Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007: Looking Back - Part 3

Then we moved on into June – the month in which the 2012 Olympic logo was revealed too much derision. The video of it was even banned from being broadcast again, as it caused some to have epileptic fits. Let’s hope the Olympics themselves turn out to be more successful.

This was also the month when Paris Hilton kept getting sent to prison, but it always seemed to be one with a revolving door, as she was very quickly returned to the free world. She might have wanted to ensure that she stayed in the US because President Putin threatened to point his nuclear weapons at Europe. Charming.

Obviously taking a leaf out of Tony Blair’s book, Michael Parkinson announced that he would be stopping being a chat show host at the end of the year. His successor might like to take not of the tasks that greeted Gordon Brown when he took up office as Prime Minister in June. Floods hit the UK and there were also failed terrorist attacks on a night club in Central London and on Glasgow Airport.

Bernard Manning also died in June and the world of comedy may well have given a collective sigh of relief.

The floods continued into July and spread from the north of England to the South and West. After 114 days captivity, Alan Johnston was finally released. He might have wanted to have a celebratory cigarette on his return, but in July England joined the rest of the UK in banning cigarette smoking pretty much anywhere apart from your own living room (give them time).

The controversy surrounding TV continued. This time the BBC reported that the Queen had walked off in a huff during the filming of a programme. However, it turned out to be another bit of fakery and it’s fair to say the Queen “was not amused”.

In the world of politics, there was a brief moment of respite from George Bush when he handed over power to Dick Cheney while he had a check up for colon cancer. He could also have taken the opportunity to have some plastic surgery carried out, but it seems that going under the surgeons knife was no longer the preferred option, as it was reported that there was a rise in “do it yourself” plastic surgery. Why, oh why?

Also during July, a plane crashed in Brazil killing 200, Nigel Dempster died and so did Mike Reid – EastEnders will never be the same again.

In August it was once again dangerous to travel by road. In Minneapolis a bridge collapsed killing about 7 people and in the UK a biker was shot dead on the M40. It seemed to be the month for shootings because Rhys Jones, an 11 year old boy, was shot dead in Liverpool.

Also during August, prison officers went on a surprise strike, there were climate protests at Heathrow and the Chinese started to more closely monitor their citizens use of the internet, which included a ‘policeman’ appearing on the screen every 30 minutes to remind them that they were being watched. Here we have google to do that for us…

During September another National Express coach crashed but fortunately this time no-one was killed. There was also a plane crash in Thailand that killed about 90 people. Northern Rock borrowed some money from the Bank of England, which caused mass panic and led to savers forming queues outside the bank to withdraw their money.

It also seemed to be the month for a lot of famous people to die. Jane Tomlinson finally lost her battle with cancer and died aged 43; Pavarotti died aged 71; Anita Roddick died aged 64; Colin McRae was killed in a helicopter crash; Marcel Marceau died, as did Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny).

During October, there was more changes for smokers when the minimum age for buying them rose from 16 to 18. I guess the teenagers will just have to carry on buying crack cocaine instead then. It was also a month of losses doe some people, Britney Spear lost custody of her children, Marion Jones admitted to taking steroids during the Olympics and was tripped of her medals and Gordon Brown couldn’t bear the thought of potentially losing and decided there would be no election. This then led to some blood-letting for the Liberal Democrats whose leader Menzies Campbell resigned as their leader.

There were also losses in the sporting world when England lose on the final of the Rugby World Cup and Lewis Hamilton was pipped at the post and narrowly missed out on winning the Formula 1 racing title.

The more bizarre stories on the month seemed to involve people with only one leg. Heather Mills launched an attack on the media, seemingly suggesting that they were out to get her. So the media responded by digging up even more dirt on her. This was also the month when a feud broke out over the ownership of a man’s amputated leg. But it was decided non-one had a leg to stand on.

This month Deborah Kerr died aged 86.

In November the Metropolitan Police were found guilty of a breach of health and safety over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. There were calls for the resignation of the Met Commissioner but he hung on in there.

England was knocked out of Euro 2008 and Steve McClaren was sacked. Perhaps for once we won’t see lots of people driving round with England flags hanging off their car. Every cloud…

HM Revenue and Customs admitted to losing 25 million people’s details, which was just the tip of the iceberg as it turned out, since then DVLA, the NHS and many others have held their hands up to losing people’s data.

This was also the month where we learned that you should choose the name of your teddy bear very carefully, particularly if you live in a Muslim country, as a British teacher was arrested for allowing her pupils to name a bear Mohammed.

Also this month, the founder of the Samaratins died, as did Norman Mailer and in Finland a student killed some of his fellow pupils in a school shooting.

Then it was December and the British teacher was given a pardon in Sudan. This was month when a man presumed dead reappeared after five years, seemingly having lost not only his canoe but also his memory. However the story began to unravel when a photo of him and his wife was found on the internet and all did not seem to be quite as it appeared. Both he and his wife are currently on remand in prison. They were perhaps rather more fortunate than many, as it seems to have been another month of deaths. Evel Kneivel died; there was another shooting at a school – this time in Nebraska; a tiger escaped from San Francisco zoo and killed one and seriously injured two others; and, Benazir Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber in Pakistan.

As years go, it seems to have been one filled with a lot of bad and sad things. Let’s hope 2008 is a bit better. Tomorrow I might attempt a look back forma more personal perspective.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007: Looking back again

As is the case with most years, we then moved on to March. Another month of doom and gloom, although Celebrity Big Brother controversy still continued, as Talk Talk announced it would no longer be sponsoring the programme. This was also the month in which an investigation started into premium rate phone lines used by TV companies. There were allegations of viewers being ripped off who phoned in to Ant and Dec, Richard and Judy and so on, even Blue Peter was found to have misled viewers. I think we can clearly see that 2007 was the year when we truly reached a moral rock-bottom.

You might have therefore thought it safer and less costly not to be at home sitting in front of your TV. Instead you could get in your car and see the wonders that the UK has to offer. However, if you bought your petrol from some Tesco petrol stations then your journey was likely to come to a shuddering halt as it turned out that their petrol had become contaminated causing potentially thousands of pounds worth of damage to cars. If that wasn’t enough, then there was also the woman who followed her so closely that when it directed her to drive down a railway line she did just what is said. I would make some comment about women drivers but it might be better to remind people that we do have those things called maps and learning to read one could actually mean you reach your destination in one piece.

The light entertainment of the month was Comic Relief and that included Tony Blair making a star appearance in a sketch. Probably the highlight of his year - apart from seeing Gordon Brown lurching from crisis to crisis after he took over as Prime Minister. Gordon Brown did, however, show himself to be a tough Scot by having a dental operation with no anaesthetic. Why, anyone would choose to do that I have no idea, perhaps it was cheaper and we know what a fiscally astute Chancellor he was. Sir Andrew Turnbull showed himself not to be Mr Brown’s biggest fan though when he described the contemptuous way Gordon Brown treated people. Some may think that made him an ideal candidate for the next prime Minister though of course.

In other news that month UCAS found that a number of students cheated when filling out their university applications, including plagiarising others. It sounds like they were entirely suited to going to university and were just getting started in their academic career early. This was also the month when the British Service men were captured by Iran for apparently crossing into Iranian waters whilst on patrol. A patrol that apparently didn’t include keeping an eye out for approaching ships, as they didn’t seem aware of their captors approach until it was too late.

A woman in Laos became the first person to die of bird flu; John Inman died aged 71, Sally Clark died somewhat unexpectedly having never recovered from being wrongly imprisoned for killing her own children, Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach died in ‘mysterious circumstances’ and the world of coffee beans will never bee he same again after the death of Gareth Hunt from Pancreatic cancer.

This was also the month in which Alan Johnston was kidnapped just as he was finishing his time in Gaza.

Then we moved on to April, in which the British Servicemen were released by the Iranians after some diplomatic negotiations which might well have been comparable to Joseph Heller’ Catch 22 and involving someone just redrawing a line on a map. The Servicemen came home and promptly sold their stories to the highest bidder, which opened up a whole new storm of controversy.

It was a bit of a blood thirsty month. A disgruntled student killed 32 when he shot fellow students at Virginia Tech University. Rather less seriously, a polar bear received a death threat and Boris Yeltsin died.

In May it was a time of change at the top. Tony Blair announced that he would resign as Prime Minister on 27 June and John Reid said he would stand down at the same time. Gordon Brown was then announced as Prime Minister when he was unopposed in his leadership bid.

Also this month, the Cutty Sark caught fire and Trafalgar Square was turfed over for a couple of days – I have no recollection of why…

This was the month in which Madeleine McCann disappeared a story that was to dominate the headlines for the rest of the year with allegations and counter-allegations, but never any real answers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007: Looking back

So, it’s nearly the end of 2007 and therefore it’s time to start to have a look back over the last year and recall what made the headlines this year.

Way back in January 2007, was of course the return of Celebrity Big Brother. Even people, such as myself, who don’t watch the programme cannot have failed to see the headlines about this programme. We got to spend time in the company of people such as Leo Sayer, Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty. Taking part in CBB is meant to help to relaunch flailing careers but we are still (thankfully) waiting for the resurgence of Leo Sayer and Jade Goody went from the ‘celebrity’ people loved for being a bit dim to the ‘has-been’ that can’t work out the difference between making polite conversation and calling someone a poppadum. It certainly raised people’s profiles, but I imagine if you were looking for some cheap perfume for someone you didn’t actually like then you could probably have picked up some of Jade’s (then) newly launched perfume cheap on a market stall.

In other news from January, a boy in America who had been missing for four years was found, interest rates rose again, the first ‘super-casino’ was announced and Labour party officials were arrested in the cash for honours scandal.

There was also the somewhat gruesome hanging of Saddam Hussein’s half brother, which actually decapitated him. Closer to home, a National Express coach crashed killing two people and having started many years ago, Magnus Magnusson finally finished when he died aged 77.

February was not a great month for Bernard Matthews, when his turkey farm was found to have Bird Flu, which resulted in thousands of birds being culled. It was also the month that Britney Spears realised too late that the Wallace and Gromit film “A Close Shave” had already been made and she needn’t have shaved off all her hair after all. There was also the tale of the female astronaut who drove across America in a nappy to confront her love rival. I think it is fair to say that she has now come back down to earth on that one with a bit of a bump when she was charged with attempted first degree murder.

In other news from February, a Virgin train crashed in Cumbria killing one woman; Anna Nicole Smith died somewhat unexpectedly at the age of 39; Sheridan Morley died aged 65; and, Ian Richardson’s House of Cards tumbled down when he died aged 72.

There’ll be more to come (and I’ll add some links) over the next few days...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Odd

I had quite a good Christmas and got some nice presents. Yesterday I went over to my uncle’s for lunch and we had roast beef and Yorkshire puddings followed by cheeses. Then I went over to see one of my housemates from university and we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Good job I like it!

My father was his usual odd self over Christmas. Let me give you a couple of examples.

We were at my sister’s house on Christmas Day and were sitting at the dining table and my father started a story:

“A long time ago I was travelling back from Munich and while I was waiting at the airport there was this really attractive lady standing nearby. She looked Italian and when I looked at the boards sure enough there was a flight to Milan.”

“Then I went and got on my flight to Heathrow and the next thing I knew the same woman came and sat down next to me.”

At this point I interjected “Dad, this story did not happen”

He replied “Yes it did”

I said “No it didn’t you’re making it up”

He continued “Anyway, when the flight took off she offered me a cigarette [this was meant to be a long time ago] and then asked if when we got back to Heathrow we could share a taxi to Croydon. I told her that I didn’t live near there and that I needed to go home”

I interjected again “Dad, you really are making this up, it didn’t happen.”

My mum then joined in and said to my father “No that really didn’t happen. What are you talking about?”

My father just makes things up, but doesn’t realise that he is and then believes them. He’s an odd man.

Then yesterday he was talking about the tiger that escaped from San Francisco Zoo. First of all he said “They think the tiger jumped a 20 foot moat and a 25 foot fence”

A short while later he mentioned the story to my uncle and said “They think the tiger jumped a 25 foot moat and a 35 foot fence” I raised an eyebrow and queried how the moat and fence had suddenly grown.

On the way home we were listening to the news on the radio and it was a 15 foot moat and a 20 foot fence.

Bizarre.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas is finally here. I don't have much to say today and I am off to my sister's house shortly to eat food and open presents. So instead I shall leave you withoen of my favourite Christmaas songs. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Night Before Christmas




So, it’s nearly Christmas, which I am finding hard to believe, but hopefully I will have come to terms with it by tomorrow. Before tomorrow, I also have to whip up a chocolate log (for which read: put some chocolate butter icing plus snowmen, a tree and a Santa Claus on a swiss roll I bought at the supermarket).

I spent quite a bit of the weekend watching programmes that I had taped during the year and had then failed to watch. I’m only part way through doing this and I now have various other programmes to tape over the festive season. Life is very unfair sometimes…

Anyway, I’m going out for dinner with my parents tonight and then over to my sister’s for Christmas Day and my uncle’s on Boxing Day. I actually want to try and see someone who I used to work with over the next week or so. I got a letter from her at the end of last week and she sounded so depressed. She is in her early forties and has developed a really bad hip, but has been told she is too young for a hip replacement. Her letter sounded really despairing and I think she can hardly walk any distance at all, so I’ll try and go over and see her and maybe get some shopping for her or something. I also got a Christmas letter from ‘Obsessive landlady’. It seems that since she moved to Cardiff, she has met a chap who she has been going out with for a few months. She probably has him ironing his socks and pants.

On an entirely irrelevant note, the other day I was thinking that it would be quite good to have shoes with heated soles. Then every time it was icy, as soon as you stepped on some slippery ground the ice would melt away and you wouldn’t run the risk of falling over. It could also have the added bonus of warming your feet up. I told G about this who did point out that it was a rather flawed idea (powering it, what if you stand on someone’s foot etc etc) but I still like it and might therefore enter it as an idea on Dragon’s Den next year.

I might be back tomorrow, but, if not, Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

World Class Service

It is the 75th Anniversary of the BBC World Service. I feel strangely proud that we broadcast such a service across the world. That no matter where you are in the world you can hear the voice of the BBC talking to you, telling you what is going on – and where countries try to clamp down on the freedom of the media and perhaps even switches off its transmitters, the BBC has been known to turn up its signal in neighbouring countries so that people can still pick up the World Service even if they get no other news or objective media.

If you click here you can see a timeline of the World Service and it is worth listening to the Lord Reith clip as he makes the very first broadcast and tells people that the World Service (or Empire Service as it was then known) was not going to be very good and people shouldn’t expect too much. Brilliant! But you also get to hear the live reaction of a journalist when the Hindenburg exploded and other key moments in history. Of course it was also the World Service that has such a bit impact on Alan Johnston while he was in captivity earlier this year because it was his link to the outside world. A really great service.

Talking of really great services… Geoff has done his annual review of the year – but with the added complication that he now lives in the US but he has done it from a UK perspective. I haven’t started to download any of it yet but it’s always very good and then you vote on which were your top five songs of 2007 by sending him an e-mail. I thought last year was going to be his last year, but it has made a welcome return this year, so I’ll get listening asap.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marvellous

The Christmas Concert last night was great (despite the slightly annoying people sitting next to me who only arrived half way through the first half and then whispered to each other and made sarcastic comments to each other throughout). I think it was one of the best Christmas concerts I have been to and was really enjoyable. It was at the Royal Albert Hall and included Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols (which is why I had wanted to go to it) and there were also lots of other well known pieces, some old, some new, and we also got to sing Christmas Carols at various points, which concluded with a fantastic rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, which is my favourite. Brilliant.

If you are looking for that last minute gift or want to do something quite romantic you can go to the Coca Cola site and type a message which should then appear on the display in Piccadilly Circus. I think you will get an e-mail in advance to tell you when it will appear and you can also track the messages online if you can’t get to Piccadilly Circus. Marvellous.

Anyway, today is G’s last day here before heading off to Scotland for Christmas, so we’d better make the most of it and I need to put together a ‘care package’ for the train journey. Despite it only being about a 5 hour journey there will be sandwiches, mince pies, fruit, chocolate, beer, coffee and other such things so that all eventualities can be catered for. Better get on.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Disappointing

*Contented sigh* My first day of leave (apart from having Monday off…). What a relief.

I have to report though that I am feeling somewhat disappointed in a certain someone who is very dear to my heart. Yes, indeed. I cannot express how disappointed I am in Mr John Lewis at the moment *discontented sigh* yesterday I went to John Lewis on Oxford Street to buy something from the jewellery department for my mum. I knew exactly what I wanted, having done my research in advance (of course!) and found the item and then waited to be served. Only the staff were just not very on the ball and I stood there for a few minutes waiting to be served and then the woman served someone else instead. Then when the other woman became free she then approached someone else (who was standing almost next to me). I was so unimpressed and so said “actually it was me who was next” and the woman looked at me and turned to the man she had started to serve and said “it seems this lady thinks she was first…” and basically left the man to fill in the gap. He said to me “I was just standing next to you and just moved round here to the other side of the counter” and I said “I know that but I was still here before you” and the woman then said to him “would you mind if I served this lady?” and he replied “I guess I don’t have much choice”. I was so unimpressed. First of all it is a basic skill to keep track of which customer is next. If you work in a really busy department store then you have to be able to keep track whereas the staff just seemed to pick people at random. Many a barman has to keep track of who is next to be served and they can do it – or if they’re unsure they ask who was next instead of just guessing. Second, she seemed to be expecting the customers to sort it out amongst themselves whereas she should have been the one who sorted it out because it was her mistake. I am a big fan of John Lewis, but for the second time this year I have found their customer service to be very disappointing.

Incidentally I think the chap deliberately tried to get served ahead of me and was miffed because he didn’t get away with it. Don’t mess with me. Particularly when I’ve had to go into work when I’m on leave. Particularly when all I want to do is go home. Particularly less than a week before Christmas on a very busy Oxford Street. Pah!

Anyway… tonight G and I are off to a Christmas concert which should help to get me in the spirit a bit more and am just going to have a nice relaxing run up to Christmas from here on in…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keys

I sooooooooooooooooooo enjoyed being off work yesterday but at a couple of points remembered that I have to go into work today and my little heart sank. *sigh* Anyway, I tried to use my day fairly constructively and went and got my hair cut and went to the supermarket and other such things. I wasn’t entirely sure what the hairdresser must say about my hair as a couple of weeks ago G decided to give the back of my hair a bit of a trim. It was one of those moments when the first snip is taken and you’re a bit shocked that someone has followed through on their threat and then you’re kind of committed and have to allow them to finish the job or else you end up looking even more odd than normal. However, if the hairdresser noticed anything untoward, he was too polite to comment.

When I went to the supermarket I bought some PG Tips tea and this include a monkey hat! I shall be wearing that to work today to keep my poor head warm. It’s basically a grey hat with a monkey motif on the front. It’s a highly desirable product, so I’ll just have to hope that no-one mugs me for it.

G ended up coming back over to mine last night due to leaving those rather vital things called door keys at mine by accident. I had actually picked up G’s jeans yesterday morning and thought they were quite heavy but as I’m not in the habit of going through people’s pockets, I didn’t check why. Perhaps I should have to save G all the hassle of getting home, realising the lack of keys and then having to come over to mine. Oops…

Anyway, off to my final day at work for 2007. Yay!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sleep, at last...

I had a very nice weekend, but it didn’t start quite as intended! G was going to a work Christmas do and then coming over to mine.
“I’ll leave at 10 and be to you by 11” said G.
“Ok, well I really need to get some sleep because I still don’t feel very well and am really tired” I replied.

11:10pm G phones
“I haven’t left yet, I’ll leave in the next half an hour and come over to you”
I grumbled a bit.

Gone midnight G phones again

“Erm, I’m just leaving now and so will be over as soon as possible”
I grumbled a bit more.

12:55am G phones again

“The tube has stopped running, I’ll have to find another way to get to yours”
“Right” I tersely replied.

1.45am G phones again
“I can’t get a taxi and I have no idea how else to get to you”
“Walk to a bus stop and get a night bus!” I replied and then grumbled a lot. I then got up and logged on to the internet and told G which bus to get.

2.10am G phones again
“I’m on the night bus. When I get to the other end, I should get a taxi to you then?”
Me through gritted teeth “No, I’ll come and get you”

Finally just before 3am, I picked G up (with a flask of tea to warm G up – I’m not all bad…) and we drove back to mine. So I didn’t quite get the early night I had planned…

Anyway, once G had woken up sufficiently on Saturday we went to see some of G’s friends for Christmas Day number one. They are such generous and hospitable people and they cooked the most delicious food and we all had a really great time (despite one of the other people who was joining us breaking down on the way there, so then there was the whole palaver of a couple of people going out to find him and getting the AA out). We just ate so much and had such a nice time though. Then on Sunday we ate lots of leftovers – even their leftovers are far superior to what I would serve as the main meal – and we ate pretty much our entire Christmas period allowance of fat and calories in the space of 24 hours. Fantastic!

Then G and I came back to mine and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” on DVD and this morning G set off for work and I slept in – at last.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thoughtless

I had a good lunch yesterday. We went to the Mongolian Barbeque and it was a nice meal and you could eat as much as you like, which included me eating some crocodile. Not your normal Christmas meat, I admit, but quite nice nonetheless.

The thing that bothered me about it all though was settling the bill. We had already paid a £10 deposit and my head of unit was paying a hefty contribution towards the alcohol and the people working out the money then asked for another £20 each which was more than the cost of my meal, all that I had drunk and the tip. I did say that as a non-drinker I was being penalised, whereas everyone else was paying rather less than the amount they owed, I was paying more than mine had come to and subsidising them. It wasn’t the money that bothered me, it wasn’t about me being tight, it was that I didn’t see why I should subsidise other people’s drinking, when that was already being subsidised and I really do not like alcohol. Why should I be paying for others to drink when I don’t actually particularly like other people drinking? I think they just thought I didn’t want to pay so much money, which wasn’t what it was about at all – but I shouldn’t have to explain to them why I have an issue with alcohol. That’s my private business but people make assumptions and think that everyone will willing go along with it and you end up sounding awkward or mean if you raise an objection. I was in a really bad mood when I went home because I just thought it was a bit unfair that I had had to try and justify myself. It was a good meal but that just summed up for me how people treat non-drinkers – thoughtlessly.

Anyway… I have another festive event tomorrow, which means going to stay with some of G’s friends and eating lots of food and generally having a very nice time. Of course, the end of today should have been the start of my three weeks of leave, but due to having to go into work on Tuesday I have a long weekend ahead of me and then a brief return to work and then I go on leave. Nearly there… Nearly there…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Grumpy

I so desperately wanted to leave work early yesterday but due to some pressing work coming in (as in urgent not as in ironing) I had to focus on that and I had sent C home at lunch time because she had been sick in the toilets. She couldn’t quite decide what to do with herself so I firmly instructed her to go home because that was far preferable to staying at work and then having to go home on the tube during rush hour. It’s her birthday today, so I hope she is feeling better.

I did find out that C is definitely going out with that chap from work though. My boss spotted them walking along the road holding hands yesterday lunch time (awwwwww). I think it’s really nice that they’re going out but I shall remain entirely silent on the matter because it’s none of my business who she is going out with and if she doesn’t want people at work to know then that’s up to her.

I have another work lunch today and that should be ok and hopefully I will be able to leave work reasonably early after that. I was counting down until being on leave but now have to be in work for a meeting on Tuesday morning and another on Tuesday afternoon. What annoys me about this so much is that someone has been off sick for a bit and so my boss is covering a meeting for him, so I have to come in when I am meant to be on leave so that I can cover for my boss. This chap is actually likely to be in work next week but he doesn’t want to trek off to some meeting in the north of England so we have all had to rearrange our plans – which is on the day of my bosses 25th wedding anniversary... I have had one days leave since August, which was to have a water meter fitted and this was going to be three weeks of bliss not thinking about work, but that has now had to be altered because of this chap. I am not totally unsympathetic to him, he’s a nice chap but he has had probably in excess of 40 days off sick this year and we have to pick up the slack and make sure the work gets done. He doesn’t like his job but because of his appalling sick record he can’t get another one, so we seem to be rather stuck in this situation. Anyway, I should be in more of the Christmas spirit and perhaps there is still a Christmas miracle to come and I won’t have to go into work. Bah humbug.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Clearing up

I’m still feeling decidedly out of sorts with my cold, but fortunately yesterday was not too strenuous a day as most of the afternoon was taken up with a Christmas lunch and then I got to head off home early.

We had a really nice lunch though. We went to an Italian restaurant and it was a very laid back atmosphere and all the food was really good. I had mozzarella and tomato and then turkey followed by tiramisu. I think it’s one of the best Christmas meals I have had. Over the last few years practically every place I have worked has gone to Porters in Covent Garden and each time I go there I just wonder what the fuss is about (and they have a really poorly designed website as well). They are probably fine during the rest of the year but at Christmas the food is mass produced, a bit dry and you’re shoved out the door as soon as your time slot is nearing its end. Not my idea of a good time and much more expensive as well. So yesterday was pleasant change and a big improvement.

I was amused by an item in yesterday’s London Paper about Alan Davies (of QI and Jonathan Creek fame) apparently having bitten the ear of a homeless man who was giving him a bit of a hard time. It said “Davies, 41, a vegetarian, chewed the ear for 13 seconds making it bleed before other revellers separated the pair.” Could we just clarify the relevance of mentioning that he is a vegetarian? *thinks* Oh yes vegetarians don’t eat meat, therefore chewing someone’s ear and drawing blood is totally ridiculous. *thinks some more* Carnivores do eat meat therefore chewing someone’s ear is perfectly normal and appropriate behaviour. Glad I cleared that up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leaving early


My cold has been getting worse and is now filled with a lot of sneezes. Not great. I found that although using vaporub is good for making it easier to sleep, it is designed for people in relationships because it is not easy to apply properly on your own, particularly on your back. G did it for me on Sunday night but I had to fend for myself last night. They don’t tell you *that* in the instructions do they!

I don’t have a very strenuous day ahead of me, which is probably a good thing, I’m going out for lunch with some people from work and that should mean a reasonably early finish. The chap I had to buy a Secret Santa present for is off sick, so I needn’t have worried about it so much. Yesterday two people who I work with separately decided to leave work really early to go and do their Christmas shopping. A couple of people I work with said to me that they weren’t aware that we were allowed to just excuse ourselves from being in the office just because we were a bit behind on our shopping. It’s the season of parties and slowing down on work but I think both of them (both of whom were male) were pushing it a bit just to leave work to do some shopping.

Sometimes I have to remind, myself that however irritated I get with my colleagues, if I ever do something that would qualify me for an entry on this website, it’s time to find a new job (or a padded cell).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sick

My cold did not improve over the weekend. On both Friday and Saturday I woke up about every two hours during the night and so have been suffering from a lack of sleep. Generally I sleep the whole night through and it is so unusual for me to struggle to sleep and I hate the feeling of being over-tired. I was actually tempted to take the day off work on Friday but there was a meeting I wanted to go to and I also have not been off sick from work in almost 7 years and so I want to maintain that unbroken sickness record unless I have good reason to break it. I only have to make it through to the end of the week and then I should be off for three weeks anyway.

On Saturday G and I went out for lunch at a local café and as soon as we sat down I knew that we had managed to track down a local nutter. He’d left a notebook on the table next to us while he went out for a cigarette and that was filled with notes and scrawl. While he was smoking he stared in through the window at us and trying to get out attention. He then came back in and G and I ate our food and the chap got given his bill, which he then asked to be re-written item by item. We could tell this wasn’t a good sign, including when he started to query how each item could possibly charge that amount. G and I decided it was time to leave and did so just in time because he was just starting to explain that he didn’t actually have enough money to pay the bill. I think he was an unwelcome regular at the café and they were used to dealing with him. G and I decided that we might actually like to be in the company of people like that more often (despite the fact that he did rather smell) because by comparison we seemed normal.

I may be a step closer to being able to retire as G got an e-mail saying that someone with the same surname had died in Africa and they had been unable to find a beneficiary so this firm of solicitors would be happy to find a way for G to be able to claim the $28 million instead. As soon as G advised the solicitor of how much of a share they would get for ‘helping out’. It seemed remarkably kind and generous of these people to have got in touch, so I think it would be fine to let them have a few thousand pounds – what with the dollar being weak so in reality it’s only about £14 million, which is nowhere near as impressive so it won’t go anywhere near as far as £28 million would have gone. It seems that these solicitors have helped out any number of people and there are a remarkably large number of peoplewho die in Africa and then their relatives can’t be found. Anyway, should this turn out to be the road to fortune then I look forward to 2008 being the year in which I become a lady of leisure. Perhaps I’ll have a Plan B in mind just in case.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Despair

It’s Friday – at last! I am actually feeling a bit under the weather and so need to try and catch up on some sleep and to take things a bit easy this weekend. I did drag myself out to do a bit more Christmas shopping last night, but the highlight for me was that as I walked out of my front door my neighbour handed me an Amazon parcel and in it was a book I had ordered for myself called How Santa Really Works. I just really wanted to read it so I bought it when I was ordering some other stuff and so will pore over that this weekend. I hope you’re not sceptical about whether Santa does actually exist…

I was in meetings most of the day yesterday and the first one it turned out that I was actually chairing but had absolutely no idea until I arrived so I had to do some quick thinking. Anyway because of the meetings I was at I couldn’t go to another meeting which my boss and C went to instead. I was talking to my boss about how that meeting had gone and he took me to one side and said that it hadn’t gone as well as hoped and this could cause a problem for another meeting in a couple of weeks time. He might not be able to go to that meeting and I am on leave – but he asked if I might consider going to it even though I am on leave. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I have had one day off since August, which was to have a water meter fitted. I have three weeks off work and now I might have to go into work. I could weep. My boss is so nice though and he wouldn’t ask unless he thought it was really important and he will see if there is a way round it, but it’s taken the shine off the thought of being on leave as of next Friday. Please don’t make me have to go into work.

That story of the missing canoeist is just getting more bizarre by the day. Where was he? Why did he disappear? Why did his wife not tell anyone he had turned up? Not quite the joyful family reunion it had first looked like.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Progress


I am making some good in-roads into my Christmas shopping. Last night I went to Oxford Street and Regent Street and bought a few bits. I think I now have about 5 presents left to buy and I pretty much know what they all are, it is just a matter of tracking the items down. I also bought some stuff for G’s stocking. We’re not actually seeing each other at Christmas as G is in Scotland, so we are having a delayed Christmas instead. Anyway, I think I’ve got everything for that now. The only problem is that the stuff for the sticking is probably better than the other presents I have for G. Och well, spending time with me should be enough of a reward… *looks sceptical*.

Incidentally, I don’t actually like Christmas shopping and I am rubbish at choosing presents but I like to get it over and done with so that I don’t get to Christmas Eve and have to run round like a headless chicken buying whatever is left on the shelves.

I was thinking about going to Trafalgar Square tonight because they will be switching on the Christmas tree lights and there will be some carol singing, but I’d end up going on my own, which is fine but I’d rather not stand around in the cold without someone there to moan at.

I was actually on the tube yesterday with a very moany tube driver who had a go at people for getting on the tube as the doors were closing. He very grumpily told passengers that “the train was going to depart unless someone else wanted to obstruct the doors and hold up the whole train”. The tube drivers are not a cheery bunch on my journey to and from work. I guess he is not in the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Old fashioned

I spent some of yesterday evening writing Christmas cards. I figured I may as well get on with doing it, as it always takes a while. I know that it’s maybe a bit twentieth century to send Christmas cards but I think it is still a nice thing to do – I even send the occasional postcard when I am on holiday too. Perhaps I single handedly keep Royal Mail in business?

I am helping a chap at work sift applications for a job. It is so tedious marking application forms and this year I must have sifted well over a hundred with all the interviews I have helped out with and yet I still offer. More fool me, I guess. Anyway, I have occasionally wondered if there is something going on between this chap and C. A long time ago I did ask her if anything was going on and she said no, but I they definitely see each other outside of work. I think they went to a wedding together a couple of months ago and I have spotted them together on a lunch break and so on. I usually work on the principle that someone’s private life is just that – private – but I am quite hopeful that something might be going on between them because they would make a really nice couple. But I can’t ask because it is none of my business. I shall just have to enjoy the sport of trying to look for signs of something going on.

If you think you are a bit challenged in the looks department (or are just not totally shallow) then you might welcome the campaign by an Argentinean chap against ‘the cult of the beautiful’. He is trying to campaign for those who are not blessed with good looks in order to get them on a more equal status as those who are seen as more beautiful. Of course the advantage of not being that bothered by how you look is that as you get older you are less likely to be scared of someone coming too close to you with a lot match in case your nose or some other body part melts. I would say that would be more of an embarrassment than looking a bit of a nerd, but perhaps that’s just me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Secrets



I have a curious interest in missing people. I suppose I wonder what happens to them - where do they go? Why don’t they go back home? Everybody is different, so there is no one answer. I imagine most do not go missing like the canoeist who turned up a couple of days ago after being missing for five years. His family must have such a mixture of feelings. Relief and amazement that they at last have the answer as to what happened to him, but also the shock of having someone return who they had probably thought was dead, even though they might well have held out hope against hope that wasn’t true. Let’s hope that after all this time they can piece together what happened and also put their lives back together.

C heard about the job she had an interview for last week and she didn’t get the job. Obviously there is a part of me that is pleased that she won’t be leaving but it must have knocked her confidence and I imagine she must be thinking that she is never going to move on in her career. I’ll have a chat with her about it today and then when she gets her feedback we can look at that and see what can be done to boost her morale and confidence a bit.

It’s the Secret Santa time of year again. I have to get a present for a chap who has only worked in the section for a few weeks and I have spoken to a couple of times. I was thinking of getting him a Flesh Eating Plant, but that seems to be out of stock at the moment. So I am trying to find some more ideas. Hawkin’s Bazaar may be the answer... After all, what could be better than a book on home taxidermy or your own mini orchestra, being able to do some nose aerobics or affix indicators to your ears so people know where you are going. It’s amazing what you can do for under a fiver these days. Personally I am thinking of buying myself an imaginary friend (as pictured above) because I might have more success with that than with the real ones in my life of late. It *really* is amazing what you can get for a fiver...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Like a kid at Christmas



I had such a great day on Friday going round the stadium of the best football team ever and having a bit of a nose. I am not some really avid football fan, but felt really excited to be in the players changing room and all their shirts were hung up waiting for them and I got to sit on their cushions and peer into their post-match bath etc. I was slightly awestruck by it all. I did ask the chap who was showing us round if I was allowed to steal anything but he said no. Pah... I do have some photos on my phone though that I might upload at some point if I get round to it. It was a very enjoyable say though and my talk went well too and then I got to go home nice and early and so it was an early start to my weekend.

I had another nice weekend and am feeling reasonably into the Christmas spirit. However, the weekend started with G coming over feeling very under the weather, so I had to be a nurse-maid and wait on G hand and foot, which seemed to work as there was a marked improvement as the weekend wore on. I have healing hands.

I did mange to drag G out on Saturday to buy a Christmas tree and that now has pride of place in my living room and has some tinsel and some coloured Christmas lights on it. I think sophisticated people have white lights, so I have therefore shown my true place in society by going for coloured ones, but it’s what I had as a child and I wanted them! So G and I put the tree up and decorated it while listening to Christmas carols and it was really nice. I also put out the nativity scene that my granddad made many years ago. Don’t get the idea that this is some fantastically handcrafted work of art, the animals are all made of plastic, but he made the stable and I think painted the figures of Mary and Joseph and the wise men and shepherds. I think he also put the wire round the angel’s neck so it can hang from at the back of the stable, but it does look somewhat like a noose, so it is probably rather sacrilegious... Anyway, I’m trying to be more christmassy this year and I think I have made a reasonable start.

I then spent yesterday evening tidying the living room, kitchen, main bedroom and spare room and everywhere is much improved. I did still find time to watch Elf though, which was on Channel 4 and I thought that was quite amusing and a nice and silly start to the Christmas season.

I am also really on the countdown to finishing work. Only two weeks to go - and not a moment too soon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Memories


Another week over, which means that I now have two weeks until I am on leave. I can’t wait... Anyway, today should be a nice enough day, as I am not in the office again and should also be able to finish earlier than normal. Then I need to speak to someone later and they will give me £70 for my troubles. Very nice.

I was amused by this article on the BBC about house sharing. I have lived in many different places over the last few years (and in two weeks time will have owned my own place for a year. Wow!) and have had a mixture of successes. One place I lived, every day I got home from work my dinner would be waiting for me and if I was home quite late then it could just be popped in the microwave. However, I moved from there to living with evil landlady.

While I lived there everything I did was wrong. I got told off for washing up by filling the washing up bowl with water. I *know* how much of an idiot am I? The *only* right way to wash up was under a running tap – but it could not be run too fast or else that was wasteful. You could also only wash up using her super special German washing up liquid that she brought back in bulk every time she went to Germany. If wasn’t being told off for that then it was for too many crumbs in the toaster, for creating too much stem when I was cooking in the kitchen or horror of horrors, failing to put the lid down on the toilet. This led to the ultimate sanction of a yellow post it being stuck to the bathroom door saying “lid?” just in case I was stupid enough to forget. I left there a broken woman.

I then had a couple of years’ respite, and then I moved in with obsessive landlady. She was actually quite a nice person but saw no issue with tidying my bedroom and removing items she thought shouldn’t be in there. When she wasn’t available to do this, she would send her father or niece round to do it instead. The number of times I got home from work and found that she had been in my room, moving stuff about and had once again removed the rug from my bedroom floor. Rugs make a room look small you see – there was no connection to the room looking small and it actually *being* small. So small that I had to sleep with my feet in a wardrobe. Every time that someone came into my bedroom (don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not that sort of girl *cough*), they’d always ask where the end of my bed was and then I’d open the wardrobe doors and lo and behold there it was! But the rug was what made it look small…

I did, of course, also end up sharing with a mouse for a bit. At least it kept itself to itself and didn’t complain when I hadn’t done the washing up.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Delayed

I had quite a good time away, but the train journey did seem to take forever getting to Portsmouth. When we got there we had to wait a bit for a taxi and then we checked in speedily and the plan was to go to our rooms, drop off our bags, go to the loo and then straight back downstairs to eat. C and I were in neighbouring rooms and she went into her room but when I tried to get into mine, the door wouldn’t open and I kept trying in case I was just going made – and then someone opened the door from the inside. After I got over the surprise I said that this was meant to be my room and I showed him the bit of paper that said it. He had obviously already moved in though so I said I’d go and get another room. When I went and spoke to the reception they were very apologetic and they had somehow just managed to check two people into the same room. Had the chap not locked his door from the inside, I would have just merrily walked in and even if he hadn’t been there, all his stuff would have been. Anyway, they found me another room, but had no doubles left, so I had to take a twin instead, but it was a suite so it was a nicer room for no extra charge. It was weird sleeping in a single bed again though.

C and I then met up and had dinner. In a work sense she is very organised and very capable, but in a personal sense she is so disorganised and several times while we were away she lost her phone, room key, train ticket, credit card and practically anything else you can think of.

She has a job interview this afternoon and we spent a bit of time talking about that on the train and working through some answers. She actually did a mock interview with someone else on Tuesday and apparently she had worked through a lot of the points that I had run her through last week and it meant that it had gone quite well, which is encouraging, but obviously bad news if she then actually gets the job...

Incidentally, I think it is about 26 days until Christmas. How scary is that?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I didn’t take the tiffin into work yesterday, as I knew that C would not be in and she would never forgive me for taking in anything that contained chocolate on a day when she wasn’t in. It might help to give us a bit of energy for our journey down to the south coast tomorrow evening, as we are on a course tomorrow in Portsmouth which should be interesting. This means no blogging tomorrow, but you get an extra long post today anyway.

C has got a job interview on Thursday, so we are going to spend some of our train journey preparing for that. I have no idea why I am helping her with this, as it might mean that she leaves, but it seems a bit harsh not to help her. We already spent an hour last week going through some bits, so hopefully she will have worked on those and we’ll build on that a bit.

Anyway, I have been reading Freakonomics, which has given me much food for thought. The basic premise of the book is that the author, an economist, looks at a range of things that we perhaps take as a given – the statistics we hear on the news, the assertions about crime (and its rise or fall) in the media etc - and analyses it from an economists perspective. An interesting and amusing economist I might add before your heart sinks.

I am certainly not an economist, but I am a sociologist (of sorts). My degree is in sociology and a lot of my interests in life are connected with what makes society tick, what the influencing factors are and how you can break that down in order to address at least some of those issues. As you can tell, I am *very* interesting at parties…

Anyway, Freakonomics is therefore a book that greatly appeals to me, not necessarily because I always agree with it (or think that it even makes sense in places), but because it challenges assumptions and attempts to put the alternative case and I like that quality. Many a time I read the newspaper and there is so much supposition and extrapolation based on so little evidence that it is why I would rarely bother to pay for a newspaper. I do, however, no someone who deliberately buys the Sunday Telegraph because she *knows* she will disagree with it and therefore enjoys the mental stimulation. Each to their own.

A whole range of subjects are covered in the book from the Ku Klux Klan to estate agents to whether teachers help their students to cheat. However, there are three things in particular that I wanted to comment on about this book. One is the assertions about internet dating and the other is about the link between abortion and a decrease in crime and the final one is what seems to be a total misinterpretation of some statistics about the number of deaths caused by swimming pools and guns.

I’ll start with the least controversial of these – that being internet dating, in case you were wondering. Basically what the author is discussing is the relationship between what people say on their internet dating profile compared to a) its accuracy and b) the likely response i.e. how many people respond to a particular profile. It makes interesting reading and looks at some of the factors that are likely to increase or decrease your appeal to potential suitors. The main reason you’re unlikely to get responses is if you fail to post a photo apparently.

Anyway, the book talks about how people’s profiles compare to the demographics of the wider population e.g. if the US 20% of the population are blonde then does that percentage stay the same when people fill out their dating profiles. It seems not. The book says “[Internet daters] were also a lot richer, taller, skinnier and better looking than the average. That, at least, is what they wrote about themselves. More than 4 percent of the online daters claimed to earn more than $200,000 a year, whereas fewer than 1 percent of typical internet users actually earn that much, suggesting that three of the four big earners were exaggerating. Male and female users typically reported they are about an inch taller than the national average. As for weight, the men were in line with the national average, but the women typically said they weighed about twenty pounds less than the national average”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to suggest that I think that people who fill out internet dating profiles are necessarily either honest or accurate – although you do perhaps have to raise an eyebrow at those who describe themselves as “happily married” on an internet *dating* site. What I would question though is whether you can directly compare the general population with internet users. First of all there is only a certain percentage of the population who have a computer with internet access (a minimum requirement for internet dating surely?) – are people who are on very low incomes likely to own a computer at the same ratio as though who earn an average or above average income. I think not – for a combination of economic and aspirational reasons. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but it is less likely. Those on poor incomes, so we are told and therefore have to rely on the accuracy of this data of course, are often the ones with a poorer diet. This could lead to two things, first is that they might weigh more than the average and second is that due to poor diet their height may be stunted (I’m not suggesting they are midgets, just a bit shorter…). They are also perhaps not used to going to interviews where you have to really sell yourself. If you have a low-skilled manual job, your need to be able to describe all the different options you consider when you are carrying out that role is probably rather less than if you are a professor of economics, for example. So maybe those who use internet dating sites understand the need to highlight their assets and brush over those thngs that don't show them at their best - maybe that's why they are willing to 'market' themselves in this way.

So, what I am arguing is that unless you look at the demographics of those who use the internet (and those who don’t) and see how that skews any of the statistics, you’re not going to have the complete picture. If the people who use dating sites tend not to be drawn from those on a low income then perhaps that does change the averages and mean those who use such sites weigh less and are slightly taller than the average population. Not quite so revelatory then though is it…

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea about the truth of any of this and am playing devil’s advocate really. I was just frustrated that a book that was meant to be demystifying the things we hear reported in the media etc, jumped a step in the process in this instance and compared like for like, when they weren’t necessarily directly comparable.

Good for discussion, if only because I disagreed with it, but not necessarily good to base your hopes of finding the live of your life.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Anyone for Tiffin?


It turned out to be a very tiring but good weekend, despite having a lot of domestic aspects to it. Saturday I went to see the pantomime my mum was directing, which was quite good. Someone I work with was in it, which was quite amusing, particularly as she was playing the part of a fish. The problem with amateur dramatics is that there can be a very mixed standard of talent. The chap playing the part of the Cheshire Cat was great and I was really impressed by him; the woman playing the mock turtle was somewhat challenged in the singing department (to put it mildly) so having a song to sing all on her own did render me somewhat speechless. Of course, you shouldn’t be speaking during a performance anyway, apart from an occasional “oh yes he is, oh no he isn’t”, but my nephew being two and a half did not know this and there was an occasional “where’s the [white] rabbit?” and “I want to go home”, which maybe wasn’t ideal, but he did seem to enjoy it all and had a chat with the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit afterwards.

I then went and picked G up after a night away and we went back to mine. I was hoping that a parcel from Amazon had turned up, as they had tried to deliver the previous day. But there was no card from them. I logged on to Amazon and it said the parcel had been left with a neighbour but with no indication of who that neighbour was. Fortunately the neighbour identified himself yesterday when he brought it round for me. I’m not very impressed with Amazon. I think they have stopped using Royal Mail and instead use different delivery companies. I know Royal Mail has its faults, but they were far easier to use. If you weren’t in they would leave a card and you could just pop down to the sorting office and pick it up. With delivery companies the only way to get it is for them to redeliver and the company they used to send my parcel had delivery hours of 7am to 7pm, I wouldn’t want to wait in that long for a sofa, let alone a couple of books! Even if they had let me go and pick it up from the depot, there is no way it would be as easy to get to as a sorting office. Not even leaving me a note to tell me that the parcel had been delivered and where it was is really poor service as well. I e-mailed Amazon and said I thought that using Royal Mail would have been preferable and perhaps they would think about using them in future.

On Sunday, I went out in the morning and when I got back G had thoroughly cleaned my entire kitchen. I was very impressed! Then we had a quick bite to eat and then went and bought rake and broom so I could tidy up my garden. I then set to work doing that, which didn’t take very long but was very tiring. However, that didn’t dissuade us from making some fifteens and tiffin – although we did try not to mess up the beautifully clean kitchen in the process, which was a challenge. So the day was a mix of cleaning, gardening and cooking. What a life of domestic bliss I lead.

Anyway, for those who have ever travelled on the London Underground, you will be familiar with the pre-recorded announcements that you hear during your journey. A large number of those announcements are made by a woman called Emma Clarke and she has set up a website to promote her many talents, which includes some spoof announcements. Non-London residents may appreciate this announcement. Next time your suspicious of someone on the tube then you might appreciate an announcement like this one and I think we can all agree that this one is entirely true. Tube journeys could be so much more amusing...

Update: the links to the spoof tube announcements are currently nto workign properly. This is either down to the sheer number of people who have visited her site after reading what I wrote or that she has been fired by London Underground. I shall leave you to decide.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dilemmas



As it turned out I had a very nice evening yesterday. I still find it weird spending time with C, what with her bring a mutual friend with A, but as long as we stay away from that subject I’m sure I’ll cope. We went to a pub near Marylebone, so beforehand I went to M&S at Marble Arch and wandered round their food section to try and get some inspiration of what to eat at Christmas. G and I are basically going to have a postponed Christmas, but we still have the issue of G being vegetarian, which does not really mix with the traditional Christmas fare of turkey. I was sort of thinking that we could have salmon, but last night G said that turkey might be an option, as long as it is free range. Whilst I like the idea of having turkey, I’m not convinced G would enjoy it and so whilst it’s really nice of G to say that, I still think it might be better to go for fish of some description, despite really wanting to have turkey…

I have an interesting weekend ahead which includes seeing a pantomime that my mum is directing (an amateur production). It’s Alice in Wonderland and as a child I was actually in a production of this and was a playing card. A very significant role, as I am sure you realise… To this day I can still remember singing about “cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green”. I will be critically appraising the playing cards in this production, although this time they are played by adults. I guess they just could not match up to the pack I was part of.

On a more sombre note, I was really sorry to read of a fellow bloggers relationship demise of a relationship over at Let’s Kill Saturday Night. It seems to be the season for it.

Have a good weekend all, whatever life throws at you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Minutes

Yesterday was one of those days. I missed my normal train (I'm still not entirely sure how) and then got into work and turned on my computer and just after I logged in, we had a power failure and I had to start all over again. Then last night I went out in torrential rain to go and minute a meeting. Apart from this meeting that I go to once a year to take the minutes, I don’t minute anything, I have ‘people’ to do that sort of thing for me, but it keeps me humble to occasionally minute a meeting. I do normally take about 11 months to actually write up the minutes. But this year will be different. I’ll do them much quicker this year. Maybe even this weekend. Maybe…

Next week I have to go to the stadium of the best English football team (I’ll leave you to work out which one that is... but I think we can safely say that it is not the *England* football team.). I’m not much of a fan of football but I do listen out for the football scores to see how they’re doing. I think A would actually be rather envious of me going there and had we been on better terms I probably could have arranged for an extra visitor to join me, but instead I shall just enjoy the hospitality myself. It’s not on a match day, so I don’t think there will be champagne flowing, which is obviously a good thing as I don’t drink, but it should be interesting anyway. Sometimes I get to do nice things, I do have to give a talk in return though, which fortunately has nothing to do with football.

Anyway, I am off out for a drink tonight, which will be ‘interesting’ as I am not sure quite how much G will drink. I do find myself feeling wary when I am around people who are drinking. G is lovely and it’s not that alcohol changes this, I just don’t feel comfortable around people who are drinking more than small amounts and it puts me on edge and makes me feel a bit vulnerable, as it can make people unpredictable. In that context at least, I really like predictable. I don’t want to be anti-social, but I guess I can just go home if I feel a bit uncomfortable with it all. Hopefully it will be a nice evening though, particularly if I can manage to eat some food – because it is always dangerous to leave me without food for too long. My sister and G were comparing stories of what I am like when I get hungry. They will not be spending time with each other again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Muppet Chorus


For the whole time I have lived where I do and longer there has been a run down car parked in one of the spaces outside where I live – and yesterday it was gone! I think my neighbour who owned it has finally got rid of it. It was this really old Ford Granada and had just been sat there falling apart and suddenly they have got rid of it, which is a distinct improvement. Now if they would just replace there windows, which at the back of where we live seem to be held in by air, rather than something more substantial than that, which some might see as worrying.

There’s this woman I often see on the floor where I work. So far as I can make out she just comes to our floor to use the toilets. This always makes me suspicious. What can she possibly need to do in the toilets that means she has to use ones on a different floor to where she works – and do we want the pleasure of sharing in that? The thing that makes me even more suspicious is that I think she always uses the disabled toilet (and is not disabled). What can she be doing that requires her using the toilets on another floor and it is the disabled toilet? Perhaps it’s best not to ask some questions…

Anyway, last night I was thinking about the Muppet Show (as you do). I grew up with a Muppet show cassette tape that I would often listen to as I fell asleep – I somehow need to get a copy on CD or somehow transfer it on to CD. Last night I was thinking about the song “Just One Person” that there was a rousing version of on my tape and I do actually think that it influenced my thinking as a young child – the difference that it can make having people who believe in you and that if one person does then why not other people too? The Muppets have much to answer for in forming me into the fine person that I am today. *shakes head* On YouTube I managed to find the Muppets singing the song! There are actually two versions in the video, neither of which are the one on my tape, but it made me happy listening to it last night. No sniggering at the line referring to a threesome – this is a very serious and moving song. *sniggers* Who can resist the whole cast of the Muppets singing to you though?


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lethargy


I felt as rough as a badger’s behind all day yesterday. I don’t know why as I got a reasonable amount of sleep over the weekend but just couldn’t shake off a headache and a general feeling of lethargy. But maybe that was just because it was a Monday. I am counting down to when I am leave, which is less than four weeks to go now...

I did manage to sort out an order for various Christmas presents on Amazon last night. This ended up stretching my brain far too much, as in the end I decided to do it as two separate orders so that the things that could be sent straight away were in one order and the items that would take a bit longer to send were all grouped together. It means I have made a decent in-road into my Christmas shopping and hopefully in a couple of weeks’ time, I won’t have to think about it at all, as it will all be sorted.

The weather is just so miserable at the moment and this also meant that the road flooded outside where I live. I called the council yesterday to ask them (again) if they’ll come out and look at it and the woman sounded *so* concerned by this and said that she’s get someone onto it. It would be good if they sorted it out because it is a real pain getting in and out of where I live when it’s been raining. This is what your life becomes when you’re a home owner...

If you’re looking for a couple of new ways to look at the world, then here you go… First, is a map which tracks where sunlight is in the world, which I find somehow strangely fascinating. Maybe the weather at the moment makes me want to follow the sun. The other is this site, which is where people can submit pictures from around the UK and it gets added to a pictorial map of the UK. Add your own, look at places that you know. See places in a new way.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Disappointed

Another busy but nice weekend. I was only due to see G on Friday night, so we met up for dinner at the newly refurbished Café in the Crypt beneath St Martin’s in the Field. We had a very nice dinner and then G ended up coming back to mine anyway. I then had to get up early on Saturday morning as I needed to drop my car off to be serviced. While I was waiting for my car I just traipsed fairly aimlessly around the local shops not achieving a lot.

In the evening I went to see a friend from school. We were trying to work out when we had last seen each other and I think it must have been over a year, which is not good as she is a really great friend. So I really need to make more effort. She said that I seemed to have been going through one of my “quiet phases” which she usually takes to mean that thee is stuff going on in my life that I am taking some time to think about before I talk to her about it. She said she just waits for me to get in touch and tell her what’s been going on, which is fair enough. I spent a while talking to her about some of the stuff going on in my life at the moment and for once didn’t end up crying, which seems to happen most times I talk to her!

It’s weird how my friends react to things. I wrote to a friend last weekend about some important stuff that has been going on and have heard nothing from her. She might be on holiday or have some other reason for not being able to reply, but I still find it weird not to have heard from her. Another friend phoned me on Thursday night and I talked to her about some things that have been happening. She told me she was ‘disappointed’ by what I had said and then I seemed to spend the rest of the conversation counselling her. Mind you, what she said this time was (marginally) better than when I’ve talked to her about such things before. She sees life in a very black and white way and I was trying to explain to her that there is so much grey in between, but she just doesn’t seem to see that. Nor does her husband who apparently wants to speak to me at some point. Excellent…

Anyway, yesterday I met up with my sister and nephew and we went to the London Aquarium. Ever the bargain hunter, I found us a two for one deal by showing our Oyster cards, which saved us over £13 – the London Aquarium is very expensive! It was good and my nephew went from being very scared by the sharks to being mesmerised by them and every time we tried to show him some other fish, he’d just end up running back to the sharks to look at them again. I really liked that there was a bit where you could stroke the fish. There were some that you could stroke and they reacted like you might expect a cat to do. You could just run your hand over them and they seemed to really like it. At one point I had my hand in the water and wasn’t really looking at what I was doing and one of the fish came up and started nudging my hand so that I would stroke it. I was like some little kid about this and fortunately had my nephew there as my cover story.

On an entirely unrelated note, I am not someone who uses Facebook. I can waste plenty of time on the internet without that as my excuse, I can assure you. But for any of you who do, you might want to keep this tale in mind, particularly with the Christmas season approaching. You have been warned.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stand behind the yellow line

I forgot to take my glasses into work yesterday and so had to do things at a bit of a distance. This included to moving my computer monitor a very long way away, which looked very odd to any casual passers by, but it got the job done and I managed to lave work without a massive headache. I will be taking a spare pair of glasses in to work today...

On the way home last night I had the most irritating tube driver ever. Ever. Ever. As we departed one station he said:

“Can I remind passengers not to lean on the doors. The doors are not solid objects and must not be leant against. I repeat that the doors are not solid objects and must not be leant against. If you are touching the doors or have a bag or any other item in contact with the door then please move. I repeat they are not solid objects and they will move if you come into contact with them. They could move and cause you an injury and are dangerous. Move away form the doors.”

He then went silent, which gave me time to ponder if my rudimentary understanding of physics was entirely wrong and that I had no idea what the word “solid” actually means. It appears he had only paused for breath though and as we were drawing alongside the platform at the next station he started again…

I am sorry I had to blow the whistle just then [I was totally confused by this comment, and wondered if he had just been reporting someone, but as it turned out he meant he had just blown the train whistle]. As we approached the platform a young woman in a white coat was standing on the *white* line at the edge of the platform. I therefore had to blow the whistle as I came within inches of hitting her. Do not stand on the white line, make sure that you stand behind the *yellow* line.”

At this point passengers started to get on the train. The driver continued.

“For the benefit of the passengers now boarding I will repeat the message again. Do not stand on the *white line* at the front of the platform. It is very dangerous. Stand away from the platform edge. The young woman in the white coat who got on the rear carriage could have been hit by the train had I not blown the whistle."

The doors to the train then closed. He continued.

“This message is directed primarily at the young woman in the white coat who boarded the rear carriage. You came within inches of being hit by a train. 350 people a year are injured using the tube. This is not the fault of London Underground but is down to the behaviour of passengers. If you get hit by a train you will be seriously injured. I am sure that you don’t want that and nor does anyone else want to be hit by a train. I don’t want to hit someone with a train either because I can tell you that it is not very pleasant. This is a 200 tonne train and it will cause a lot of damage if it hits someone and therefore you should stand away from the platform edge. Make sure you stand behind the yellow line in future.”

He then remained silent for the rest of the journey. I know it must get lonely in the driver’s cab sometimes, but was it really necessary to go on that much and in such a personal way. Everyone in my carriage, which was not the rear carriage, just looked at each other incredulous that the driver just kept going on and on, and was also deliberately targeting one passenger. This is why *no-one* should ever speak on London Underground.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Show Must Go On


As I said yesterday, I so enjoyed having the day off work. I am so suited to becoming a lady of leisure. If only I had a plan that meant that I could somehow pay my mortgage, afford to eat *and* go on lots of nice holidays. Give me time…

Anyway, yesterday morning G said to me “Do you ever think about the possibility of us living together?” “Erm…” I replied and, not entirely deliberately, changed the subject. G pointed out that I hadn’t actually answered the question and asked again. I said that it certainly was not beyond the realms of possibility, but not after only six months and that we would also end up killing each other if we lived together at my place. G agreed that this was a likely outcome! It’s not that I am totally unromantic, but I am very practical and six months is too soon to be considering things like that and it’s best to hold off from doing these things too early. Perhaps I should tell G that the right say will be the one when I become a lady of leisure. This could be the beginning of a plan…

If you have a cat you might think that he or she is quite a docile thing that maybe chases an occasional bird or mouse or climbs a tree, bit is generally content to curl up somewhere nice and warm and have a bit of a snooze. But your cat is obviously not called Sergeant Podge. It seems that this feline sets off each night on a walk and the next morning his owner picks him up one and a half miles away, but has no idea what he’s been up to during the night or why he always ends up there. But every morning she dutifully drives to the pick up point and the cat hops in and they go home. What has the cat been up to? Is he leading a secret double life? Is he working the night shift to keep up his expensive lifestyle? Might you end up speaking to him if you phone a telephone call centre at 3am (although his replies might be somewhat lacking…)? Or maybe he’s just decided to take up some exercise to try and cast off his name of Sergeant Podge? Or maybe he is just trying to get his own back on his owner for giving him such a stupid name?

Totally irrelevant to anything else but last night I was reminded of the song “The Show Must Go On” by Queen and what a great song it is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I like being on leave

Here I am at last. The late post today is due to having the day off work and getting distracted by a whole load of other things. I had today off to have a water meter fitted. The chap was due between noon and 5pm but phoned about 11am and asked if he could come over early. He duly arrived, had a look about and then said that he couldn’t fit a water meter as I have a shared water supply with my neighbours. He did then give me a really interesting tip. He suggested that I phone the water company, tell them I can’t have a water meter fitted and then ask them to reduce my water bill anyway. I live on my own so he said that my water charges will be far higher than they need to be. Apparently, if you are willing to fill out some questionnaire for them every year so that they can estimate your usage they may be willing to reduce your bill. It had never even crossed my mind that your water bill was negotiable (I assume only if you can’t have a water meter fitted though), so that will be the next thing I will try. You will be pleased to hear that if you come and visit you may still flush the toilet rather than me having to impose a one flush a day rule.

Anyway, because I was off today, G came over last night and then took this morning off work. We had a really nice morning chatting over a bowl of porridge (each) and drinking real coffee. It was a shame G then had to go to work, but I think we might do it again some time. Even with all my Christmas leave booked (all three weeks of it), I still have 29 days leave to take…

I went out at the same time as G set off for work and I did some shopping. I just felt really happy wandering about this was because a) I’d had a really nice morning b) I was able to spend some time outside during the working week that involved seeing daylight. I just kept thinking how nice it was to be able to wander about aimlessly when I should be at work and c) I was able to do some Christmas related shopping without hordes of people about, including going to a couple of shops I’d been meaning to go to for ages but hadn’t had time. I also managed to get things like some chocolates for C (who works for me) and for my secretary and so that is them sorted for Christmas. They are M&S Belgian chocolates and I was going to get them anyway, but at the moment they are reduced from £7.99 to £4.99 so they were a real bargain. Then I wended my way home and bought myself a really nice cake to have with a cup of tea and I have just eaten that sitting in front of my computer. I like days off work. A lot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Creature Comforts

If while you were talking to someone on the phone you said to them “I did actually phone because I wanted to speak to you about something” would you perhaps expect them to ask what that thing was? If they then phoned you back a bit later and asked if they were in trouble for talking too much and not giving you the chance to speak and you said “yes”, wouldn’t you then expect to be give the opportunity to say what it was that you had wanted to speak about? I sometimes think that I must be speaking to myself because if I am actually talking out loud nobody seems to be hearing what I am actually saying!

Anyway... on to other matters... In the next day or so, this website should spring to life with some new animations called Creature Discomforts. There’s a brief clip on there at the moment and if you watch it a few times you’ll notice more and more details about it. I’m looking forward to the others *thinks* – and of course the very important message about disability.

My favourite character in the Creature Comforts series was the hamster, so I here are some clips. It’s the little things...



Monday, November 12, 2007

Bargains



Another weekend over and not too bad a weekend at that. On Friday night as I left work, it suddenly struck me that I wasn’t going to seeing G and would be all on my lonesome and I felt a bit sad about that. But then I thought about all the things I could get done as a result and came up with a plan of action.

So Saturday I set off for the big smoke and went wandering along Oxford Street to do some browsing and make some purchases. I did buy a couple of Christmas related items for G, which included a chocolate advent calendar (fair trade, I might add, or else I would have been told off) but you don’t just get to eat chocolate, it also opens out into an advent scene. While I was out, I walked past a Big Issue salesman and just as I passed him he, slightly sheepishly, said “Buy me and you get the magazine for free”. I decided that this would be the ultimate in impromptu purchases and decided against it. I did, however, manage to buy some more soda farls so the current crisis is averted, but I have now tracked down a recipe of how to make them and think I might give it a go at some point soon.

I then went to my parents’ house for dinner, which included mum trying to make me eat the wood chip stuff that orchids grow in and her then spilling a bottle of red wine all over both of us. It was a fun-packed night.

Then yesterday I spent a bit of time writing a friend a letter. I am aware that I have distanced myself from some of my friends of late and so am trying to undo some of that bit by bit, as it’s not really what I want to do. The old safety setting of keeping people at a distance has set in recently though and I need to do something about it before I leave it to late to fix. So we shall see what happens there.

Today, it’s back to work, but only for two days, then I’m off work on Wednesday and then it’s only another two days of work until the weekend. Yay!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For the Fallen


Another Remembrance Day, another year of many losses in wars. Remembrance Day is not just about those who died in the two World Wars, but also for those who are engaged in combat now and those who have already fought in conflicts and have returned home, whether in one piece or injured.

To my mind, people can argue all they like about the rights and wrongs of war in general or any particular war, but those in the armed forces who have engaged in combat have done their duty and they deserve to be remembered for that. The fact that people have the right to disagree is because others fought for those freedoms - as the saying goes “freedom is not free” and sometimes it comes at a very heavy personal cost.

Should you wish to offer practical support to those in the armed services, the run up to Christmas is an ideal time to do so. You can send parcels to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to send them some Christmas cheer. Should you also need a reminder of the losses, then you can look here for a list of those who have died in the current conflicts.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Overpowering

G and I finally got round to celebrating our six monthiversary last night and went to Fire and Stone in Covent Garden. We had a really nice starter and then pizza. Basically the pizzas were named after cities around the world (I had a Sydney) and had very unusual combinations of toppings. Whilst it was a very nice meal, I felt that they were really a bit too generous with their toppings and that they should have kept it a bit simpler because it became a bit overpowering. I would go back, if only to try some of some of the other combinations (I want to try the one with black pudding on it), but I wouldn’t rave about it like some people do. We did get two pizzas for £10 though (there’s a link on the website and you have to book in advance to get that deal) so it was a real bargain though. It was a nice meal, just a bit too overpowering in terms of flavour combinations.

This weekend I have to amuse myself because G is away helping some friends to move house. So I am going to do all those things that I can’t always do when G is about, which includes browsing around the Oxford Street area tomorrow and trying to sort some stuff out more generally. Of course this mightchnage as G is going to the Kent coast and might get washed back into London on a tidal wave.

C applied for a new job yesterday and because I am her line manager I had to write nice things about her on the form. Not that it’s difficult to write nice things about her, it is just not very nice to be saying things that might mean she leaves, as that would be a shame. Such is life though.

Anyway, have a good weekend. I might be about here at some point over the weekend but we shall see.