therapist.

I was at my parents’ yesterday and mum knows that I write a blog, although nothing more than that. Her latest thing seems to be asking me where it is, what it’s about etc etc. Somehow I just don’t have the urge to tell her how to find it though. It means I have to remove every trace if I visit it whenever I use their computer though. I think it would just be very weird if my mum read it.

Talking of weird things, there’s this, which is basically a way to analyse something someone has written to see what gender their writing style comes out as. From my writing it has decided I am female, which is a relief. But this assertion is based on the fact that I use words such as “and” and (*thinks* ooh prime example there) “was”. Do men really not use those words very much? Does that mean men only ever construct very short sentences and never think about anything in the past? Apparently male words are things like “the” and (there I go again) “it”. Men are obviously a highly developed gender. Anyway, if you blog, or want to dig out an old school essay, you may wish to analyse your writing style - or find out about other people. I am sure it is highly scientifically accurate.

I keep meaning to comment on a blogger who I am often impressed by, that being Sarsparilla, who I think is really good at expressing herself and hit’s the nail on the head with all sorts of things she says. I could mention any number of her posts that I think have been brilliant but I’ll just mention her latest one and given that I have written a bit about blogging today, one she wrote a while agoabout that very subject and personas. I will add this to the list of things I need to return to at some point - how similar am I in real life to what is in my blog? For now, I will leave you to ponder that for yourself.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I was kind of interested to read this story recently, which basically says that some four million of us have a phobia of using public toilets. It’s not that I find it odd that people might not want to use public toilets. Some people have genuine reasons to not be keen to use them and to be honest, you only have to have a basic expectation of hygiene to be somewhat reticent to use a public loo - but more than 4 million people have this phobia apparently. That’s four *million* people therefore meaning that, if my GCSE maths is of any use at all, something like 1 in every 15 people suffers from this phobia. That sounds a little unlikely to me. Surely the majority of those people, it is just because the toilets are in such a poor state - but then that suggests that 14 out of 15 people couldn’t care less. There’s also a difference between a phobia and just preferring not to do something and I suspect that most people fall into the latter category. Whichever way I look at this I can’t seem to convince myself that this makes sense. So, I have to admit to being a bit sceptical about this statistic.

Recently I also read that apparently, according to Penguin Books, if you read four books a year then you are a ‘heavy reader’. Four books? That’s one per season of the year. If that statistic is true then myself and many people who travel on the tube everyday are suffering from a form of OCD. I have slowed my pace over the last couple of years, but until then I was reading about 50 books a year - and not just ones with lots of pictures in them.

The thing that I find most difficult to accept at the moment though is that really irritating Asda advert where some small child shouts out “It’s Christmas”. The first time I heard it, I rather sharply replied that no it isn’t. Not that I suppose he noticed… I’m thinking of blacklisting all companies that decide to try and force Christmas on me in November. However, as this may well mean that I can never eat again, or buy pretty much anything for that matter, I may have to rethink this policy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I still have no phone line at home but my landlady texted me earlier to say that they're working on fixing the fault. I'm not really sure what she means by a 'fault' given that it was disconnected due to her asking it to be done but at least it might be fixed soon.

I spoke to my solicitor yesterday and he said that there was no progress at all on exchanging on the place I am buying, as the freeholder has still not come up with what she should have. Soon hopefully...

I have an exciting weekend ahead of doing such things as looking at some electrical applicances and going to the supermarket. I also need to sort myself out a bit to go away on holiday at the end of the week, I can't wait to go and spend a bit of time in some winter sunshine, although it will then be weird to come back to things being really geared up for Christmas. Right, anyway, had better get on.

Oh and I have now managed to hopefully successfully load that picture in last Monday's post so you can view my landlady's hygiene standards in all its glory.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I’ve just finished reading ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini. It took me a while to warm to it but by the end I was really engrossed and found it rather moving. On the tube on the way home last night I was disappointed when I reached my station because I had to break the flow and stop reading. I’ve read some awful books this year and some really good ones and this book is definitely one of the good ones.

I had a pleasant evening yesterday and, as recommended by TF, it did involve (part of) an Easter egg and a bath. Various people texted me while I was in the bath and this included my landlady. She said that she’d got her son to try and sort out the phone and he had arranged for the phone company to phone my landlady to get the phone reconnected. In her text she said “Difficult [for her to call them] by mobile as they keep me waiting ages.” I actually have very little sympathy for that as she managed to call them in the first place to get the phone disconnected and didn’t seem to have any problems doing that, but now she’s trying to fix this for me, suddenly she’s worried about running up her phone bill. All of this would have been fine if she’d just bothered to ask me what my plans were in the first place. It looks as though my internet access over the weekend will be somewhat limited though.

I also exchanged a few texts with my friend L. She is still going through a really bad time, has major depression and has nowhere to live. This weekend she is in Manchester because she can’t find anywhere affordable in London to stay. She relies on being able to find cheap hostels and so on, so that she has somewhere to stay each night and this has probably been going on for about a year. A cheap hostel in London is still expensive and she finds it really tough. I’ve said to her that she can stay for a bit or maybe stay some weekends, but she finds it really hard to accept help and I think is scared that she would somehow outstay her welcome and then lose another friend. But to me, she just needs a bit of a break and not to be constantly moving from place to place, so I hope that she might at least come and stay on occasion and then she’d have somewhere that she could just relax and it would save her a bit of money as well. Hopefully we’re going to meet up next week, but she’s already said to me that she is doing really badly at the moment so there is every chance she won’t feel up to it.

By contrast, despite the phone irritations, still not knowing when I’m going to move house and various things ticking over in my mind, I actually feel strangely content with life at the moment. There’s a bit of me that thinks that by saying it somehow it will go away, but it’s true nonetheless that right now I feel pretty good about life generally and kind of at peace about things - and I’m liking it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


So, as you may have gathered, the phone line at home was actually disconnected (and still hasn’t been restored). I’ve been on a course the last couple of days and so haven’t had any access to the internet by any other means either. I texted my landlady on Monday night and told her the phone had been switched off and she texted back Tuesday night and said she’d try and do something about it the next day (Wednesday). That did rather annoy me because if it was her who was inconvenienced then she would have sorted it out straight away but because she’s living elsewhere she can’t be bothered. She did say to me over the weekend that sometimes she is “overly efficient” and indeed she was when it came to cutting off the phone but when it comes to getting her mistake fixed she’s not quite so efficient. I’m not convinced that she will get the phone line reconnected at all. Grrrrrrrrrr.

I can’t wait to move. Unfortunately, I still haven’t exchanged on the place I’m buying. I spoke to my solicitor at the end of last week and he had spoken to the vendor’s solicitor who had said it was all going to go through but now the freeholder is dragging her feet. She needs to provide a document before we can exchange and seems to need a lot of chasing to come up with it. But actually the delay may actually help me a bit as I am going away on holiday at the end of next week and whilst I want to exchange before then, I don’t want to complete until I get back. Anyway, hopefully sometime in the next week or so I will exchange and then it’s just a matter of coming up with a date on which to complete.

I was mulling over the friendship stuff again and I can tell you now that what I am going to write is not entirely coherent. I think I have concluded that a lot of what made that friendship go wrong recently was that I didn’t really trust my friend (and I suspect she may well have felt the same). To some degree I’m not really sure why I didn’t. Sometimes she said she would do things and then she didn’t do them, some of which was really important to me. and having someone say to you “Sometimes I say things to you and then I realise that I said it to deliberately hurt you and I feel pleased about it” doesn’t make it entirely appealing to trust someone though. We just never dealt with things properly and they chipped away at the trust between us.

Over the years, one of the things that I have realised is that spending time with people is important to me. I have a friend from university who a couple of times when she’s been due to stay for the weekend has then phoned and told me about all the other things she has fitted into the weekend as well. I find it frustrating when she does that and whilst to a degree I think that’s it’s quite rude, it’s also that I know there is that part of me that sees someone spending time with me as a way of knowing that they care about me and I matter to them. So if I get a call to tell me that what was meant to be a weekend turns out to be a Saturday afternoon, I feel a bit deflated by that.

There are different ways that people give and receive love and I think we probably need to see all of those different ways exhibited to some degree, but there is often one that is more important than another - and mine is definitely spending time with people and them with me. (In case you’re wondering the other ways are things like giving gifts, doing practical things for people, physical contact and saying encouraging and affirming things to people. I’ll come back to this another day). Anyway, with my friend who I fell out with, I raised it with her that she had quite suddenly stopped wanting to meet up etc - and the reply was that I just “wasn’t a priority”. This rang lots of alarm bells in my head. Apart from it not being a very nice thing to say, it was also something that tapped right into one of those things that makes me feel as though I matter. When she said that to me I backed off because if someone tells me they don’t want to spend time with me then that sends me strong signals. In reality I don’t necessarily have a need to see someone on a regular basis, it’s more about quality than quantity, but for someone to overtly say that to me tells me an awful lot - although hearing such things perhaps has a bigger impact on me than some. I actually don’t think I am explaining this very well because pretty much anyone would think there was something up if someone said to them that they couldn’t be bothered to spend time with them. I may have to try and explain it again at another point.

Anyway, I’m not actually trying to slate my friend because the thing is that she isn’t a nasty person or someone who is particularly untrustworthy. I have said the things as an illustration of what I’m saying about *me* and what makes me tick, but it doesn’t mean that they were the sum of either my friend or our friendship. Somehow the combination of the two of us did not bring out the best side in either of us though and I am definitely not beyond reproach in all of this. Possibly we could have done something about those things that were not very good but I know I would be given very short shrift if I even considered broaching that with her now. She made her views perfectly clear and there are some battles that are not worth fighting because you’ve already been told the outcome.

I suppose the point for me though is that I need to have an awareness of what makes me tick and that at times I need to temper my expectations and to recognise when they are perhaps unreasonable or just not likely to be realised. Having said that I‘m not actually cynical about friendships. It can be very disappointing at times but when it works, it can be a fantastic thing and I just want more of the good and less of the bad. I don’t suppose that is too bad an aspiration.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Interlude- as it turns out the phone was disconnected after all...

Peace descends

My landlady has gone back to Cardiff, so that means the heating has been turned back up and life has returned to being more peaceful. Over the weekend she complained a couple of times about how cold the house was. Apparently she had to sleep right down under her duvet, as she was so cold but didn’t seem to realise that she could just turn the heating up a bit.

Yesterday morning she said to me that she thought the phone probably had been switched off because it was making an odd noise. I went and picked up the phone and just said “that’s the dialling tone.” She replied “Is it?” and I assured her that it was perfectly normal. How can someone not know what the dialling tone sounds like??

She also took the opportunity to move several of my things about. Old habits die hard I guess. However, this was one of my landlady’s habits that I was not thrilled to see return:

For some reason I don't think you can actually see the picture but if you click on the picture above it will take you through to the link and then you should be able to see it (I'll try and fix it at some point). Let me just explain what the picture shows anyway. On the left we have the brush to clean the dishes with, on the right we have the implement used to removes the cat’s poos from the litter tray. Hygienic. [Edit: Now managed to reload it, so you should be able to see it]

This could be a new game, I could describe a photo and you have to imagine it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


It was, as expected, a really busy day yesterday. I had to get up early to drop my car off for a service. When I got there it was all locked up and, despite me double-checking in advance what time they opened, they had given me the wrong time. I managed to persuade a mechanic who was there to take the car keys, as I had to dash off. A taxi came and picked me up and when we were on the way back home I saw a car had gone off the road and was in a sort of ditch at the side of the road. Given the story my friend told me a few days agoabout finding someone dead in a car, I thought I’d better phone the police and ask them to go and have a look (I phoned the police station not 999, I might add) and that all took a while. Then I spoke to BT to see if they would be able to sort out a phone line for me and after a bit of to and froing the answer was “no” due to the annoying phone lines where I live.

By now it was only 9am at which point I had my hair cut and then I made a couple of phone calls and went out to do various chores. These were rather cut short by the garage phoning to say my car was ready, so I hopped on the tube to go and pick it up. I phoned the Transport for London inquiry line on the way to find out what bus I needed to get from the station to the garage and they gave me two alternatives. I walked out of the station and there was the bus. Excellent! So off we set and having never caught that particular bus before I wasn’t entirely sure of the route, but I began to think that it wasn’t taking the route I would have expected at which point I concluded that this was not the right bus. The bus driver hadn’t changed the sign on the bus and was actually on a totally different route…

So then I got off the bus at a place that looked vaguely familiar and I tried to guess which was the direction I needed to head in. Fortunately I was correct and finally made it to the garage just as it was closing. Then I went and did some shopping and then over to my parents’ because my sister and nephew were there. I spent a bit of time with them and then they went home and I went with mum to the supermarket and then back to my parents’ house and had dinner there and fixed their broadband, as it had stopped working (I’m not an expert on computers, my approach tends to be “I wonder what would happen if I pull this cable out” and hope it doesn’t make anything explode). I finally got home about 10.30pm feeling very tired and chatted to my landlady for a while and then went to bed.

My landlady has actually managed to get the phone line reinstated for another month, so hopefully that should be enough time for me to have moved out. I think she felt really bad about having arranged to get it disconnected and so managed to persuade them to keep the service running for another month, which was very kind of her.

I am hoping for a rather quieter day today.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Yesterday I announced the two minute silence at work. I realise that Remembrance Day is today but as we don’t work on a Saturday we observed the two minute silence yesterday. It seemed to go ok and rather better than last year when someone forgot to make the announcement at all. I had hoped someone else would do it, because I don’t really like making the announcements, but it fell to me again. Incidentally, that poem by John McCrae is one I always find really moving because it conjures up such clear images in my mind.

Anyway, last night I went with a friend from work to a recording of the Radio 4 programme ‘Clare in the Community’. She doesn’t work on a Friday so was coming from home. So I went for a bit to eat on my own on the way and thought one of the easiest places to go was the crypt at St Martin’s in the Field. It was absolutely packed there so I ended up asking some chap if I could share his table. He turned out to be a really nice bloke and we just sat and chatted and he told me a bit about why he was in London (he was from Utah) and it was really nice to talk to him. Then I went off to meet up with my friend only she was running really late due to major problems on the Northern Line. I ended up having to give her ticket to one of the stewards as it was about to start. She did finally turn up and managed to get in because the recording was running late anyway.

The programme was very good. I have never seen a radio programme (or TV programme for that matter) filmed before. I will be interested to hear it when it goes out on the radio. They ran through it all in one take and then they would re-record any bits that hadn’t gone quite right, even if it was just a sentence.

My landlady is back for the weekend. She came back last night, so I had to remember to turn the heating down before I left for work. She has the thermostat set at 15 degrees, which as the thermostat is in the kitchen (which is quite hot) it means that the heating is off even when the rest of the house is cold. So in my rebellious ways I turned the heating up but am obviously too much of a chicken to let my landlady find out and so will have a chilly weekend.

She told me last night that she has arranged for the broadband, cable TV and phone to be disconnected as of today. I am not too impressed about the phone, particularly as she had agreed she would leave it connected. Just to add insult to injury, she will still be paying for another month even though there will be no service available. Anyway, this may mean I don’t have an internet connection for a bit, so if I am a bit quiet on the blogging front that is why.

Busy day ahead – but please don’t mistake ‘busy’ for ‘interesting’.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tragedy, humour and cleanliness

I got an e-mail from a friend the other day to say that her brother had been driving someone home in the early hours of the morning and suddenly realised there was a car on its side in the road in front of him. He had to swerve to avoid it and then pulled over and stopped. He and his friend got out to see what had happened and when they went and looked in the car saw that the driver was still in the car and was very obviously dead. They called the various emergency services but, as expected, the man was declared dead at the scene. It seems that the driver struck a tree when he was driving and was killed. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been to be the first person on the scene of a fatal car accident.

On a rather more humorous, but not entirely dissimilar note, I saw this recently and couldn’t help but laugh out loud at it. I should, of course, be defending women drivers but there are times when there isn’t much you can say to redress the balance. Who would have thought that it could be so dangerous buying petrol? You’re warned not to smoke or to use your mobile phone but now they’ll have to put up signs to remind drivers to keep all four tyres on the ground.

We’re still in the process of trying to work out where to go for a work Christmas meal. We’ve now got two options, only yesterday we discovered the second option was closed by the council because it has such poor hygiene standards in the kitchen. However, it is about to reopen and so we are still considering going there, as it was the most popular option until we found out about the mouse infestation. I figure that probably the safest time to fly is after a plane crash because airlines would be much more vigilant, so surely the safest time to eat at a restaurant is when it has just been given permission to reopen because it must have been given a clean bill of health and be at its optimum cleanliness. Right??

Thursday, November 09, 2006


As a follow on from yesterday’s post, it actually turned out to be a pretty good day in terms of working out whether I do actually have some redeeming characteristics in terms of being a friend (I may be *slightly* exaggerating about how concerned I am about my ability to be a decent friend). Anyway, on the way into work my oldest friend texted me – we’ve been friends since we were three – and said that she really urgently needed to speak to me because she was really nervous about moving house.

We arranged to speak at lunch time and when she phoned she told me that she was suddenly panicking about a place she was about to sign a contract to rent. We just spent a bit of time talking through the worst possible scenario and I was trying to help her see that even with that there was a way to deal with it. By the end of the conversation she told me that she felt lots better and she then went and signed the contract last night. She sent me a text later to say thanks and to ask me to meet up for a cup of tea really soon. Woo hoo! I can give good advice and someone does actually still want to speak to me!

Anyway, on the way home my mind was sort of mulling things over and I got home and was about to go and have a shower when my mobile rang and it was a friend I haven’t spoken to in months. He’d called for a catch up and to tell me he had got engaged. We chatted for a while and caught up on each others’ news. Later I sent him a text to tell him that it had been really good to chat and he sent me back a really nice text telling me that talking to me had made him realise how much he’d missed me and that we really need to stay in much better contact.

I will actually continue to think things through because I still reckon I need to get my head together a bit, but it was really good to have two friends in the space of a day, unknowingly, say some things that reminded me that I do have good friends and there are people who appreciate me as I am.

Next I shall consider how to bring about world peace. On current form I should have an answer by tomorrow - but maybe give me a couple of days’ leeway.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


“There are friends one makes at a youthful age in whom one simply rejoices, for whom one possesses a love and loyalty mysteriously lacking in the friendships made in after years, no matter how genuine.”

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Of late I feel as though my relationships with some people are not as I would hope. There was obviously the stuff with A which has made me think about things, but that’s not typical and was a side-effect of having had a romantic relationship more than anything else. But then there was my friend who I had a run in with several weeks ago, who basically told me to get lost by sending me an e-mail that was somewhat scathing of me. I don’t actually accept most of what was said in that e-mail and had we been able to talk about it things would have looked different (that doesn’t mean it would have been resolved, just that we would have been dealing with reality rather than perception borne of having wound each other up a lot). Then there’s another friend who I was just getting to know and suddenly it all seems to have died a death (through silence rather than anything else). I suppose on my part I realised that I was probably not actually doing my friend any good, so I took a step back and have left it to them to do whatever they want to do. I don’t want to make people feel hassled or unhappy, but these days I seem to find myself scratching my head a bit about it all.

I also look at my more long-standing friendships and see how I have neglected a number of those, and on top of all of that I think I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to get any real depth in friendships these days – and if it is, how do you achieve it??

Don’t get me wrong, I do have good friends. I have friends who know the very worst about me and have been there for me in really difficult times. But somehow I feel as though I have lost the plot a bit and am just not doing a very good job of being a decent friend to people and that somehow I have got my priorities and expectations skewed. Not that things being a bit of a mess is entirely down to me, but the bit that is down to me is what I am responsible for and can do something about. So, I’m going to take some time to think these things through over the next few weeks, some of which I will probably write about here on occasion, in the hope that I can work out if I can do things better. I can’t promise it will all make sense but hopefully by the end I will at least feel as though I have got somewhere. For me, half the battle is gaining understanding, when I have that then I can at least recognise what it is that I am dealing with and maybe somehow change it. I am someone who believes that anyone can change, myself included.

Maybe that William Styron quote is right and you reach a certain age where you just cannot expect to have friendships that are as meaningful or have those qualities that you get from friends you have known since you were a child. I hope not, but we shall see.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Desperate Times

With the advent of speed-dating, internet dating sites and seemingly most of the free London papers you get on the tube running columns where you can try and make contact with the man or woman of your dreams that you have spotted on the tube, you’d think that the lonely hearts ad was getting a bit too old fashioned for most. But it seems that it is still the ideal place for the eccentric to find the person of their dreams. Given my current lack of love life, I might have to resort to such things myself, although my advert would probably have to say something like “If you’re breathing you’ll do. So desperate that can’t even resort to using charm anymore (31).” I can’t imagine why I am still single.

Anyway, the London Review of Books has published a book of some of the more memorable lonely hearts ads that they have run over the years. I’m guessing that most of these people are still single, so if you think you may have found your soul mate then don’t be shy - send them a reply.

'List your ten favourite albums... I just want to know if there's anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.'

'Employed in publishing? Me too. Stay the hell away. Man on the inside seeks woman on the outside who likes milling around hospitals guessing the illnesses of out-patients. 30-35. Leeds.'

'I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I'll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you're the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.'

'Your buying me dinner doesn't mean I'll have sex with you. I probably will have sex with you, though. Honesty not an issue with opportunistic male, 38.'

'Are you Kate Bush? Write to obsessive man (36). Note, people who aren't Kate Bush need not respond.'

'Stroganoff. Boysenberry. Frangipani. Words with their origins in people's names. If your name has produced its own entry in the OED then I'll make love to you. If it hasn't, I probably will anyway, but I'll only want you for your body. Man of too few distractions, 32.'

'Ploughing the loneliest furrow. Nineteen personal ads and counting. Only one reply. It was my mother telling me not to forget the bread on my way home from B&Q. Man, 51.'

'Slut in the kitchen, chef in the bedroom. Woman with mixed priorities (37) seeks man who can toss a good salad.'

'Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.'

'Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.'

Monday, November 06, 2006


It was a fairly busy weekend. Yesterday I went over to a friend’s house to watch some fireworks. There were meant to be about 10 of us but some people cancelled, so there were in the end. But that was fine. We ate some fresh cooked Argentinian pastie things (you’ll be relived to hear that I don’t work in marketing!) and then watched some fireworks and had some sparklers. Now, as a child I am sure I was warned about the various horrors connected with fireworks and sparklers and watched various public information films about the serious consequences of not being careful with them. So, I probably should have learned that it is important to hold on to a sparkler reasonably tightly, but I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention that day as last night a sparkler flew out of my hand and ended up between the feet of someone else, who leaped away from it. People do make a fuss about being set on fire. Suffice to say I was not allowed any more sparklers.

I spoke to my sister earlier in the day. Her in-laws had been over, which had been interesting. The other day my sister’s mother in law sent her an e-mail saying they were going to come over yesterday. My sister forwarded the e-mail to her husband and said “Groan. If we have to...” Except she hadn’t forwarded it... Instead she’d hit reply and sent the e-mail back to her mother in law. Oh dear... My brother in law tried to convince his step-mum that it was a joke and my sister had expected her to come back with a suitable reply. Judging by the look she got from her mother in law when they turned up yesterday my sister was not entirely convinced that the explanation had been believed.

This weekend I also noticed quite how much Christmas seems to be upon us. When I was in London on Saturday loads of shops already had their Christmas decorations up and there were a couple of buskers playing Christmas carols. There are also lots of adverts on TV that seem to be Christmas related. It’s the beginning of November! I’m not impressed and almost feel like boycotting any shop that is already geared up for Christmas but as that would probably mean that I would have to make all my Christmas presents from items I found on the street, that probably isn’t entirely practical.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


So I went to the climate change rally ‘I Count’ (apologies for the not very good photo). It was actually really impressive how many people turned up, I think it was about 25,000. However, the organisers made the dire mistake of getting Simon Amstell to do a lot of the links. I have never been that keen on him but I now think he is an idiot and a bigot. He told some of the most inappropriate jokes and must have offended pretty much everyone who was there with at least one of his jokes. For example, he kept saying that because he was Jewish, he was one of the ‘chosen people’ so it didn’t really matter about climate change as he would be alright. I’m sure people breathed a collective sigh of relief about that.

He said many awful things but one of the worst was when he said “I’ve come up with the solution to climate change. There are too many people in the world. We need to get rid of some of them.” My mind started to wander through all the things he might come up with. I hadn’t considered the possibility he came up with though - that being “Next time someone comes to you with the ‘good news’ that they’re pregnant, don’t congratulate them, instead spit in their face and tell them how selfish they are.” Despite Trafalgar Square being filled with thousands of people the tumbleweed still rolled on through, as silence descended in response to his ‘humour’. There were jokes about Anne Frank, Princess Diana, Muslims. The list goes on…

People heckled and booed him and he kept saying “it’s humour, I’m using irony to bring us together.” As I said to a woman standing next to me, the main irony was that his humour was indeed drawing us together - by uniting us all against him. Still at least it got me talking to various people who were there as well as we all despaired at how someone could be that offensive and somehow think he was doing a good job. Another woman standing near me said “I have never wanted to heckle anyone in my life, but I *really* want to heckle him.”

Anyway, it’s probably not really the point to have gone to a rally and have the main focus on the terrible MC. It was actually quite inspiring to see that many people all together saying that they wanted to make a difference. Whilst it was about putting pressure on governments to make changes, it was also about saying that each of us as individuals can make a difference – by buying from companies that support the climate, switching things like TVs off instead of leaving them on standby, having a bath with someone else to save water. Oh hang on, baths use up lots of water, better make that showering with someone else. So there’s a few ways you could start to make a difference. I leave it to you to decide which you might be able to do.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The more things change

I finally went over to my parents’ house and set up their new computer for them and got it connected to the internet and so on. It took a while to do it, but mum was really pleased with the end result. I got a Chinese meal for dinner as a reward. It seemed to be an evening to reminisce as my dad took the opportunity to talk about the various holidays that we went on when I was a child and all the things that I did wrong on them. He seemed to think it was funny but I just stopped listening after a while and then went off and finished setting up mum’s computer.

I was looking through some of the things that were in my old bedroom at my parents’ house and found some school reports. My mum and I were reading them and it was really scary how accurate they were and whilst I have become more dedicated to my work now I’m paid for it, my school reports often said how when I was interested in something I was really good at it but when I wasn’t I just couldn’t be bothered. Hmm, don’t recognise that at all...

Anyway, today I plan to go to Trafalgar Square for the climate change rally. The slightly cynical part of me thinks that the only thing that will convince most people to make a change is if they have some financial incentive (not that I am entirely beyond question on this myself). I think most people will use energy more efficiently if it saves them money, but if the incentive is to save the planet for future generations then that is a bit less tangible and people aren’t so interested. I think part of the point of the rally is to show that an individual can make a difference, so I think I’ll wander along and see what difference that might be. Should be interesting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Side effects

I think I feel a bit despondent about the whole house thing. It’s not that I think that the purchase isn’t going to go through, but I think I just feel sort of frustrated that I am in a situation where someone seems to being avoiding carrying out their legal obligations because they are just really tight. Actually that isn’t what it is, what bothers me is that I feel as though I have had my life on hold for a long time. I have moved home so often that I have been putting off doing things and buying things because I know I will be uprooted again. Finally I have the chance to settle somewhere and I just feel a bit down that there are still obstacles to get through when this bit should be quite straightforward. Anyway, hopefully it won’t be long now until I will be in a place of my own...

I spoke to my boss yesterday morning to see if anyone had bothered to tell him that I have got a new job (until yesterday we hadn’t been in the office at the same time all week) and no-one had, so I told him. We are really good at communication where I work. I also mentioned it to various people in my team, one of whom said to me “stop smiling, you don’t have to look so happy about it!” and then asked me to keep him in mind if any jobs came up that he might be suited to. It would be good if he was part of the team, so I’ll definitely keep him in mind.

After work I went and picked up my anti-malarial tablets from the pharmacist. They cost £40! These tablets are basically meant to have no side-effects, but the heart attack you get from the price surely must count as one. Still the side effect of not taking them might be death, so I suppose it’s a small price to pay.

If you have a creative urge and have always really wanted to write a novel, well maybe here’s your chance. Apparently it is National Novel Writing Month (although I think the ‘national’ bit refers to America, but don’t be picky) and it seems that every November there is a competition to get people to write a 50000 word novel in one month. So if you have the urge to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard - then now is your chance but you’d better get going because we’re already three days into the month. If you write a best seller, do feel free to pass on some of the royalties.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You get nothing for free

I think it is something like eight weeks until Christmas, which means having to think about the work Christmas meal. Someone else in my team is sorting it out and has done a bit of a search on the internet and came up with a restaurant that generally specialises in fish but their Christmas menu has other things too. Anyway, she sent out an e-mail and asked people to vote on whether they wanted to go there and everyone said yes, except the chap who is always looking for something for free... His reply said something like “too much fish and you don’t get a complimentary drink, which is really normal when having a Christmas meal”.

First of all, I have never been for a Christmas meal where we have been given a complimentary drink and the reality is that you would pay for it anyway by them increasing the cost of the menu. The other thing is that the issue isn’t how much fish there is on the menu, it’s whether he would be willing to eat anything that is on the menu – whether fish or something else. We got the distinct feeling that he is expecting the venue to be changed because he doesn’t like it, even though everyone else was fine with it.

I have never known anyone to be so tight and out to get anything he can for free. If you’re at a meeting, he’ll take all the left over bottles of water or plates of biscuits or fill his pockets with the complimentary mints. If you go somewhere for coffee he’ll take all the sachets of sugar or take the shampoo and soap they give you in hotel rooms. I can’t even begin to tell you how devastated he was (and I do mean devastated) at not being able to go to a meeting that would have meant staying overnight in a hotel. He’d already planned his regime for the gym they had there. He was like a little kid moping about for days after that and kept taking people to one side to tell them how unhappy he was. On Monday he said to me that he went home feeling really stressed on Friday because he is *so* upset that he didn’t get to go to the conference. Fortunately my phone rang and that cut the conversation short because my patience is wearing thin and all I can say to him is that he needs to get over it. Now.

Anyway, today I am working from home. I do genuinely have quite a few work things I need to get done, but am not a huge fan of working from home because pretty much anything tends to seem more appealing than actually doing any work. Nut I need to be at home today so that my computer can be delivered. I’m also going to take the opportunity to go to my solicitor’s to sign some documents after which I think I will be able to exchange on purchasing the property (although to be honest I’m not entirely sure). Hopefully I will know more later. It will be kind of weird meeting my solicitor because he is someone I have spoken to quite a lot but have never met and you kind of build up this image of someone in your mind, but he is probably nothing like I imagine. All I really know about him is that he is quite a cheeky Liverpudlian, which isn’t a lot to go on.

I’m also going to do things like check out a local place where I can probably get some kitchen appliances delivered really quickly should I need them and I also need to drop my parents’ new computer (which is being delivered to me at the same time) over to them at some point too and if I have time, set it up for them. But I am going to get lots of work done too. Honest.