Sunday, December 31, 2006

The sombre stuff

Having taken a swift look through the last year out there in the big wide world, it’s time to get a bit closer to home. It’s been an interesting year for me with quite a lot of highlights but also some real lowlights. I’ll start with some of the bad stuff and then we’ll move on to the more cheery stuff tomorrow.

Work has not always been the happiest of experiences this year. It was only after my head of unit retired that I realised quite how bullied I felt by her. I had seen how she treated other people and saw that as bullying but it was only once the weight had been lifted from my own shoulders that I saw quite what had been happening to me too. Work is such a huge part of a lot of people’s lives and so if it isn’t a good place to be then it has a big impact on you. Don’t get me wrong there have been some really good things at work and I work with some really great people but it was like walking into a cloud of darkness each week day morning for a large part of this year, not even being able to take my coat off or switch my computer on before being summoned over to my head of unit to talk to her about something. Anyway, it’s over now and whilst I am still trying to work out what my new head of unit is like there may be moves afoot to do with that in the New Year too. On top of that I am also changing jobs in the New Year which should make a whole range of things easier or at least different.

Relationships have not always been great in 2006. There was the stuff with A and that e-mail which basically seemed to pretty much say that we will never be in contact again. I still don’t give up hope that we might get back on to speaking terms one day and I won’t ever close the door on that, but the stuff a couple of months ago was a real low point for me this year. Then there were the couple of friendships that fell by the wayside more recently. The demise of one of the friendships has given me some reason to ponder and if I am honest, for reasons that I have not explained here, over the last couple of weeks I have been particularly down about that whole situation. Looking back over the year I have to say that my confidence in terms of friendship, and just in myself, has taken a real knock and more recently I have withdrawn quite a lot from situations because I think I just don’t quite trust myself at the moment. By which I mean I am so disappointed with, or maybe it’s ashamed of, myself that I feel at a loss as to know where to start in dealing with people. I will probably return to this next week sometime but, for now, suffice to say I have taken some severe knocks this year and it has caused me much self doubt.

Whilst my housing situation has improved much of late, there were times when I thought I would never escape my nosey and obsessive landlady. She invaded my privacy, tried to organise my life and went through my underwear with a regularity that I perhaps should have had her arrested for. Still I have now escaped and one day will be able to look back and laugh - with the laughter of the insane.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Looking back... again...

Continuing the look back over the last year, today is the time to look at some of the stories mainly relating to things in one way or another coming to an end or near end.

Bird Flu seemed to hit the headlines earlier this year as it spread across the globe and we were all told to keep an eye out for any birds that seemed to have met an untimely end. Police were regularly called to branches of McDonald’s to check out the McChicken Sandwiches. However, police later advised that there was no need for concern as there was indeed no chicken present in that product. When bird flu reached Turkey, Daily Mail readers panicked as to whether it was still safe to travel there, after all it would be most inconvenient to catch some pesky illness whilst catching some winter sunshine.

Madonna also caused her own travel concerns when she returned from Malawi with a baby boy. The media raged with debate on the ethics of adopting a child from another culture, even where that was one of potential poverty. Fortunately, Madonna managed to find a technique to avoid the media gaze when she tried to sneak by the press in her fur coat.

An Austrian girl, Natascha Kampusch, escaped from eight years of captivity living in a dungeon and was returned to her family and her kidnapper then killed himself. A strange story that to a degree I think we will never really know the truth about.

There was a close call for Richard “Hamster” Hammond when his car crashed at 300 miles per hour. It was touch and go for a while as to whether he would survive but he seemed to come out of it all remarkably unscathed, although being in a coma stopped him responding to Jeremy Clarkson’s insults and surely it gave him the opportunity some come up with the perfect retort. Steve Irwin, was not so fortunate and was killed instantly by a stingray off the coast of Australia. Other people who died this year included Slobodan Milosevic who will now never face charges of mass genocide which, given Saddam Husseinjoining the obituary list this morning, perhaps it meant he just short circuited the system. In terms of entertainment Aaron Spelling died who brought us the joy of such programmes as Beverley Hills 90210. The more cynical amongst us may question how his daughter will ever get a job again given that her father is no longer there to create programmes and miraculously find the perfect part for her in them but time will tell. More recently James Brown died bringing a Christmas Day end to the Godfather of Soul. One heading for extinction is the polar bear. Perhaps 2007 should be the year of eating glacier mints to show our support (can you even still get glacier mints??)

Pluto was demoted from a planet altogether and then was given a reprieve of sorts and was instead now known as a “dwarf planet”. What kind of Mickey Mouse science is that? Think about it... (*note to self* if you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny. Did you learn nothing from Simon Amstell??). We also saw Top of the Pops come to the end of a forty year run which was perhaps signalled by the first ever number one record based on downloads. People were Crazy for Gnarls Barkley.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking back

It’s the end of the year. Time to have a brief look back over the past 12 months. Today a look at things that have been in the news, although I don’t think this is going to contain particularly politically astute insight.

Way back at the beginning of the year, there was the travesty that was Celebrity Big Brother with the delights of George Galloway in a leotard - an image that will forever be impressed on my mind. I believe we have the joy of a whole new series of Big Brother in January. Of course, that wasn’t the only reality show, there was “I’m a celebrity…”, “X -factor”, “Strictly Come Dancing”, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” and that ice skating one, which could have led to a celebrity losing a digit, or worse, if it had all gone cruelly wrong. Never let it be said that British television just rehashes the same old formula.

There was also the tale of the poor old whale who took a wrong turn up the River Thames - quite some wrong turn at that. It was probably using one of those SatNav systems that direct people the wrong way up one way streets or off the edge of a cliff and people blindly follow the directions even if it directs them hundreds of miles out of their way. A salutary tale for us all of what can happen if you don‘t know how to read a map. I think there is a New Year’s resolution in that for some people.

In the world of music we were treated to the European institution known as the Eurovision Song Contest, which was won by the Finnish entry Lordi, who looked remarkably like a character from Star Trek. Now if that isn’t a lesson in how seriously we should consider the states that accede to the European Union, I don’t know what is. If we are allowed to inter-breed with such people then imagine what future generations will look like.

In the world of politics we were treated to the Conservatives encouraging us to “hug a hoodie”, which whilst well intentioned could well have led to many people having their pockets picked and therefore assisted the Tories in claiming that crime has risen under Labour. Very clever. Rather more recently, I am still coming to terms with that story about Lembit Opik and the Cheeky Girl. Mind you the Liberal Democrats haven’t had a sex scandal for a few months so it was about time that something else hit the headlines.

One of the funniest moments of the year was when BBC News 24 interviewed the wrong person. A chap called Guy Goma had turned up for a job interview and somehow got mistaken for an expert guest and the next thing he knew he was on live television being asked questions about music downloads. The funniest bit in the clip is the moment when he realises that he is not actually in a job interview but that those cameras are entirely real and you see an expression go across his face that shows he realises he has to come up with an answer for an on air interview (follow that link for the video). After all that, he didn’t get the job anyway. They probably didn’t believe his excuse when he turned up late for the interview.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I seem to have very nice and friendly neighbours. On Christmas Eve one neighbour came round and gave me a card and a box of chocolates and then yesterday another neighbour came round to talk to me about rubbish collection - which may not sound nice but she had spoken to the council and asked them when the rubbish was likely to be collected and having discovered that we’d already missed it offered to take my rubbish to the dump for me. It was slightly surreal because we were both standing there in our nightclothes having this conversation. Very friendly neighbours indeed…

I am (hopefully) truly on the final, final stages of decorating and will be able to sleep in my bedroom again tonight. I have been sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor since about Saturday and everywhere is a bit of a state, so I am looking forward to getting things a bit sorted. I also fitted a new doorbell and went out and bought a hoover (is that a very British word? It’s a vacuum cleaner). How much more exciting can my life get?

It’s rare that I have *really* strong opinions on things. I tend to just go through life in a reasonably tolerant way , but I have found something that I find truly offensive and find inexcusable - and that thing is bathroom carpet. There is just something so wrong about bathroom carpet. I assume people think it is a good idea because on cold winter mornings it means that your feet don’t get cold. But, investing in a pair of slippers would be preferable. Bathroom carpets must be one of the most unhygienic things in a house. Think of what happens when you get out of the shower and dry yourself with a towel - all that dead skin comes off and lodges itself in the carpet. If you live with anyone who is male, their aim may well not be quite up to scratch when they go to the loo - need I go on. I have carpet in my bathroom and will be getting that changed when I get the chance. Until then I will be making good use of my hoover. I did actually hoover the carpet last night and a smell of cat wee wafted up. Lovely.

Oh and the photo is of the chocolate log I made, which was delicious, even though I do say so myself, but as you are unlikely ever to know one way or the other then it could have been utterly disgusting and I might just be lying. I have, however, been commissioned to make another by mother for when the relatives come over on Saturday. However, she might just think I am her “simple” child and be getting me to provide something creative and it was either a cake or a clay model interpretation of one of my uncles. Safest to stick with the cake I think. Is it just me or do they look like they are trying to flag down a passing helicopter?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Let it end

I have to say that I am not entirely enamoured with the whole decorating thing. On Christmas Eve as I stood there roller in hand trying to expunge all memory of the pink paint a little voice in my head said “you will *never* get this time back”. Aren’t there people that a) enjoy decorating and b) can be paid to do it? I have nearly finished though and do feel a certain sense of satisfaction at what I have achieved, but as it has occupied pretty much all my time over the last few days bar some respite on Christmas Day (although there was still *four* hours of painting that day *shakes head in despair*), it isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Today there is one small bit of wall left to do and the wardrobe doors (11 of them!!) need to be finished, although some of them are pretty much done.

While I was painting I did get to catch up on some news from the last week, as there were some newspapers that were distributed around the room. Whilst a lot of the time I wasn’t thinking about anything very much at all, sometimes I would just suddenly think “Lembit Opik and a Cheeky Girl?? How is that possible???" (for those who don’t know who they are, Lembit Opik is a Member of Parliament and the Cheeky Girls are a somewhat dubious female pop group). Admittedly Lembit Opik is completely insane, which probably ideally qualifies him for Parliament, but it is still a totally bizarre story - and poor old Sian Lloyd. I bet she didn’t have a great Christmas. I know this is kind of old news now but it’s been rattling around in my head.

Anyway, it’s time to get on with some more painting. Please let it end soon...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Say Anything

Christmas Day went fairly well. I went to my parents’ house for the first time in years. My sister, bro in law, nephew, plus my oldest friend, her dad and brother were also there and we all had a pleasant time and the turkey was delicious. I would always feel cheated if I didn’t get to have turkey on Christmas Day.

I got some nice presents - a few books, the latest Killers CD and some DVDs. It was one of the DVDs that I was most excited about. My sister gave me three DVDs including the first series of Grey’s Anatomy and… *looks all excited* Say Anything. I have to admit to being someone who really likes US teen movies. Not the American Pie type ones particularly, but the Brat Pack ones like Pretty in Pink, Catholic Boys (ignore the different title, it was called Catholic Boys in the UK), St Elmo’s Fire and more modern ones like 10 Things I Hate About You and so on. It’s one of my guilty pleasures in life. Anyway, Say Anything is a film that has one of those really iconic moments in it when the character played by John Cusack stands there holding up his boom box which is playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. An absolute classic film moment. I can’t wait to watch it again…

I shall leave you with a trailer for it. I can’t actually watch it all properly at the moment because I am running on a really slow internet connection, but hopefully it will give you a taster. *wanders off to my happy place*


Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas

The decorating has commenced and whilst I have done a lot, there is still a long way to go. It took about six hours to repaint the wardrobes (they were also pink but are now white) and I have started on the walls and will hopefully have those finished by the end of today. I slept in the living room last night and the whole place looks a complete mess as I have had to move all my clothes etc, but it will be worth it. Right??

Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve and that means you need to put your stocking up tonight, put out a glass of sherry and a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. To get you into the Christmas Spirit, here are some places that might help you:

First of al, you should perhaps check if you have been naughty or nice and you’ve just got time to send that last minute letter to Santa.

If you want to find out what happens around the world at Christmas then this is the place to look. I am slightly sceptical about the content, partly because it separates out England from Great Britain and also because under England it says:

One England's [sic] customs is mummering. In the Middle Ages, people called mummers put on masks and acted out Christmas plays. These plays are still performed in towns and villages.

The English gift giver is called Father Christmas. He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve. However, the gifts are not usually opened until the following afternoon.

Er... yes, I am taking part in the Christmas play later and will be make sure that I am fast asleep early so that the environmentally friendly, green Santa can leave me lots of presents.

I'm not sure I'll be blogging over the next day or so. So I hope you have a good Christmas and Santa brings you lots of nice things *thinks* because that’s what Christmas is all about... and that wherever you are over Christmas - have a peaceful time. Happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

In the pink

I think my blogging of late has been somewhat mundane. I think I have lost my sense of humour over the last few weeks. I must try and rectify this. I shall set this as a task over the next few days and see what I can come up with from the dark recesses of my mind. A dangerous place indeed…

Anyway, don’t get too excited that today is going to be that day. I think I have actually been somewhat down over the last couple of weeks about various things and need to get some excitement back into my life. I was talking to a friend from university last night and she’s going to the Lake District for New Year and said I could join her. It would be just south of the Scottish border and as I would only be able to go overnight, sadly I don’t think that is going to be possible. So my thinking cap is on as to what to do at New Year.

Today there will be painting, very deep pink is going to turn to pale yellow if all goes to plan. Hopefully I will get that pretty much done today and without any painting disasters. I can’t say I am exactly an expert on DIY though so it may turn out to be more of a challenge that I hope – and the room is *very* pink.

I’ve also realised that there are no mirrors where I live and I am wondering if this makes me a vampire? I do seem to be more active at night, there has been a lot of fog about, which is handy for carrying out nocturnal activities unseen, I don’t like entering people’s houses without being invited and I do really like a nice bit of black pudding. The evidence is mounting.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Hmm, this home purchase thing is meant to be an improvement isn’t it? At the moment I am having my doubts. The chap came to fit my oven yesterday turned up but then wasn’t able to fit the cooker as some electrical work needs to be done. He can’t do that until 2 January… It seems that it should have been possible to fit the oven but the previous owner did something dubious with the electrics and the cabling is not right.

I asked him to look at my radiators as well and it seems they need to be ‘power-flushed’, which is expensive and also can’t be done until January either. I had actually already worked out what the problem was and how much it was likely to cost to get it fixed, so I know he was telling the truth and not just trying to make money out of me. Sometimes it pays to be slightly geeky about working these things out . While he was checking the central heating he had a look at the hot water tank and said that he was really worried by the work that had been done on that because basically if the immersion is switched on and the water boils, the tank could explode because there is no outlet pipe. I’m going to have to talk to the woman who lives upstairs because he will need access to the loft space above her in order to rectify this. So… this is going to be a decidedly expensive list of things to rectify, but seeing as I want to be able to cook, be warm and not explode, there isn’t much choice.

I am really not in the Christmas spirit at all, partly because of all the hassles this week , I also have various other things on my mind and have just generally been so busy that I haven’t quite tuned in to the imminence of Christmas. However, I have got my Christmas Radio Times and yesterday I got a Christmas card from an old manager. She retired and moved to Wales a couple of years ago and seeing her handwriting again reminded me of all the work I had to submit to her that would come back with her comments scrawled on them and I’d keep amending the work until at last it got her seal of approval. She was a really good boss and I wish I’d had more like her over the years.

Anyway, today’s tasks are to go to the dump, do some cleaning at the old house and possibly buy some paint to repaint my bedroom - it is currently very pink so a repaint is needed at some point. I might watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” tonight to try and summon up some Christmas cheer. Ho Ho Ho! I’ll keep working on it…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Exciting Times

Last night I finally stayed at the new place. This meant having to put up some curtains, a task which seemed to take up pretty much the entire evening, but at least it meant that I was able to get changed without giving the neighbours a show.

My week seems to have continued with people not turning up. My fridge-freezer and cooker finally arrived on Tuesday afternoon and the gas fitter was meant to install the cooker yesterday, but he phoned to say he couldn’t make it, so he is now meant to be doing it this afternoon instead.

I discovered what a lax friend I have been to one of school friends. I got a Christmas card from her yesterday and discovered that she has not one child, but in fact two. It seems that this child is five months old as well, so I really have been poor about being in touch. I sent her a text expressing my surprise and she was just very amused by this. I did feel a bit bad though as it seems this child has got a heart defect and has had to be in and out of hospital. We were going to meet up in the New Year anyway and so I’d better make sure that happens so we can have a proper catch up.

Anyway, I need to go back to the old place today and finish moving out, there’s hardly anything left there though now and then I should finally be moved in. I have, however, continued to discover more things that seem to have been chucked out by my parents, which is surprising as they don’t normally throw anything out and there house is filled with things from many decades. However, when I went to open a tin of soup yesterday, I discovered that the flaw in this plan was that I had no tin opener. I also have no frying pan or washing up bowl or kitchen bin or sharp knives. My mum’s shopping list is getting longer by the day.

Next task, to find out why the heat in the radiators is uneven. I’ve bled them and it makes no difference. I really know how to make the most of time off work…

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


This year seems to have been one of all sorts of firsts. First home, first trip to Africa and so on. Last night was another ‘first’, which given I am 31 years old is probably a bit odd never to have done before but anyway… last night I went to my first popular music concert. I went to see Snow Patrol at Wembley Arena and I thought they were fantastic!

I did, technically, go on my own, but met up with a friend from school and her sister, who were also going to it, beforehand for a chat and to find out the “rules” of concert going, so I didn’t do anything too embarrassing.

The support act were The Guillemot and I thought they were quite good. I’m not sure if either band will appreciate the comparison, but I thought they sounded like a more modern version of The Waterboys (but with more loud guitars).

Anyway, Snow Patrol came on and they played all of their well known songs, including Chasing Cars, which is probably my favourite song this year, and a couple from their early days and some of them are also part of a group called ‘The Reindeer Section’ so they played one of their songs too. All really impressive and they put on a great show. I know Snow Patrol are one of those bands people like to knock, but last night’s performance was really good and if you vaguely like their songs I reckon most people would have been impressed by them (not that I have any other concerts to compare them too). I *may* even have sung along and done a bit of clapping and so on. Brilliant evening.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One of those days...

I *really* had one of *those* days yesterday. We’ll all have them – where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But actually I was remarkably cheerful for most of it.

I got up yesterday morning and packed up lots of stuff to move. I then unlocked the back door and put it on a hook to keep it open and went in and out loading various things into the car. I had a couple more boxes to go in the car and had taken the door of the hook and the door slammed shut behind me. “That’s fine” I thought but then remembered the door has a Yale lock. My brain quickly ticked on and I thought “No, it’s fine, I’ve got the front door key in my pocket.” So I took the front door key out of my pocket walked round to the front of the house and unlocked the door. “Great” I thought, except as I opened the door, I realised that I hadn’t taken the security chain off and so couldn’t open it more than a few inches. I stood there trying to think of what to do but decided that it was best to drop all my stuff off to my new place and then that would give me time to work out how to get back in. Fortunately I am someone who tends to keep keys in their pocket – so that I don’t ever get locked out. Normally it works so well… Anyway it meant I had my car key and the key to my new place, despite having no money, phone, coat and so on.

I dropped the stuff off and then came back to try and work out how to get in. I didn’t have any success with anything I tried and then I went and spoke to a neighbour and he gave me the key he had in case it was for the back door, but it was also for the front door. So I decided all I could do was go over to my parents’ and find a locksmith and have something to eat. However, I couldn’t call out a locksmith until much later because I had to wait for my appliances to be delivered. My dad gave me some money in case there was anything I urgently needed to buy and I went to wait for the appliances to be delivered. And waited. And waited. And waited.

In the end I phoned to see if they were going to deliver the appliances and they called me back and said they were stuck somewhere and wouldn’t make it in time. I said that was fine and rearranged it for this afternoon. I then phoned the locksmith and he turned up about half an hour later and got out some bolt cutters, cut through the security chain and let me in (incidentally he didn’t ask for any proof that I lived there). He then fitted a new chain and charged me just over £80 for the privilege (in all honesty I think that was quite cheap and was just grateful to get back in as the TV, lights and heating had been on all day by this point. What would my landlady say?!). I didn’t get any of the things done that I had planned to. While I was waiting for the appliances to be delivered I was going to sort out things like insurance but as my laptop and credit card were also locked in the house, I couldn’t.

But by this point something had happened that put my slight troubles into perspective. My description of this will go no way to really convey what happened… Oh my… All I had in terms of entertainment at my new place was a radio, so I was listening to LBC (which is a London talk radio station) and at 3pm Iain Lee came on and he had an expert guest Steven Murdoch who was there to provide advice on IT and gadgets. I think you can actually get a podcast of the programme but I’m not sure I’d recommend that you listen! People phoned in and the programme was a bit odd anyway because Steven didn’t really seem to be able to provide much advice and any caller that Iain seemed to take a dislike to (which seemed to be most of them) he cut off. Anyway, they then announced that after the ad break they had something important to tell all computer users so people should stay tuned. Apparently when the year changes from 2006 to 2007 there is a high chance that there will be problems like those predicted for the millennium. Steven Murdoch said that if you are using the internet on New Year’s Eve that your computer might suddenly stop working. Iain made some quip about how only people with no life would be using the internet on New Year’s Eve - and it went down hill from there…

Steven replied that last year he spent New Year on his own because he had just split up with his girlfriend, so it wasn’t just people with no life who spent New Year on their own and sometimes people are just going through a tough time. Things then moved on and they took some more calls – and suddenly Steven started to cry live on air… Iain tried to get him to stop crying and then Steven started sobbing. They tried to get back on track but had to cut to a really long jingle so that he had time to recover. Except… they didn’t turn the microphones off and so what Steven thought was a private conversation about how his girlfriend had walked out on him was being broadcast to anyone in London who happened to have tuned in. You then heard Iain shouting “The red light is on. I told you to turn the microphones off!” and the sound was finally cut.

When the jingle came to an end the next caller then came on air and said how sorry he was that Steven was going through such a bad time but he could relate as he had just split up with his wife. Steven then gave a shocked reply that he hadn’t realised what he had said was being broadcast. For the last few minutes of the programme it was just a disaster and as hard as he tried to answer the questions, he just couldn’t concentrate and kept breaking down. Iain kept telling him he had to pull himself together, but the poor chap was in such a state that he just couldn’t. This was real car crash listening. What made it worse was that Iain realised that Steven was going to be on his own for New Year this year and so to try and pull the situation back a bit he said that he was going to his sister’s for New Year and so could ask her if Steven could go along as well. Steven jumped at this and sounded so desperate and said that although he would be in Scotland he’d make sure that he got back for it if he was allowed to go along.

By the end of the programme people must have just been willing it to end. You couldn’t help but feel really sorry for him. He was probably miserable enough as it was and breaking down on air must have made it so much worse for him.

I think we can safely say that however irritating my day was, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t such a bad day after all because at least I didn't accidentally broadcast my woes to the whole of London. Every cloud...

Monday, December 18, 2006


I managed to get pretty much all of the stuff moved from my parents’ house. When I say that I mean the stuff that I want to move rather than all the stuff my mum has in mind for me to move to my new place. I went round there for lunch and then mum came and helped me put a couple of chairs together. It was a bit like the Krypton Factor, we each had identical items and had to build a chair with no instructions. I actually won but did have the slight advantage of having put the chairs together before, but that’s not the point!

I discovered that mum had managed to throw out all my cutlery and some of my other kitchen stuff, so that is yet more that I will have to buy, although I think mum will actually help with quite a few things (including a washing machine and so on!). She’s lent me some cutlery in the interim, so I can at least eat.

While we were round at my new place one of the neighbours came round to say hello. She seemed really nice and said to just ask her if I needed help with anything. I also spoke briefly with one of the other neighbours, who seemed nice as well. So that was all quite encouraging and I said to the first woman that I would speak to her soon because apparently the freeholder has been refusing to extend the lease on her property until I had moved in and wanted to extend mine. I am slightly dubious about the freeholder.

Last night I went and collected a chest of drawers from a friends garage, there are various other things that I am going back with another friend tonight to collect. There were some *huge* *huge* *huge* spiders in the garage and even my friend’s husband was totally freaked out by them. My bed is in their garage and I threatened to never reclaim it due to it probably being infested. My friend said that I would be fine as long as had a hoover to hand, at which point I explained that I don’t actually own a hoover at the moment – so they are now going to lend me their spare one so that I can arm myself against any predators.

When I got home my landlady had a left a list of detailed instructions of all the things she wanted me to do before I moved out. Charming. About 11pm I noticed how cold I felt and I went and checked the heating and she had totally changed the setting so it was only on for an hour in the morning and evening. I don’t know why I am surprised by these things anymore. Anyway, it’s only a matter of days to go until it is merely my own heating that I will have to worry about. I may have picked up some of my landlady’s traits though, the water is metered where I am moving to and so I have decreed that the toilet can only be flushed once a week. There will be formal notices stating what day that is, so should you happen to drop in and need to go to the toilet then please bear that in mind.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Cheer

I finally started to move some of stuff yesterday, but only what was at my parents’, I still haven’t packed anything where I live at the moment. I have, however, bought a fridge-freezer and cooker and they are being delivered on Monday afternoon. It’s a good job I have endless amounts of money and haven’t just taken on a mortgage.

Anyway, I went to see Dirty Dancing yesterday afternoon. It was very good and was almost identical to the film. I think they could have done with a slightly bigger stage but beyond that it was well done. I think the thing that I found myself slightly at odds with though was that because it was so like the film, the actors were therefore basically having to be Patrick Swayze etc rather than making the characters their own. But I think any die-hard fan would have been horrified if they had strayed from the film. There was much cheering and applause when the line “nobody puts Baby in the corner” was uttered and the audience seemed to get into the spirit of it.

Tonight I am going to a carol service and apparently the church has been made to look like Narnia and you even walk in through fur coats (hopefully not real fur). It should be good, so I am looking forward to that. It is yet another excuse not to be totally focussed on moving house as well.

My landlady is currently wandering about in her nightclothes cleaning everything and chucking things away, mind you this is better than when I was at my parents' yesterday and my dad kept wandering about with no clothes on. His excuse of "I've just got out of the shower" when he'd done that half an hour ago was wearing a bit thin. I did point out to mum that he only needed one hand to cover himself up and she agreed that was true.

Two asides:

George Clooney seems to be everywhere at the moment. He’s on the news talking about Darfur, but also appears in adverts for something to do with coffee and also for Martini. Has he fallen on hard times?

Damian Rice’s latest album is called ‘9’ given that his last album was called ‘O’, do you think he might be trying to get people to call a premium rate number that will be revealed a bit more with each album that comes out?

Saturday, December 16, 2006


So, keys were collected and I wandered to my new home, put the key in the door and let myself in. Fortunately, my first thought was not “Oh dear… what have I done?”, so that was a relief. The vendor had left me a nice note saying that she hoped that I was as happy living there as she had been, which I thought was kind of her.

I have a busy time ahead, I need to buy some appliances – but only the minimum right now as the sales are imminent and it seems daft to pay more than I need to. Sensible people would use their Saturday constructively moving boxes and unpacking things. Whilst there will be *some* moving of boxes and unpacking, I am actually meeting up with my sister later and we’re going to see ‘Dirty Dancing’. I surprise myself at quite how laid back I can be about things and should perhaps work out my priorities more clearly, but I figure I can move over several days but it would be a shame to miss out on meeting up with my sister.

The only problem last night was that when I got back to my house (as in where I normally live) I realised that there were some lights on in the house. I did start to wonder if yet another stranger has turned up and taken occupation but then I saw my landlady’s car and realised that she must have come home for the weekend. She had already turned the heating down by the time I got home but appeared to be saving even more power than normal because there were no lights on in the living room and instead she was using candles. “She must have really fallen on hard times” I thought, but it seems that actually the lights had fused in the living room and she said she’d not got the energy to find out which bulb had caused it. I asked her “why didn’t you just switch the fuse back on and then you’d be able to see which bulb doesn’t work?” and she looked at me blankly, so I went and switched the power back on and she seemed amazed by this. If only it was normally so easy to impress people.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


It’s been an interesting couple of days. Tuesday I went out for lunch with people from my new team and that went well and I had a really nice time. We all had such a laugh and it didn’t matter at all that I didn’t know most of them, we all just enjoyed ourselves.

Yesterday generally went fine, except that just before my current team were due to go out for a meal in the evening, I had a meeting with my boss and it would be fair to say that we had a decided difference of opinion. While we were speaking you could have cut the atmosphere between us with a knife and the whole thing rather threw me. I felt so despondent when I went out for the meal. My boss and I ended up sitting next to each other, which I was actually quite pleased about because it gave us the chance to have a totally normal conversation and leave our earlier disagreement back at the office. I feel quite concerned by some of the things he said and need to do some stuff today to deal with that (not as in take out a grievance or anything! Much more mundane than that).

The meal last night was very nice, but in terms of the overall atmosphere, there was no real spark. Although people did seem to enjoy themselves, there was just something missing from the whole thing.

I spoke to my solicitor yesterday and everything should be put in place today so that I can complete my flat purchase tomorrow. Having said that, I have not packed one thing as yet to move house, so it may take me a while to finally have moved everything. Sometimes I think I can be a bit too laid back about things...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Art of Communication

On the flight back from the Gambia I was watching the film “You, Me and Dupree”, which as it turned out was actually a better film than I had expected it to be. However, as I was watching the film, I felt frustrated by it because the husband would have had a much better time of things if he had just actually talked to his wife about what was going on instead of trying to fix everything on his own. I know that the film is a comedy and also a major part of the plot would have been missing if they just sat down and talked about it over a cup of tea, but I was on a flight and had time on my hands. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it...

Anyway, when I see things like that it always reminds me of how important I think communication is. That may sound like an obvious point, but one of my greatest frustrations is poor communication between people. I see it at work a lot - if we were able to talk about things and people could air their concerns then they would be dealt with much quicker, but instead we are hit by a wall of silence and morale just sinks. I try and take time to find out how people in my team are doing , but if I then try and get answers to issues for them I find that it falls on deaf ears and people more senior are just not interested.

I think over the last several months I have seen how not communicating properly (or at all) really frustrates me. Of the two friends who things ended up a mess with of late the first said she never wanted to hear from me again and the second just went absolutely silent (and I still have no idea why).

Looking at that first situation, obviously there is a certain amount being communicated by the fact someone has said never to get in touch. I am still not entirely sure why we suddenly went to a situation where I was told in no uncertain terms not to make contact and that I was being stubborn and controlling to have been in contact to that point. My jaw absolutely dropped at that because I wasn’t being stubborn or controlling, as far as I was aware we’d had a run in but were going to try and sort it out, but I *think* (although only in retrospect) that my friend must have thought she’d already said something about not being in touch. Except she hadn’t. The only reason I found out quite how serious things were was via a third party and so I got in contact and said “er... hang on... what’s going on?” or words to that effect. At which point I got the rather vitriolic reply as outlined above.

I could easily turn round and accuse my friend of being controlling and so on for ‘dictating’ whether we can be in contact or not, but I suspect she would see it as “taking control” rather than being controlling. It’s all about perspective, I guess. I don’t say that because I do actually see my friend as controlling but more to illustrate that the very things I was accused of were exactly what she could have been seen as doing and it’s easy to accuse people of things when maybe with a wider perspective or a bit of empathy for where the other person is coming from, it all seems a bit different.

But the thing is that if you refuse to communicate then you don’t ever get that perspective. You never get to hear the other person’s point of view and all you have is whatever perspective you get from filling in the blanks from your own imagination. You never get to tie up loose ends, you don’t have the chance to explain, and you don’t have the opportunity to put your side of things.

It just doesn’t strike me as the most helpful way of dealing with things. Instead of taking a bit of time and space to pause for breath and to try and be rational, ultimatums were given. Sometimes a bit of time helps to fix things and sometimes it just shows that there is nothing left, but at least you have that opportunity to work it out. However, instead the decision was based (at least in part) on miscommunication and anger, which aren’t the greatest help in making an objective decision.

There are times when I think it would help if I explained things to my friend from my perspective (I’m not entirely sure *who* it would help though!), not necessarily to bring about some grand reconciliation, but just because it gets rid of misunderstanding. I have managed to get some real clarity on things in my own mind and I reckon my friend might actually be interested in what I have realised and find it helpful, but I would never get in touch because I have already been accused of things that aren’t even true and I just end up adding fuel to the fire by making contact. I was also kicked in the teeth enough already and have no particular desire to be rejected again. My friend would also have to majorly back down to make contact with me and that is quite a big thing to have to do (not that I think she actually does want to get in touch). I’m not the sort of person who would throw it back in someone’s face if they did get in touch, but pride can be a big thing and sometimes you can feel as though you have so clearly said what you want that there is no way back. In the grand scheme of things my explanations and thoughts on the matter don’t make any difference anyway. But I do still scratch my head at what was actually constructive about banning all communication.

The second situation is just plain weird. I was getting on just fine with my friend and we’d recently spoken on the phone and that was all perfectly normal and we exchanged texts and an occasional e-mail - but then suddenly there was nothing. That definitely made me scratch my head and I wondered if I had offended my friend somehow, but if I did I can’t think how. If I upset my friend then it wasn’t deliberate but that’s the thing, it’s just speculation on my part. It may well be some completely different reason that caused my friend to go silent, but I just have no idea. The lack of communication means that I will never know. Although having said that, with my recent history of receiving scathing e-mails, I am not sure I want to know if the reason is critical of me!

I’m sure many a war has been started or a heart broken by miscommunication and it just strikes me that things would be much less complicated if we were just a bit better about finding ways to constructively talk about things and to resolve them. Whether that resolution is one of reconciliation or going separate ways.

I am someone who likes to be at peace about things and with other people. I have learnt to my cost the long term impact of not resolving situations and not forgiving people (the situation with my father being a prime example of this) and so I am now always willing to leave the door open to some kind of resolution, even if reconciliation is not possible. But that is reliant on communication of some sort and in both those recent friendships I guess actions spoke louder than words.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stranger at the door

I’m beginning to wonder if pretty much everyone has a key to where I live. I would suspect that the cat was inviting in any stranger who happened to knock on the door, but the cat moved to Cardiff this weekend and so is off the hook. I got home Friday night to find that someone had been in the house - it turned out to be the surveyor. Then I got home last night and someone else had been in the house and left a parcel in the hall - I assume that it was a neighbour trying to be helpful.

A seemingly endless amount of people appear to have access to the house and wander in and out at will. I think an electrician is coming round on Wednesday, my landlady’s dad will be there Thursday, my landlady’s son might be about at the weekend. I have to tell you dear reader that I am beginning to suspect that even *you* may have a key to my house. If you do happen to drop by, do make yourself at home – have a cup of tea, put the TV on and I’ll be home about 7, so if you could have my dinner ready for then that would be appreciated.

I phoned my solicitor yesterday to check that the money I am transferring has been ending up in his bank account rather than making some stranger very rich. I am transferring the remainder of the money across in advance of completion on Friday and have had to set up several payments in order to complete the transaction. I’m not entirely sure what I would have done if I had found out that the money had disappeared into the ether – nor, for that matter, what I would do if one day I found mysterious sums of money had turned up in my own bank account. Anyway, given today’s theme of giving people access to my home, possessions etc, why not have a free for all on my money as well??

By the way the photo above is of the little figures I bought to go on the chocolate log to help you get into the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Remarkable Things

A slightly bizarre thing happened at the weekend. When I was at my parents’ house on Saturday and my dad made a “joke” about his drinking when I was growing up. I just told him that what he said wasn’t very funny because what he was like when we were growing up wasn’t a joke.

We just returned to watching the TV but then a few minutes later dad suddenly said “I’m sorry, I know I treated you really badly when I was drinking a lot. There’s nothing I can do about it now though.” I didn’t really know what to say to that and just said that given what he was like, I didn’t think it was something he should joke about and we just left the conversation there.

Perhaps that sounds a bit heartless, but the thing is that I’m not really sure he does actually know what he was like. If you have conversations with him now (about anything) there are all sorts of things he will say that are just things he has imagined. For example, a while ago I was talking to a friend of my parents and said to him “I hear you’re thinking of moving to the flats they’re building by Waitrose”. The chap just looked at me blankly and said he had no idea what I was talking about and had no plans to move there at all. Who was the source of that disinformation? My father, of course… It’s not that he had lied, it’s that he spends too much time with his own thoughts - you could mention the most innocuous thing to him but when it’s been mulled over in his mind for a few days it can have morphed into the most headline grabbing story you can think of. My father could have made his fortune working for The Sun.

So I’m not really sure that he knows what he was apologising for because he will have edited and reinvented the past anyway. Anyway, he doesn’t drink much any more and instead his weird and unexpected mood swings are more down to the strokes he has had rather than anything else. Still, it was an interesting turn of events that he apologised.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Despite my planning ahead, I did end up going back to Oxford Street yesterday. This was partly because my landlady asked me if I would go and buy a shirt for her son because she wouldn’t have the time to get him a Christmas present. I do know her son, but not very well, and I spent ages looking at various shirts to come up with something suitable. I reckoned that even if he hated the colour he’d appreciate the one I picked because it was non-iron.

I managed to get a couple more presents as well but the thing that made me feel as though I’d had an amazingly successful day was that I managed to get some little Christmas figures to go on a cake. I’d been looking for some for the last few weeks and had commissioned various people to keep an eye out for them but couldn’t find anywhere that sold them. But yesterday I thought I’d try Sainsbury’s and they had various figures to choose from, so I am now the proud owner of a Father Christmas, a snowman and a couple of Christmas trees. Being a domestic goddess, these will feature on a chocolate log that I will whip up in the next couple of weeks.

I also went to the Science Museum briefly. Incidentally if you want to buy some gadgety type gifts then that is a really great place to go and get them. Anyway, I actually went there because I wanted to know when they are showing the Imax film of Polar Express. If it had been on about the sort of time I’d got there I would have stayed and watched it but as it turned out I would have had to wait over an hour. I actually decided that I would take my mum to go and see it and so will try and go back some time in the next couple of weeks to do that.

Last night I was at my parents’ house and managed to write all the cards that need posting and so am just left with the ones that I will send to a few people at work etc. What with moving house imminently I just feel as though I really need to get my act together on these things or else I won’t do them at all.

But let me close with two cautionary tales. First, if you are tempted to open your Christmas presents early then you should be aware that this is now an arrestable offence, apparently. Second, on a non-Christmas note, if you have digestion problems and intend to fly you may wish to consider in advance how you might cover up any ‘odours’ other than by starting small fires.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


My landlady arrived back for the weekend last night, so I had to turn the heating back down – and let me tell you it is now officially *freezing* where I live. I was *so* cold in bed last night. I shall have to think of some way to rectify that...

I had a fairly productive evening yesterday, as I decided to go and do some Christmas shopping on the way home from work. I went to Piccadilly Circus and then Oxford Street, which were both very busy but I decided they would be even more busy today so I bit the bullet and went shopping. I got a few presents, including one for the Secret Santa person that I don’t know - which is some handcrafted fish shaped chocolates. That’s exactly what you were going to suggest isn’t it! They were strangely mesmerising (the alternative was some chocolate mice but then I would have come in under budget). Anyway, John Lewis is the place to go if I have now inspired you.

I had a browse for some other bits and then decided that I would buy them on the internet so when I got home I ordered various Christmas presents and have pretty much finished my shopping now. Although there are a couple more things still to buy. I also realised that my mobile phone was due for an upgrade, but I didn’t like any of the phones that were on offer and so did the same as last year and instead opted to reduce the cost of my contract, so that’s a saving of £10 a month.

I have now written a total of 11 Christmas cards which means there is still a long way to go, so I aim to try and get the remainder written by the end of the weekend (this may be somewhat wishful thinking). I have a few bits to do today which will hopefully involve meeting up with a friend (who is the one who has nowhere to live at the moment). She sent me a text earlier in the week and said she wanted to talk to me about something but that she isn’t sure if she feels up to seeing anyone. So we’ll see if that happens or not.

Oh and my landlady said to me last night that she has told her dad he can come and stay with me on Thursday night. Most kind. (Please note, this is in no way connected to the first paragraph *shudder*).

Friday, December 08, 2006


I was feeling somewhat pleased with myself that while I was on holiday I managed to get a Secret Santa present for someone at work. “Sorted” I thought. But now I’m also going out for lunch with the people who are in the team that I will be moving to in January and it seems they are also doing Secret Santa. The person I have to buy for I have never even met, so it’s going to be a challenge. I am never very inspired when it comes to buying presents so if I haven’t even got a clue what the person looks like, let alone what they might like as a gift, it is my idea of torture trying to come up with something. I have until Tuesday so had better get thinking...

I sent a text to a friend last night to ask what she wanted for Christmas and she replied and gave me her husband’s phone number said I should ask him as he would know what had been suggested to other people already. Later I went to text him and looked at the number she had sent me and texted her back and said “Er... isn’t that your mobile number?” It isn’t entirely beyond me to have sent him a slightly “inappropriate” text – after all I was actually the stand in if my friend had failed to turn up for their wedding, so it’s a good job I noticed.

Yesterday at work we were talking about the chap N who we work with. Someone said to me “the thing that bothers me about him the most is that he is just the sort of person who would come into work one day and kill us all. So I’m always really nice to him in the hope that I won’t be one of the people he slaughters”. I’d never really thought about that before but someone else said that he thought exactly the same thing and is really wary of aggravating this chap too much in case he seeks revenge! Scarily, I can actually see what they mean. I can just imagine that as the police took him away he’d be telling them how unfair it was that he’d been deprived of one final sandwich or asking to take a plate of biscuits with him because it would be a shame to let them go to waste. I’m just hoping that he hasn’t got access to weapons so I’d better make sure he doesn’t find the axe I have stashed away in case I need to use it on my landlady.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


What has happened to the weather?? It was so cold on the way in to work this morning. Last week I was in temperatures of 36 degrees and this week there are arctic winds (well maybe not arctic but it’s very cold...). Mind you maybe this is what December is meant to be like and we have just forgotten because we’re so used to global warming.

I went to the leaving do last night and that was ok. There were gushing speeches and people clapped at appropriate moments. The weird chap I work with, N, had to go to something else last night and so he made sure he was the first person to arrive and ate and drank as much as he could and then dashed of after about 20 minutes.

Earlier in the day we’d had some sandwiches left over from a meeting and when he saw them he took about eight sandwiches and then he saw some other food and piled that on too, then he saw some fruit and took some of that as well. He takes away people’s good will because in the past people often brought in cakes or biscuits but now because he seems to take most of them people aren’t so keen. On a few occasions I have had to speak to him about sharing – what am I, his mother??

He has also been complaining about the cost of our Christmas meal and wanted to negotiate a cheaper rate for himself with the restaurant, which we told him he wasn’t allowed to do. He’s worried about how much alcohol, will cost and sent a few e-mails to people to see if the managers would normally pay for the alcohol rather than everyone paying. I don’t know about the other managers but I have point blank refused to pay for any alcohol for him. I don’t mind for the others but he just sees it as an entitlement and just because we earn more than him doesn’t actually mean we can afford to pay for all his drinks. I just said to them that if he was worried about how much drinks would cost then he shouldn’t drink any alcohol.

Last night I chatted to the woman I will be managing when I move jobs. She seems really nice and it should be good working with her. I am looking forward to moving jobs. Morale seems to be slipping in my current team again. My boss seems even less interested in our work than ever and the belief is that our new head of unit is trying to get rid of him, so he’s just given up. I can’t wait to move on.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I started writing my Christmas cards last night. I wrote about six cards and then quickly ran out of enthusiasm. I need to apply myself though and get on with them, partly because I can also send out my change of address. It has also prompted me to contact various people who I think I have out of date addresses for, so it is fairly sociable doing it, in its own way. I have, however, had a complete mental blank on a couple of people’s surname, which must be a sign of old age.

Anyway, I phoned BT yesterday and have sorted out a new phone line with them. That was all relatively painless. I already have an account with BT because my parents’ phone is in my name, so they didn’t have to run a credit check on me and will set it up for me next Friday. They’ve given me a brand new phone number which is really easy to remember, but I’ll resist the urge to post the number here to show how easy it is.

I keep thinking of all the things I have to do and the people I have to contact. I haven’t had to arrange home contents insurance for such a long time that now I have absolutely no recollection of what a normal amount is to insure your property for and they want to know what sort of locks you have and so on and I don’t know the answers because it wasn’t something I paid much attention to when I last went to the flat. Also, because I have always ended up living in places where someone else has already been living there already, I haven’t had to sort out utilities since I was at university, so I am going to have to work out who to contact and how and what it is that I am meant to tell them. I also have to think of all the people I have to inform like my car insurance and credit card and so on. I feel as though I have quite a full head at the moment. Still, I’ll get there in the end and it will be worth it.

Tonight is the leaving do for my old head of unit. It is only since she has retired that I have realised quite how much of a bully she was and how utterly depressed it made me working for her. Now she’s retired I feel as though I have had a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and am just hopeful that my new head of unit is not as bad as her reputation suggests she is. Anyway, tonight I’ll go to the leaving do and wish my old head of unit farewell and there’ll be speeches saying how wonderful she was and we’ll all politely nod and she’ll go off into her retirement in blissful ignorance of how miserable she made so many people.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Right, a few things to report. First let’s start with the good news. I have, at last, exchanged on buying my flat!! I spoke to my solicitor a couple of times yesterday to discuss various things. He is such a nice chap and also left a message on my voicemail congratulating me on it and so on. The completion date is set for 15 December, so only just over a week to go. I finally have some certainty that this is actually going to happen because now we have exchanged we are contractually obliged to go through with the purchase. Anyway, in just over a week I will have a home of my own. Woo hoo!

It’s definitely time to move, as last night I was trying to arrange a new phone line with BT when suddenly the phone line went dead. Then I realised the oven had also gone off, as had all the appliances. The only electrically powered items that were still working were the lights. I messed about with the fuse box and managed to find the one that had tripped the system but could not find what had actually caused it to happen in the first place. Basically the TV, video etc don’t work in the living room because I can’t get that circuit to come back on, but I can’t work out why. I texted my landlady to see if she knew what the problem might be (it wasn’t that I thought she would telepathically work it out more that she might know what makes the fuses blow from past experience). Anyway, she replied this morning and her advice was basically the equivalent of when you phone the IT help desk at work and they say “have you tried switching it off and back on again?”

On other matters, when I got back from my holiday British Airways had e-mailed me a couple of times about the contaminated flights that had been searched. I assume that this was because I flew to Moscow on BA recently, so therefore I might be concerned that I am radioactive. Their website wasn’t very much help so I have no idea if I was on one of the affected flights, but I have noticed lately that I do seem to glow in the dark and no longer need to cook my food in an oven because just by touching it it is instantly cooked. It worked a treat last night when all the power went out. It’s amazing how life works sometimes. Every cloud and all that...

I haven’t actually been feeling 100% since I got back from the Gambia and am just slightly wondering if I might be showing symptoms of malaria. I was taking malarone while I was away which is a very good anti-malarial but none of them are 100% effective. I had a look on the internet to see what the symptoms are and found the following

“The first symptoms of malaria are like having the flu. You may have:
a headache” [I had a really horrible headache yesterday which seems to have subsided but there’s a bit of a background ache in my head. Alternative explanation: I just haven’t drunk enough liquid and my body is still craving water having returned from somewhere really hot]

“aching muscles” [since I got back from the Gambia I have had a strange aching in my legs. Alternative explanation: I sat on a cramped plane for over 6 hours and my legs are still recovering]

“tummy ache” [I have been feeling a bit sick since I got back and have been a bit loathed to eat food at various points because I haven’t been feeling too great. Alternative explanation: it is really common to pick up some type of stomach bug while in the Gambia]

“weakness or lethargy” [when I woke up yesterday morning I had to force myself out of bed and just wanted to fall back to sleep, which is really unlike me. Alternative explanation: it was a Monday morning feeling and only weird people would have been excited at the prospect of going back to work after a week away]

I have also been feeling a bit cold and so on, which is also a symptom of malaria. I am generally someone who even if I had a limb hanging off would say “oh it’s fine, it’s just a graze”, but I think I’d better keep an eye on this one. The incidents of people from the UK who go to the Gambia getting malaria is actually rising, which is not because malaria is getting more prevalent but because the Gambia is becoming a destination where people can go to on a cheap last minute deal. Quite a lot of people either leave it too late to get the proper vaccinations or decide that it adds too much expense to their holiday and so don’t bother to get them. Apparently if you get malaria it feels like your head is going to explode, so anything that can be done to prevent this has to be a good thing. Malaria can also be fatal and potential death does seem a good incentive to avoid getting it as well.

Anyway, if you hear of a radioactive explosion in London then it is probably just me, so don’t be too alarmed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Naughty or Nice

I saw Santa yesterday! It involved a very long queue but we eventually got to see him, although I think my nephew wasn’t entirely impressed by the whole experience. It involved going on a train to get to Santa’s grotto but that then meant that we were pretty cold by the time we got to actually see him. I’ll leave you to work out for yourself whether I was being naughty or nice while I was sitting on Santa’s knee.

I spoke to the estate agent on Saturday to find out what the latest on buying my flat is. It seems I still haven’t exchanged but hopefully will do in the next few days. I need to phone my solicitor today to find out what he thinks because the estate agent isn’t always the most reliable source of information. Anyway, we may be looking at a completion date of somewhere around 14 December, which would be quite good as I am on leave the following week until the New Year (assuming something I need to do at work is done in time).

I’m a bit confused about what is happening with the sale of the place I am currently living in. My landlady has sent me a couple of texts that suggest she has accepted an offer, including one that said the purchaser was coming to have another look at the place last Friday. But then she sent me another text to say that some people were coming for a viewing on Saturday and today – and the house is still definitely on the market. So, that all seems a bit odd. However, apparently my landlady’s solicitor is meant to be writing to me to ask me to state that I will move out of the property prior to completion. I really have no idea what the point of that is given that I will be gone very soon, but I suppose it is just another example of her being very ‘efficient’. *Tries to focus mind on being nice about my landlady so I get lots of presents from Santa*

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Paradise Found

Some of the time while I was away we went to Jinack Island also known as Paradise Island. This was the bit of the holiday that required a boat ride. I took some sea sickness tablets and they seemed to make things a bit easier although I felt slightly green around the gills by the time the journey was over. The sea was very rough and the sun was beating down and this wasn’t the best combination. We were on a pirogue which was not the most stable form of transport either (it did have a motor though). Anyway, I made it to the other side and resisted the urge to kiss the golden sand. We actually landed in Senegal, so I managed to go to two African countries while I was away and then we walked along the beach to the place that we were staying. A place with no electricity, no running water and no light at night apart from the moon and hurricane lamps and, as I said yesterday, I’ll show you what the en suite bathroom consisted of when I get my photos back.

We were staying at an eco resort (resort being a somewhat misleading word) in straw huts that fortunately had mosquito nets, which weren’t particularly useful for mosquitoes, as you don’t get those at the coast, but they did help to protect us from the bugs that were there. The others all found bugs in their beds at various points during the night and my friend actually was bitten by some ear wig type thing while she was asleep (which quickly woke her up). But it was a really beautiful place and if you like bird watching then this is the place to go.

One of the people who helped to run the place took us to his village and I felt a bit like the “great white hope” there and was actually a bit uncomfortable with the way the children swarmed around us like we were something special. It felt a bit like we were gawking at them in their somewhat basic village. Mind you they are probably not all that poor there as apart from the rice they grow for them to eat, they also grow very large amounts of cannabis. Apparently it is legal to grow it on the island but that is only because officials are too scared to go on to the island because of a curse. Lovely.

I did have an offer of marriage while I was on the island, which after careful consideration I decided to decline. I just felt that if I was going to give up my life to live amongst rice and cannabis then that was probably worth more than three cows. *thinks* Maybe it’s because I am so picky that I am still single. The chap who took us to his village was also rather friendly, and this will sound rather more creepy than it actually was, but he was somewhat tactile when he spoke to me and on a few occasions would sort of run his hand across my back or some other part of my anatomy as he walked past. The first night we were there he did come to my hut as I was about to go to bed and ask me to join him at the fire. I politely declined.

The only downside to being there (apart from the boat trip to get there and back) was that in the earlier hours of Wednesday morning I realised that I was dreaming that the friend I fell out with and I managed to sort things out and we were back on good terms with each other. I woke up in the morning and felt really happy that we’d sorted it out, but then suddenly I remembered that it was just a dream and actually there’s no solution to this one. My heart sank and I just felt really sad and disappointed after that and still do to a degree. I feel quite happy generally and had a good time away but it just had an element of sadness to it because of that dream.

Even so it was a good couple of days on the island, involving bugs and lizards, much lounging about in the 36 degree heat, I *wasn’t* sick and I could have married a Gambian. Paradise indeed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Out of Africa

I’m back sunned, relaxed, rested and recuperated. I had a very good time away which I’ll write about over the next few days. To give a brief taster though, there were marriage proposals - including my friend’s dad trying to sell me for three cows (let me tell you, I am worth so much more than that!), there were lizards, there were cold showers, there were boat trips without being sick (woo hoo!), and I have a whole new understanding of “en suite bathroom” *shudder* Only a photo will be able to convey this though. So I’ll have to send off my photos to be developed.

When I was about to leave for my friend’s parents’ house last Thursday night the cat decided that she would show how much she would miss me by doing a poo on the living room carpet. It was obviously very touching that she was so distressed at me leaving but not what I wanted to be dealing with at that moment. I did, however, resist the urge to leave it there for my landlady to clear up. When I headed to the airport yesterday I did suggest to my friend that she would have to find some way to surpass the cat’s way of conveying her distress at me leaving but she politely declined to share in the same way, so we just gave each other a hug instead. You’ve got to take what you can get.

I’ve now returned to Christmas being even more obvious here in the UK. The Gambia is mainly Muslim so there was no real sign of it there at all. But as we are now in December, I officially give people permission to mention the word. It also means the return of 'Tis the season which may help you to get into the festive mood. The archives are very funny if you have the chance to browse them.