Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I went out for dinner with my friend K last night. She is one of those people who is always good at giving me her take on things - and she is also normally very accurate in her observations. So as ever, she totally analysed my life and quizzed me about various things. We worked together a few years ago and have stayed in touch, we do walk for the same organisation still but she was off sick from work for about a year and only recently came back. We did see each other while she was on sick leave but it is a bit easier now she is back at work. She is in the process of trying to emigrate to the other side of the world though, which would not be quite so convenient. Although good for holidays.

I did also find out that she has read War and Peace three times. I think once would be enough of an achievement. I am actually doing ok with reading War and Peace and have read about 150 pages so far (over 10%!). I have been surprised at the amount of humour in the book and I am finding it a good read so far. I am reading another book on the tube at the moment though, which is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, to give me a bit more of a mix in my reading.

We went to Wagamamas for dinner and that was nice enough, except that they forgot to cook K’s food and so I had practically finished mine before hers had even arrived. The food was nice enough but I wasn’t actually terribly impressed by the particular branch we went to and am not sure I would go there again. At least it was vaguely healthy though, which given the amount I am eating out at the moment, has to be a good thing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Turn around...

Monday again… it was a fairly busy weekend. I met up with G on Saturday and we had lunch at the Cafe in the Crypt at St Martin’s in the Field. G is not very well at the moment and so was craving warm food, so I figured that was a good place to get some decent food and then just sit for a while and chat. Then we went towards Piccadilly and had a cup of coffee and ate cake (it was a very strenuous day). We did look for some new work shirts for me but I couldn’t find anything suitable, so we gave up on that. G then went home to carry on being ill and I went back to my place.

On Sunday my sister and I took our parents out for dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café, which was very pleasant, although, unsurprisingly, not the place to go if you are on a tight budget.

When I got home I had done less than 1000 steps all day and so went for a walk in the sunshine. I found that a few minutes walk from where I live I have a really great view across London, which I was really surprised about and will have to go back and have another look sometime soon.

Then yesterday evening I phoned a friend but then realised that she is a big fan of Poirot and there was a new episode on last night so I cut the conversation short so she could watch it. Then I phoned a friend from school and chatted to her husband for a few minutes, as they had just got back from hospital because their son had been really ill with suspected meningitis. They still don’t know what’s wrong with him and are holding a bed for him at the hospital but let him go home as there was no advantage in keeping him in.

I saw the new Cadbury advert on TV last night, but actually saw it first over at the Vicious Chicken’s blog. Anyway go here and watch it. Another marvel from the people who make the best chocolate in the world*.

Update: I did correct the typo that seemed to suggest I wear shorts to work... The world could not cope with such a thing, particularly on a slightly chilly September morning.

* yea, yea I know all the stuff about Belgian chocolate having so much more cocoa in it etc but I’d still choose Cadbury’s over any other chocolate and to be honest I have a gorilla on my side, so it you want to argue about it, I am going to win.

Friday, September 26, 2008


G and I went out for dinner last night. We had accrued enough points with Toptable to get two free meals, so we went to Awana in Chelsea. It was very nice food, but I did fell we were a bit shoved in a corner, but then I guess they were never likely to make a fortune out of a free meal. I would recommend going there but it is quite pricey so you would probably want to go there on some sort of offer.

I was travelling home on the tube on Wednesday night and there were quite a few delays. I have concluded that it is never encouraging when a message comes over the tannoy saying “looks it all just really confusing to be honest and the train we thought was on its way here has disappeared, so we’re not really sure what’s happening”. Yes, I think that probably is quite confusing. Honest, though.

I also overheard two of my colleagues talking the other day and one of them had been to hospital and it seems he had undergone some form of internal examination that involved a lot of prodding and probing. My other colleague, a rather well spoken chap just replied “yes, the finger lingers”. I raised an eyebrow and decided that sometimes there are times when you should just let a comment go and continued with my work.

Anyway, a fairly busy weekend ahead, as I have a whole load of things I have to prepare for next week and it involves various bits of research. On Sunday my sister and I are taking our parents out to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant for lunch, which I hope is nice. At least, based on his programmes, the kitchens should be clean.

Have a good weekend all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Absolute Beginners

Well, I survived last night. Think “The Kids from Fame” - but set on the Orkney Islands. If I go back I might invest in a head band and some multicoloured leg warmers. Nobody else would be wearing that, but I think it would give off an air of professionalism.

So it was a beginners class for Scottish dancing but I was immediately suspicious about how many people were actually beginners based on the number of people who were there wearing proper Scottish dancing shoes. I was even more suspicious when during the first dance the chap opposite me asked what the music was going to be and then gave a knowing nod of his head at the answer. I think there are a number of people who have done the beginners class and just keep coming back year after year. I’m not sure if that is a sign of success or failure.

Anyway, I managed to keep up with most of it and there was this one old chap who was just so off the pace and people were constantly having to direct him that he helped to cover up any errors made by anyone else. He seemed like a really lovely chap and he persevered. I did also get asked to dance by a boy of about 12, which I thought was really sweet of him. After each dance you had to find someone new as a partner, which was not something I relished but fortunately it wasn’t too traumatic and not like being at a school disco with people awkwardly sidling up to someone and asking them to dance and then getting turned down and lurking by the wall all the rest of the evening.

Will I go back? We shall see… I reckon if I don’t go back next week, I won’t go back at all, as I will worry that I am too far off the pace, but it was quite good fun once I got over my initial reservations. It certainly is not my first choice of things to do on a Wednesday night but there is a part of me that thinks it is probably good for me to do something that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I enjoyed it far more by the end, but the jury is still out on whether this is ever going to be something I truly enjoy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All singing, all dancing

I took my car to the garage yesterday morning. It took 15 minutes to drive there and 15 minutes to drive home. It took about 30 seconds for them to look at the car, so I can see why it wasn’t worth leaving it. They will write to me with a quote. I had previously spoken to another Ford dealer and they would have charged me £40 to look at it (deductible from the bill if they carry out the work). I can see they don’t want to be wasting their time quoting on cars they then don’t repair but £40 for 30 seconds work would work out at £4800 an hour. I am in the wrong job.

My mum got my TV fixed yesterday. The chap came out to take the TV away but then couldn’t work out why the previous chap didn’t just take the front of the TV and clean up the switch. So he did that and now it’s fine and there’s no need for them to take the TV away and bring it back again. Marvellous.

I may be partaking of some Scottish related activity tonight. Despite not having the best sense of rhythm. This may turn out to be a huge mistake. I, or others, may end up hospitalised. *takes a deep breath*

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I am taking my car to a Ford dealer in a few minutes to get a proper quote for repairing the bumper so that I can tell my neighbour how much it will cost. What I really want to do is to drop it off and head to work and they can then inspect it at their leisure and tell me later how much it will cost. The chap I spoke to kept insisting that they will be able to look at it as soon as I arrive though, which is helpful but will then mean I have to drive home and then head off to work from there, so will end up arriving at work quite late. So that’s not quite so helpful. Anyway, we shall see.

I was talking to mum on the phone yesterday lunch time and was telling her that I have just started reading War and Peace. I am not entirely convinced I will make it to the end but am going to give it a go. I have tracked down some notes on it so that every few chapters I can check I am keeping up and also plan to read some other more light-hearted books so that I have a bit of variety. I was telling mum how long the book is (over 1300 pages) and that it takes me something like 2 minutes per page (it is small print so there are a lot of lines on a page). That means it will take about 2600 minutes to read it, which is about 43 hours. Mum wanted me to do nothing from then on until Wednesday lunch time except read the book. I suggested that wasn’t very convenient, so now she wants me to start at 7pm on Friday night and keep reading until I get to the end. Mum doesn’t seem to think I need to sleep and will have plenty of time for that on Sunday night in order to be refreshed for work the following day. I am not entirely convinced. I am also not sure that it will make the book seem less daunting either. I have read about 1% of it so far. There is still a looooooooooooong way to go. I have a slightly more realistic target of hoping I can have read it all by Christmas. I have not specified Christmas of which year as yet.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bad choices

Another weekend over and a fairly busy one at that. One of G’s friends came for dinner on Saturday night and then stayed over. That was a pleasant evening even though we did do a pretty major clean in anticipation of R coming over. Not that my place is particularly dirty or that R is the cleaning police, it just seemed a good reason to make a bit of an effort. G cooked a very nice fish pie for dinner and we followed that with apple pie and custard. Lovely.

Then yesterday it was my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. They had arranged a part – or actually mum had as my father did absolutely nothing towards it either in advance or on the day. It was nice to see various people I have not seen in years and also various relatives and there was also lots of really nice food, some of which forms my packed lunch for today.

I potentially have a fairly busy week ahead but some of my plans are dependent on when I can drop my car off to get a quote for getting it repaired. At the moment dropping it off won’t be a problem as I can do that on the way to work but I wouldn’t be able to pick it up, which is not so great. G wants to go to a Scottish dancing lesson this week and for me to go along as well. I’m not 100% keen on this plan and it takes me back to memories of attending the Woodcraft Folk, which despite what it may sound like was neither a cult or involved any naked tree hugging, but was a mixed gender version of Brownies and Scouts - and not my cup of tea at all. I just have many memories of having to do lots of country dancing. So we’ll see if I can bring myself to join G or if my car will save me.

Returning to my parents for a moment, you may wonder what the secret is of staying together for forty years. As my sister discovered when she was trying to find out who had also got married in the same year she found that they were either dead or divorced. Encouraging… Anyway, I would suggest that it is not down to my father’s choice in cards. My father chose a card that some might think reflects his sense of humour, but let me tell you, it doesn’t. It reflects his inability to make any effort and that he will buy the first thing that he sees. It was not this exact card, but this was basically what my father gave mum as an anniversary card. He’s such a charmer.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast me hearties

It’s Friday! Hooray! Not a moment too soon. It’s a fairly busy weekend though, as one of G’s friends is coming over on Saturday and then on Sunday it’s my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and they are having a party. Quite how my parents made it to 40 years is one of those things that will continue to perplex me. I’m not sure they are people to go to for marriage advice – and in fact my father has probably forgotten most of the last 40 years anyway, as he only seems to be aware of what is on television at any given moment.

Yesterday I ate some coconut ice and I think I had rather a sugar rush, which made G and I wandering around the supermarket much more amusing and then when we were driving home we had to take it in turns calling out animals (although G did try to sneak in a leprechaun and an elf). I think I should keep my sugar intake to a minimum in future.

I spoke to a couple of Ford garages yesterday about my smashed bumper and it is going to cost a minimum of £350 to get it repaired. I will have to break the news to my neighbour and find out what he wants to do. I bet he will wish he had been a bit more careful now.

Anyway, in order to avoid being the odd one out today you may find it helpful to know that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I expect you to telling people to walk the plank and shivering your timbers all day. Not convinced? Well it seems this will also be the perfect day to use all those pirate chat up lines you’d been practicing. Arrrrrrrr, as the pirates say.

Thursday, September 18, 2008



I sorted out the John Lewis problem in that at least the chap came round to look at my TV. But he needs to take it away to repair it and he didn’t want to leave me without a TV. My mum let him in and despite looking in my bedroom failed to see the other TV in there, which would have meant he could have taken the TV then and there. Mum’s going to sort it all out though, so I can’t complain really.

One of my neighbours came round to see me. He’d reversed into my car earlier in the day and cracked my bumper. He was very apologetic and is going to pay for it – and probably could have got away with not telling me, as I hadn’t noticed it and would have probably seen it at some point and thought it had happened elsewhere. So I’m going to get a quote to get a new bumper and he’s going to pay for it and I just told him not to worry about it and we’d sort it out at some point in the next few days.

I got an e-mail from a friend to say that her in-laws (who live in Nigeria) were making their toast in the toaster and they could smell burning. They popped the toast up but it was fine so they buttered it and ate it. But they could still smell burning and peered into the toaster. There they found a cooked mouse that had crawled into the toaster and met a fiery fate when they sat down to breakfast that morning. Ick.

The same friend texted me last night to say that she was doing her ironing and had just ironed a large spider that was hidden in a shirt. There were legs and remnants everywhere. Whilst I agreed it was horrid, I did commend her for ensuring there is now one less spider in the world.

The BBC lost their pips. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Some things that happened yesterday:

I went to the Midlands. On the way back our tickets were inspected, the people who were sitting behind me showed their tickets. They were meant to be going to the neighbouring town, they had got on the non-stop service to London. Oops.

Overheard mobile phone conversation – “That IT course was so annoying. If he had used that word one more time I would have punched him in the face. I mean, is functionality even a word?*”

I had to conclude that John Lewis is a bit rubbish (again). They are meant to be coming out to repair my TV today, as the on/ off button keeps getting stuck. They were meant to phone to tell me if they are coming in the morning or afternoon, so that mum can be there to let them in. They didn’t phone. I phoned them but had to leave a message with someone who said they’d call back. They didn’t phone back. Grr…

I added the Black Box widget to my blog. It’s on the side bar, go click on it. It is to do with this.

I read Maggi Dawn’s blog and liked what she said in her latest post, particularly her quote (quoting herself…) saying:

“Regardless of what is sensible, and regardless of what you think you "ought" to do, which of the courses ahead of you makes you feel alive, makes your heart open wider, makes you feel hopeful and as if the future is opening up not closing down? That is the route you should go."

*Yes it is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The picture is of a Scottish loch (I can’t remember which right now). There were times when we drove though parts of Argyll and the lochs were just so beautiful. On Friday we went to Glencoe and a couple of the lochs were so perfectly still that there was a fantastic reflection on them. If you ever have the chance to go to Scotland, go to the Glencoe region, it is so beautiful there.

Being in Argyll we were not far from a lot of the places I went through when I walked the West Highland Way a couple of years ago – a 95 mile walk from Milngavie to Fort William. It was really nice to go back and see places that I saw previously weighted down with a back pack. It did also bring back the memory of having such a raw sole to one of my feet that one night when we were staying in a youth hostel I was in such pain that a stranger helped me in the middle of the night and the only way we could cover the size of the sore was for her to give me a panty liner to cushion my foot. If you do use this method as a plaster one day then make sure you put the absorbent side against your foot and secure it with some tape, don’t attempt to stick it with the pad’s adhesive. Just in case there was any doubt about that. Anyway, it worked a treat. I would recommend walking the West Highland Way, just make sure you have toughened your feet up a bit first.

G and I drank quite a lot of Irn Bru while we were in Scotland and G also mentioned that you can get Irn Bru bars. So we went in search of these, which have now actually been slightly rebranded and are Wham bars. I think the reason why they were rebranded is that many years ago Marti Pellow’s (he of Wet Wet Wet fame) girlfriend sued the manufacturers, as she believed that the Irn Bru bars had damaged her teeth. Well, it is made of girders. Apparently.

I leave you with the latest Irn Bru advert (some details about it are here).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Highlights of the Highlands

Another holiday over and it’s back to work today. It’s amazing I managed to drag myself out of bed this morning. Anyway a few highlights of the time away.

Meeting G’s family went well. The most amusing moments (taking into account that we were there for G’s sister’s wedding) were:

- The priest getting the couple to say their vows and then saying to the congregation “I now present you all with the new Mr and Mrs [completely wrong surname]”. Oops. I did have real trouble not inappropriately laughing for the rest of the service.
- G’s dad was wearing a kilt, not that unusual for a Scot at a wedding, but it did make it all the more amusing when he kept going up to dance and at one stage was getting on down to “I’m just a love machine”. You would probably have to have been there to have picked up on quite how amusing that was. I think he had been drinking the cheeky water, as the Scots would say.
- G and I were staying at the bride and groom’s house and the following morning we got up and I was tidying the living room up a bit and found two pairs of underpants behind the sofa cushions. I believe these belonged to the two teenage (kilted) ushers, who it seems at the last minute found the courage to wear the kilts with no pants on.

We had arranged for a hire car to be dropped off so we could go away for a week and were expecting something like this:

But in fact were given something like this:

Nice car to drive, but slightly rubbish acceleration. It’s a good job I am used to driving all sorts of different cars as I ended up doing all the driving and it was a big car.

The Argyll region of Scotland was lovely and well worth a visit. The weather was a bit mixed but didn’t stop us doing anything. We ate lots, saw lots and did some walking in a vague effort not to return about a stone heavier than when we went.

I’ll upload some photos in the next few days so you can see a bit of what we did. But now it’s time for work…

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Right well, I am now on leave and am off to King’s Cross station in a bit to go and hop on a train to Scotland. We are going there for G’s sister’s wedding, which is tomorrow. This is the first time I meeting G’s family. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this…

Anyway… on Saturday morning we’re picking up a hire car and are then driving off to Argyll to stay on a cottage for a week, which hopefully will give us time to recover from the previous day and also to do lots of nice relaxing things. Then we’re flying back the following Saturday, as there is lots of engineering work on the trains so it would have taken hours longer than normal to get back by train.

When I get home I will find out if the chap who will have been doing various bits of work on where I live has a) done the work and b) not stolen everything. I should have a newly painted bedroom ceiling, a working light in my bedroom (both remnants of having the boiler installed), the light switch in the kitchen should be the right way up, the shed re-roofed and a wall painted, plus maybe a bit of work in the garden. Or I will have no possessions. It will make an interesting return to London.

So have a good week or so all and expect freakishly good weather on Scotland, as clearly it wouldn’t dare rain while I am there on holiday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I was thinking about the cotton bud incident and I do need to find another way to clean my ears. It’s not that I think there is a huge chance it will happen again in the near future, after all I have gone 33 years without it ever having happened before. What bothers me is the complete waste of everyone’s time that such things are. If that walk in centre didn’t have to get things out of people’s ears each day they would see 10 less patients – and therefore presumably see other patients more quickly. I will also never get those two hours of my life back that I spent waiting to be seen. I felt like my life had plummeted into the depths of boredom. A complete waste of time that was entirely avoidable. I just think a bit more care and everyone’s lives could be made a bit easier. So don’t be sticking things in your ears people. Of course G did suggest an alternative way to remove the blockage in my ear, which was by blowing in the opposite ear and seeing if it would pass through the vacant space in between and deal with the problem. G had much practice at using this sort of technique the previous weekend when trying to unblock the hoover tube. I am not sure I liked the analogy. I politely declined the offer of assistance.

I was interested in an article on the BBC yesterday. It reported a study into how people view the justice system and where their responsibility lies in tackling bad or criminal behaviour. It seems that Brits did not do well in the survey and were the most like to abdicate responsibility. I could comment on many things in the report and I think it is a sad indictment of our society if it true, but I was struck by an interesting sentence in the article that said

Crime has become so "nationalised and politicised" that the home secretary and the prime minister are held responsible for every assault

I think there is a lot of truth in that sentence and not just in relation to crime, but in a lot of other areas too. If someone is stabbed, if a document is lost, if a database fails, if companies go bankrupt, if people can’t afford to pay their mortgage… somehow it is all the government’s fault. I’m not trying to defend Labour and I mean government in the general sense rather than the one that is currently in office, but it seems that somehow any failure is entirely the fault of those in power. But surely life is so much more complicated than that. We like to think that we are autonomous beings, but somehow we are unwilling to consider that we might somehow have some responsibility in those things too. If someone loses their house it might be due to redundancy or some other unfortunate event, but equally it might be that they took out a mortgage that was beyond their means and they gambled on the economy remaining buoyant. The economy normally goes in cycles of prosperity and recession and if you rely on things always being good that is a very short term view. Clearly it is terrible if someone loses their home, but sometimes we do play a part in that.

Equally with crime, whilst the amount of money the government put into policing and other crime related issues plays a significant part in tackling offending but equally so do we – do people know where their children are? Do we protect our property adequately? Do we report crime? Do we intervene when we see a crime being committed, if only by dialling 999?

I just think that sometimes we see others, particularly politicians, being the root of the problem and forget to wonder what we could do to make a difference.

I know it’s a bit of a cliché but there is that part of me that thinks that, at least in part, something Gandhi said is the answer:

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

You hum it and I'll...

I have found a new thing on the tube that is irritating: Someone listening to their music and occasionally whistling a few bars, all out of tune. Occasionally supplemented by a couple of bars of out of tune humming. Don’t do it. Or I will have to kill you.

Anyway… over the weekend I ate lots of really nice food. For lunch on Sunday G and I had such a good meal, which I would highly recommend. I am not a recipe sharing sort of girl, but I liked this so much that it would be wrong not to pass it on.

Slice up about 500g of courgettes about half a centre long and coat it in a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Place in a frying pan and cook.
Put it on a plate and grate some lemon zest on to it, lemon juice and 2 chopped mild green chillies.
Let it cool and marinate for a while. I think we only left it for about 15 minutes.
Drizzle a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over it.
Just before serving scatter some Parmesan on it (cut into small pieces from a block rather than the dried stuff) and about ten grams of fresh mint.

We had it with tuna steaks and some noodles. We cooked the noodles and then quickly put it in the frying pan to soak up the remainder of the olive oil and garlic. Worked a treat. It was such a good meal.

Only two days to go and then I am on leave. Not a moment too soon… But it’s September already. How did that happen?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Follow the directions

There are times in your life when you think you should have listened. Times when, despite the instructions telling you otherwise, you decide to do your own thing.

Let me take you back to Friday morning. There I was doing my usual bathroom routine and, as per normal, giving my ears a quick clean with a cotton bud. After a few seconds I thought all was not right and I noticed that there was no cotton wool on the end of the stick. I checked my ear and it didn’t seem to be there and then looked on the floor and it wasn’t there either. I decided that I didn’t know the answer to the question of where the end of the bud had gone and so just carried on. I got dressed and then made my breakfast and tucked into my soda farl. Only every time that I chewed I could hear a sound like cotton wool tearing in my ear. This did not seem normal.

So I went to work and said to my boos I thought I’d better go and get my ear checked and went to the NHS walk in centre a few minutes walk from where I work. Generally they can see people within twenty minutes. Two hours later I finally saw the nurse. She looked in my ear and found the offending item, but couldn’t remove it. So then I had to see another nurse and he syringed my ear and within a matter of seconds all was well. I am not one who is normally very good at seeking medical assistance and would usually have to have a limb having off to even consider it, but I remembered this story and thought it best to get it sorted sooner rather than later.

I learnt a few things on Friday:

- Sometimes it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- NHS walk in centres can be incredibly slow. I think each nurse was seeing about six patients an hour.
- I thought there seemed to be a lot of bureaucracy for the nurses that meant if they spent twenty minutes per patient the majority of that time was used to deal with updating the computer etc after the patient had left.
- I am not sure that it is great to hear the nurse dealing with you tell you how much she dislikes her job and is looking to leave.
- I didn’t find out the medical complaint of the person before me, but it certainly involved the nurse having to use a lot of air spray. The mind boggles.
- The walk in centre deals with about 10 patients a day who need their ear syringed.
- I got the distinct impression that what was in my ear was tame compared to most other people.
- It’s true that the smallest thing that you should put in your ear is your elbow.

But there is one thing that is still a mystery. What possible use is there for a cotton bud if you can’t stick it in your ear?