Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pete and the Penguin

The OH has to keep abreast of what is happening in popular culture & the news as part of his job, which means he often has to read the tabloids. Honestly, we aren't normally Sun readers.

This morning, he read out to me a story from The Sun about Peta Docherty feeding a joint to a penguin at a zoo. This is one of the most ridiculous articles ever (although the report that Billie Piper had smiled in the free papers last week was pretty bad). The story was pretty standard tabloid/Docherty fodder. It was a terrible juvenile thing to do and I wondered why he wasn't arrested on the spot by the branch of the police force that seems to specialise in arresting him?(He also seems to have his own chamber of judges to counteract this who pretty much let him off with whatever he is arrested for).

The Sun had kindly mocked up a picture of a penguin smoking which I'm sure most of its readers needed to help them understand the story.

Apparently it is very dangerous for the poor penguin. The article claimed that this behaviour would 'anger fans of the recent animated film, Happy Feet'. No, surely it would upset anyone who likes animals/doesn't like moronic musicians.

I'm all for people in bands behaving in a 'rock 'n' roll' way but really, he just plain stupid. I don't think Mick and Keith would have done something like this.

What a morning

I set off 40 minutes early to allow myself plenty of time to go to the bank to transfer the deposit before work. I thought it was plenty of time, but yet again London Transport intervened. The Central Line packed up en route - annoyingly with our train stood just outside of a station for twenty minutes and the station that the problem became apparent at is one in the middle of nowhere so no use for changing. Eventually, we moved one more stop down the line and everyone was advised to get off and make other arrangements. I managed to get onto a bus to Piccadilly Circus - there were still hoardes left on the pavement.

Once on the bus, it was a rather pleasant journey. The sun was out and I enjoyed looking out of the window as it went through Notting Hill and Bayswater, then down Oxford Street. Plenty of things to look at - beautiful houses, parks and then the shops. If I hadn't been in a rush it would have been a lovely start to the day and much preferable to being stuck underground.

I managed to get to the bank eventually where I was asked a series of riddle like questions in order to prove it was my bank account which to be honest I struggled with, having no idea what my overdraft limit is as I've never asked for one, nor my credit card limit which I'm sure is something outlandish that I have no intention of using. Eventually she seemed satisfied that I was me and the deposit has been sent. The OH meanwhile was entrusted to arrange the buildings insurance which he has done without any hassles, so we have now completed 29% of the Moving list.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

For All You List Lovers

I've just discovered this website

It allows you to make lists - lists of your favourite things and lists of things to do, goals to achieve etc. For lists of 'goals', you 'tick' them off online when you've done them and it updates to say what percentage of your list you've completed. Very rewarding!

I'm 11% of the way through my 'Moving' list that I started yesterday.

I'm not giving up on the Excel spreadsheets and Word document lists just yet though.

State of Independence

I think I may be too independent for my own good.

I've never been the type to need a boyfriend and I'm quite happy to do things on my own. Despite chronic shyness and woefully low-self esteem, I've still always been pretty independent - I never got home sick as a child or at university like many people seemed to and at 21 I moved to London, where I didn't really know anyone and lived on my own for 2 years.

My oldest friend is the opposite - outwardly very confident but cannot even go on holiday and couldn't go away to university because strange environments bring on panic attacks. However, who is better off? She has a boyfriend who does pretty much everything for her or where he doesn't his father does. All her previous boyfriends were the same. When I told her we were having troubles buying the flat, she said 'P's dad did all that for us. I don't even know how much our mortgage is'.

The current flat buying process, I have done pretty much the whole thing. I've spoken to estate agents, solicitors, banks, insurers. I've never bought a property before yet somehow its been left to me to sort out because apparently I'm 'good at this sort of thing'. Which is all very flattering but I'm a nervous wreck. I wonder if perhaps my life would have turned out better if I'd been a bit less independent and had people do things for me instead?

My friend Liz says she took charge when her & her now-husband bought a flat too but she wouldn't have had it any other way as she is self-confessed control freak and aren't I glad I'm in control? My mother says that once its all done, I should feel satisfied as I will have done it myself which is better than relying on someone else to do things for you. I know deep down that they are probably both right, but sometimes it does feel as if I've made life difficult for myself.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Floating my boat

Following Northern Monkey's recent post on what is rocking her world, here are a few things, I'm liking:

Saxondale - Steve Coogan's recent comedy. Ok, so it Alan Partridge laugh-out loud stuff, but we have just watched the whole series on C1 (Homechoice's television on demand channel) and I thought it was pretty good. Perhaps it does require some knowledge of classic rock and the behaviour of its devotees to fully appreciate it, but I did find it rather funny.

'A Brighter Beat' by Malcolm Middleton - the new album from former member of Arab Strap (also Mr Lauren Laverne). The OH bought an advance copy of this last week, played it to me the other day and I've relistened to it on the way into work this morning. I was initially sceptical of his favoured song 'We all going to die' but it was, as promised, a surprisingly cheery number (comfort in the universal human condition perhaps?, which must be the most pretentious thing I've ever written). According to the review in the Metro this morning, MM described the album as pop music for people who hate pop music, which is a pretty good description.

House - I resisted watching this for so long, because I really don't like medical dramas (although for some reason the deaths in detective programmes don't bother me). But I caught one episode of it late last year and actually it was pretty good. This weekend was House weekend on the Hallmark channel so for want of anything better to do, I watched umpteen episodes of it yesterday (I didn't sit around all day - I did go for a swim in the morning)

'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat' by Oliver Sacks - I've been meaning to read this for years, but have only gotten around to it now (courtesy of ReadItSwapIt). It is fascinating, moving and disturbing. Some of the ailments are at first almost comical (as in the title story) but ulimiately tragic in the cases were no solution could be found. The human brain is a truly wonderous thing, although perhaps reading this whilst watching House, I'm in danger of medical overload.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Man versus the Flat Pack

We went to Ikea yesterday morning to buy a few bits and pieces, in particular a shoe rack as the OH thinks my shoes are getting out of control.*

The trip was a success - we got in and out quickly with a trolley full of useful things, including the shoe rack and a match hat rack. I suggested that we may as well construct the shoe rack now rather than wait until we move. We have a system for putting together furniture - I look at the instructions, he does the physical labour part. I also have a system of 'swear rationing' where I allow him a set number of expletives according to the complexity of the item.

So we set about constructing the shoe rack. I opened the box and emptied the contents on the floor.

'Oh, this will be so easy' he said optimistically 'I just put those bits in there and that bit on top and its done.
'No, it involves screws' say I stopping him from getting ahead of himself.

There then followed five minutes of searching for the screws - cue much shaking of box and the first call of 'cheap mass produced rubbish' from him, before we found them attached to a bit of plastic wrapping we had almost discarded. Then we were off.

50 minutes, 2 thrown poles, 1 lost & refound screw, 4 different screwdrivers and a red face later, it was done. I'm rather pleased with it - my shoes are tamed and the hallway is tidy.

However, I am now dreading having to put together a wardrobe in a few weeks time.

*He also believes I have too many pairs of shoes, which I would strongly contend as I read the results of survey that the average woman in the UK has 16 pairs. I have a couple of pairs less than this average - although I am taking it literally to mean shoes, and am not including any other footwear (in particular boots) in this total, which would bump up my total significantly.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My own Britney moment

No, I didn't go out without any underwear or marry/divorce a white-trash wannabe rapper.

Last weekend, I had a bad haircut.

I hadn't mentioned it before now as it seemed churlish - its hardly the end of the world, it will grow back, at least I still have my health etc. But I've just re-examined it and it is awful.

Unlike Britney's, mine wasn't self-inflicted, but caused by Arta (of Yugoslavic origin) as opposed to my usual hairdresser Sonia (from Russia, where she was an accountant!). Sonia is a wizard with the scissors and a wonder with the hairdryer. Arta is a butcher.

I didn't say anything in the salon hoping it would look better when I got home and besides there isn't much that can be done when too much has been hacked off.

The sides and back are ok, its the front that is the shocker. And I still can't quite put my finger on what exactly is wrong with it, but I think she might have put a few layers in the fringe bit(!!), its too short and not especially even.

'Its not that bad' said the OH helpfully 'although it does look a bit Eastern European' he added accurately, but less helpfully.

So I've spent the week trying to sweep it back without it looking like a comb-over and experimenting with scarves and hairbands. It will grow back but until then I'm avoiding any unnecessary social engagements.

Date for the Diary

8-11 March. - Crufts

This year I fully intend to watch all of the television coverage - last year I only saw the final day, but it was so brilliant. The best thing on television - wall to wall dogs for hours.

Unfortunately, we've been invited to a house-warming party on the Saturday but I'm sure they won't mind if I watch it with the sound off. At least, my favourite section Utility Dogs (Tibetan Terriers, Minature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus) is on the Sunday.

I can't wait.

In other dog news, the OH sponsored me a dog for my birthday - 'the next best thing until you can have one of your own' he said. His name is Harry and he's a terrier cross, who is over-confident and likes digging.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

All systems go

After weeks of ineptitude and apathy, our seller's solcitor today faxed our solicitor to say they want to complete within the next couple of days because they are in danger of losing the place they are buying. They have shown no sense of urgency until now.

Two weeks ago, we were all worried it wasn't going to go through within our mortgage offer period (end of April) and now the ball seems to be rolling again at quite some pace. They still have to take out a Deed of Variation to correct some of the faults in the lease (its dull and complicated) but that will apparently be done between exchange and completion.

So we will now be spending the weekend pouring over paperwork. Yesterday, it felt like we might never move, and now today, it doesn't seem like much time at all as there are still so many things we need to sort out. None of it much fun.

As for the flat, I can barely remember what it looks like now and it being London, it is really just an overpriced shoebox. But it will at least be our shoebox, and it was a nicer shoebox than the other shoeboxes we looked at.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Banning of Photography in Public Places

There has been quite a bit of fuss recently about the Government's online petitions. I must admit, I wasn't particularly interested in it, until I was sent an email from a photographer I worked with when I ran the children's gallery, urging me (and a trillion other people) to sign a petition to stop proposed restrictions regarding photography in public places.

"There are a number of moves promoting the requirement of 'ID' cards to allow photographers to operate in a public place. It is a fundamental right of a UK citizen to use a camera in a public place, indeed there is no right to privacy when in a public place. These moves have developed from paranoia and only promote suspicion towards genuine people following their hobby or profession."

Who on earth is trying to bring in these restrictions? Is it to protect celebs from the press? Or is it paranoia about terrorists taking photographs to assist in their plans? Either way, its all going a bit 1984 round here.

So I've signed the petition. I don't know how much good it will do - I don't have a huge amount of faith in politicians listening to public's opinion - but it is better to have at least tried to do something. And it might not be the most important issue in the world at the moment, but all of these little erosions of our personal freedoms add up.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me.

32 today.

I'm was trying to think of a positive upbeat post to write about my achievements and high points in my life so far. But I've had an exhausting day and I can't actually think of anything at all - I'm struggling to even remember my name at the moment, let alone anything else.

The day began with a call to the solicitor to talk about the further problems relating to the flat-buying. I think I used up my daily allowance of brain power on this - I am learning an awful lot about conveyancing though. Although the problems are going to take a while to sort out, it should be ok, which is a relief since all my family gave me John Lewis vouchers.

I've had a frantic day at work but still managed to fit in buying cake for the office (a strange tradition this - surely as its my birthday, someone should buy cake for me?). I think I bought too much though. I also bought a dress to wear for my birthday 'do' tomorrow, which I shouldn't have really.

I also treated myself to a salad for lunch and realised that this is probably a strange thing to do, but I do genuinely love salad. That much I've learnt in my 32 years on this planet - anything more than that I'm not too sure about at the moment.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Itt's Live, Anything Could Happen!!!

Last night we watched the Brit Awards. They were being broadcast live for the first time in 18 years, since the terrible ceremony hosted by Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood. Before it started, the announce made the above declaration in an overcited manner as if it was going to be the most startling, revoluationery piece of television ever.

Of course it wasn't.

I was pretty much universally disappointed with the Awards - in most of the categories, I either hated or was completely apathetic to the nominees, the few categories where there was a band/artist, I remotely liked, they didn't win. I was almost pleased to see Take That win an award even though I never liked them (I have met Jason's mother though) but only because there were other nominees that I hated (I would have preferred Razorlight to win but that was never going to happen) and I hope their refound success is rubbing salt in the wounds of that talentless bore Williams.

Then there was the live aspect of it. Yes, Russell Brand made a few off-colour remarks that went unedited but the bleeps covered up any swearing which must have counted for much of Oasis' performance and they blurred out Lily Allen smoking, which was strange because it isn't actually illegal and I'm sure people smoke on television in dramas and films. Who were they worried about offending really?

Was it in case children were watching? Surely a warning beforehand would suffice so any parents who didn't want their children to hear such language could turn it off? I'm sure any children old enough to be interested in this have probably heard swearing before and I think parents should take more responsibility for this themselves - its another symptom of an increasingly nanny-state where nobody is willing or able to take responsibility for anything in their own lives.

I thought Oasis were pretty poor (what wasn't being bleeped out) and I did like them once back in 1994. I still (embarrassingly) find Liam rather attractive - I realise he isn't very bright, is surly and somewhat simian looking, but I've a terrible weakness for the Manchester accent and arrogant frontmen. (I would probably rather go out for a beer with his brother though).

Garage flowers, emergency wine & last minute cards

Yesterday, I travelled to Bristol and back for work. During the course of my journey, I saw so many men clutching pathetic bunches of flowers, clearly bought in train stations or garages. Then in the supermarket near home, there was a man desparately searching the few remaining cards for the least inappropriate one for his wife and several others panic-buying wine. This is not romantic.
As we do every year, we stayed in with some good food and a bottle of champagne. We exchanged cards and small gifts too. I don't really like Valentine's day but not enough to do nothing.

The cynical part of me does think its just an excuse dreamt up by card manufacturers, florists and restauranteurs. But really I think my cynisim is born more out of my idealism. It shouldn't be like the scenes I witnessed yesterday. Romance should be spontaneous, the gestures should be personal. Inside this cynic, I really do think there is a failed romantic.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Verdict - Poor

The Verdict – why on earth did we waste 90 minutes watching this last night?

The premise of the programme is a fictitious rape trail with a jury made up of celebrities (or what passes for a celebrity these days which covers anyone who has ever had their name in a newspaper).

The victim, defendants and witnesses were played by actors who had apparently improvised something off camera previously, but judge and the lawyers were real. I couldn’t work out whether the acting was really bad or if it was that the people were supposed to be lying unconvincingly. It also differed from a real trial in that there were lots of breaks, giving the jurors chance to discuss what they thought so far i.e. argue with each other.

We only watched it because the Sunday Times talked it up but then they also claimed Patsy Palmer was ‘one to watch’ but all I saw her do was stuff her face with the fruit platter. It might improve over the course of the week but do I really want to devote that much time to it? And the conclusion (or the verdict I suppose) is on Friday which is my birthday and I really don’t intend to celebrate turning 32 watching poor reality television.

(But I do kind of want to know what happens)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In the swim

For a while I was considering changing this blog's title to 'I failed to go swimming' because that is how most of my days begin. I'm full of good intentions to go, but recently more often than not, I don't. But today I had a great swim, which is even more surprising considering I went out last night and still managed to go to the pool at 8.15. I am growing more sensible it seems.

I swim at the local authority pool, which is best described as functional - its near, cheap and does lane swimming on mornings. The facilities are basic, cleanliness sometimes remiss and the staff often surly. But it is one of a few (if not the only) remaining Victorian 'public baths' remaining in London so there isn't much they can do with it, short of knocking it down and starting again (which is threatened every couple of years). The pool also has a different kind of heritage - it is the pool in The Day Today's spoof documentary about a swimming pool - this might be the reason its been saved from the bulldozers.

Besides the poor changing rooms and feeble showers, the pool has posed a new problem recently. The poolside clock has broken. It wasn't working one day, was working on my next visit, broken the time after, cruelly ripped from the wall by last weekend, leaving a sad clock-shaped hole in the tiles.

Unfortunately I seem to possess no natural sense of time which makes it very difficult to tell how much exercise I've done. I thought about counting lengths but the swimming relaxes me so much I lose track. Today I thought the problem was solved - someone else asked the pool attendent what time it was. 'Good idea' I thought 'Now I'll know how long I've been swimming' . It was only when he said the time, I realised I had no idea what time it was when I got in.

I eventually got out when I realised a few people had been and gone from my lane. I estimated I had been done ten more minutes after the timecheck, but when I looked at my watch in the changing cubicle, it had actually been 25 minutes, which at least proved I was right about uselessness with time.

This same unawareness of the passage of time is probably to blame for my disbelief that I will 32 next week, when it only seems like a year or so since I graduated. Undoubtely there will be more posts about the imminient birthday as it looms closer.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow Business Like Snow Business

As forecast, it has snowed overnight.

Rather disappointingly I managed to get into work without any trouble. I was a few minutes late but only because I was dithering over what to wear. In the end I did something I've never done before - wore trainers and took a change of shoes with me in my bag. I haven't worn trainers for ages and had forgotten how comfortable they are and they cut my walk to the station probably by about 3 minutes.

On the way, I passed this snowman (rubbish and for some reason tiny picture, hastily taken on my phone). I think it may be the first time I've seen a snowman in London in the 10 years I've lived here.

The great and the good of British theatre are struggling to make it to our offices today for a meeting, with various tales of delayed or abandoned journeys being phoned in. Whether we will get enough people for the meeting to go ahead remains to be seen, but on the plus side, there will be too much food so it looks a free lunch for us minions today.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Number WIthheld

My mobile rang this afternoon. A withheld number. I don’t normally bother to answer these as its usually someone trying to sell me a new phone. But as I’m expecting calls from the Estate Agent and my solicitor, I make an exception and answer it.

‘Hello is that Miss Sanddancer?’ (obviously though she used my real name
‘Excellent. Good to have got hold of you. I’m calling from Studio 64 (I think this is what she said). You’ve applied via our website to come in for a free photshoot, so when are you free come in?
‘A photoshoot in our studio. You applied through Crap Offers R Us website’ she says brightly in her best telesales voice (again that may not have been the exact name, but it was something along those lines’
‘I certainly haven’t’

And with that I hung up and had to explain to the people around me what it was all about.

If she could have been me sat her in my best woolly jumper, she would not have been offering me a photograph of myself, even if it is one of those rip-off services where they give you a makeover by covering you in an inch of orange foundation, coiffure your hair to death and then take pictures with a Vaseline smeared lens so that you come out in soft-focus, looking perhaps more attractive but essentially nothing like yourself.

I’ve seen the results of these sessions before – a few friends were conned into them. They were then pressurised into spending £120 on the resulting photograph, which in which even one my friend’s mother’s failed to recognise her daughter.


I had to sign 100 letters today. After about the fifth one, my signature was completely unrecognisable, by the hundredth it was nothing more than a squiggle.

I blame Chip & Pin. I’m so used to entering numbers, that I rarely need to sign my name these days.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It just isn't cricket

When the OH was in Australia, one of his hosts gave him a gift of two talking figurines, "Boonie and Beefy" ( in the likeness of somebody Boon a famous Australian cricketer and Ian Botham).

They were produced by the cricket sponsors Victoria Beer and when activated they banter with each other, Boonie taunting Beefy with jibes about us being rubbish at cricket and drinking warm beer etc. They are cleverly programmed to start talking to coincide with the games of cricket starting and to then make the odd comments during the course of the game. Unfortunately the Botham one is blatantly an Australian trying to speak in an English accent which ruins the effect somewhat.

'Great more plastic tat' I thought, but the OH seemed chuffed with them so what harm could it do to allow them to live with us for a while...

Imagine my fright at being awoken at 3am by the sound of an Australian talking in the lounge. It took me a few minutes to realise that it was the plastic man rather than an intruder.
Little did we realise that once activated, there is no way of turning them off. He tried to separate them, hoping that keeping them more than the instructed distance apart would silence them, but it didn't work - they still continued their inane conversations.

For the past few weeks, they have been residing in a kitchen cupboard. We had hoped that at that distance we wouldn't be awoken by them when we are asleep, but I'm a light sleeper and every time there's a game on, I'm woken up. I thought today might have been the last time, but no England only went & won today so we are now in the tournament final, so more talking will no doubt follow.

I've no idea what will happen to them after this - perhaps they will self-destruct?

Sunday, February 04, 2007


OH and I were discussing what we would do if we had so much money that we never needed to work again.

This conversation came about because his recent stay in Australia was with his former boss, for whom the above scenario is no longer a fantasy but a reality. But he doesn't seem to be sitting back and enjoying his wealth & leisure time and in particular is embarking on one business scheme that doesn't seem very viable and is causing him loads of stress. His former business partner on the otherhand seems very content, is building his dream home and doing lots of travelling. The OH said that with that amount of money, he would take the second route and do very little except committing to getting fit and going watch lots of cricket.

Now whilst I wouldn't take on ridiculous projects that would cause me nothing but stress, I don't think that I could do nothing. Since leaving my other job at the gallery, I'm finding it difficult enough to occupy myself on weekends - I really wouldn't be able to cope with a whole lifetime of not doing anything. The problem is that I don't have enough self-discipline to structure my time myself - I need an external force such as a job to give me a structure to build the rest of my time around. Left to my own devices, I just end up pottering about, hardly able to motivate myself to do anything other than noodling around on the internet, watching bits of television and drinking endless coffee.

So its probably as well that I didn't win the lottery last night and still have to go into work tomorrow!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Good Mood

I've been in such a good mood today. I really don't know why. Perhaps its because we had such a good night last night. Perhaps its my lovely new jeans. Perhaps it was walking down Charing Cross Road this morning in the sunshine.

Whatever has caused it, it seems pretty unshakeable. I've had the best day at work in ages. Colleague's behaviour hasn't upset me. I've tackled a boring job with enthuasiam (partly due to realising that there was no reason why I couldn't listen to my ipod while I did it). I've got dust down my white top, but I remained cheerful. The Colleague left an hour and a half early - I smiled and wished him a good weekend. The Estate Agent rang to say there are further problems with the lease which our solicitor hadn't bothered to get in touch about - but I'm unfazed.

This is not usual. Somewhere in the universe three must be a normally optimistic person feeling unusually down.

How to behave in the theatre

It didn't ruin the evening, but the behaviour of a lot of the audience last night was terrible.

One mobile phone going off is annoying, but it is made worse by the five minutes of rummaging and rustling that followed as half of the audience panic they've left theirs on too. And then the people talking loudly during the performance. Its rude to the rest of the audience and to the actors.

But these weren’t underprivileged teenagers on their first trip to the theatre who don't know how to behave (this is a common worry in the industry that young people are intimidated by theatre or just don’t know what is acceptable behaviour, - not something I've actually encountered myself - I think it actually sounds pretty patronising).

No, this was largely a middle-aged, middle-class audience who really should know how to behave but these are people who are so confident of their place in the world that they think their conversations are more important than the performance.

Its only Rock n Roll, but I like it

Last night, we went to see Rock n Roll. We'd been meaning to see it for ages and I don't know why we kept putting it off, because it really did have lots of things I'm interested in; politics, music and Syd Barrett, and it starred the wonderful Dominic West.

It really was excellent. The play covers the lives of people in Cambridge and Prague between 1968 and 1990, and between each scene they played a piece of music from that year, - Dylan, the Stones, Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett, even the U2 and Guns n Roses songs didn't ruin it. It reminded me again how much I love Pink Floyd - as unfashionable an opinion as that may be. I've also have a long-stranding fascination with this period in Czech history, stemming from reading alot of Milan Kundera and I loved Prague (except the food - I'm not a fan of meat, potatoes and dumplings), but I'm not sure that was essential to enjoying the play.

If it doesn't win the Olivier Award for Best New Play, I will eat my hat as they say.