Friday, April 27, 2007

Art Nemesis Part 2

I ranted recently about my hatred of a piece of art at work. My loathing for that has been matched by that for a picture in my own home.

How could this have happened in my own home? Well, the previous owner kindly left the piece below hanging in the bathroom.

It is a rather dubious spurt of water in three stages or 'Ikea Generic Bathroom Picture #1' to give it its full title.

Again, its the blandness of it that offends me. And the relentless 'blue & white'-ness. Its so impersonal - I can't imagine it meaning anything to anyone. Silly, tacky or ugly even I could handle if it had some personal history.

Our bathroom is tiny. It really does not need anything on the wall. So where is the problem? Just take it down. End of story.

Except, there is a dirty great big nail in the middle of the white tiles. Not only does it look awful, but I'm afraid that if I leave it exposed one of us might have a freakish accident and end up impaled on the nail (we are both very accident-prone).

But tonight I'm determined to find something else to replace it. I've purchased an assortment of frames and something is going to found to hang up there in its place.


We have had a refund of £570 from the electricity company. The electricity meter was stored in a cupboard outside of the property that we didn't have a key for so we were paying based on an estimate for four years! We also got £16 back from the gas comapany and BT.

Yesterday we received a cheque for the return of our deposit - less £100. There is a dispute over whether we had the carpets professionally cleaned - we did, but the carpets were about 20 years old so there is only so much a shampoo can do. I fail to see how something described as 'worn' four years ago can be expected to be in better condition now, but that is why I'm not a letting agent.

But all in all, a nice little bonus sum.

Less excitingly, we will probably be spending a fair amount of this on blinds and curtains for our apparently freakishly large windows. They really aren't that big (we aren't living in a glass house), but there seems to be some sort of conspiracy with curtain manufacturers to drive us to despair and custom-made window hangings.

“Mother did the shopping, I was in charge of ideology”

Last night we went to see ‘Elling’ the play starring the lovely John Simm. Even as a Norwegian mental patient with a dodgy haircut, I still found him attractive. I wasn’t alone as the front row seemed to consist of the American branch of the John Simm fan club who all seemed to think his career began and ended with Life on Mars.

The play was very good (that career as theatre critic has stalled somewhat!) and Johnny Simm (as the OH always refers to him) was excellent. It was very funny – the title above was the best line but it was probably more in the delivery.

The characters in it were rather like Pinkie and the Brain, those cartoon lab rats. I doubt that was intentional as I don't think its that well-known here, let alone in Norway.

Anyway, I highly recommend it and for once I was seeing something at the start of its run so there is still time to see it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dress Dilemma

When we moved and I looked at my clothes, I was shocked my how many I own and was convinced that I possibly didn't need to buy anything ever again as I had something appropriate for pretty much every occassion. However, I was wrong.

In July, we are going to weddings on two consecutive Saturdays, both for ex-colleagues of the OH so there will be quite an overlap of guests. Hence, the dress dilemma.

Last year, I bought this dress for my friend Jo's wedding. I loved it, it is hugely flattering (I don't think I've ever thought that before about anything on me) and I got loads of compliments. But it was bought from Warehouse just weeks before the event - i.e. a very popular high street shop - so I was in a bit of a panic that there would be someone else there in the same dress. Fortunately there wasn't, but I'm still very wary of it happening.

One of the weddings in in the Midlands which I thought was going to make it an expensive event and I was going to have to put my pride aside and make do with either the one dress or dig out something older. (I have a lovely apple green chiffon-y dress that has seen me through a few other ceremonies but it does have a few tiny stains, the result of running around a garden with children and a drink in hand - they are probably only noticeable to me and my drycleaning man who hates a stain and has tried his best on it twice).

However, before our invitation arrived the bride to be emailed to ask if we would like to stay in the wedding venue as they have a number of rooms available as part of their package and it is free to us! Of course, we accepted. The other thing is that the couple in question have said they don't want any proper gifts (he sold his company for quite a few million so money isn't an issue) but just wanted a gift from each guest's hometown. So the costs associated with attending this wedding have suddenly plummeted so I could definitely buy a new dress.

But, I am still scared of the doppleganger danger if I buy anything from the high street and I don't exactly have a designer budget. I'm also wary of buying something that I'll only wear this once - after this pair, the next wedding we'll probably go to is in the north in the autumn so it will be a much colder affair. But then I do feel I should make an effort for someone's big day.

So I'm on the look out for something that I might wear again, doesn't cost too much but isn't from a shop that is in every town, and if at all possible goes with shoes I already own.

Let the hunt begin.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Over-paid, over-pampered morons

Today, I hear on the radio that a Liverpool player, who hasn't played much this season and wants to leave, has described his time at the club as being a slave.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought slaves were taken from their home against their will, sold into miserable lives where they worked long hours, for no money at all and treated no better than animals.

Unless Liverpool have radically changed their players' pay structure, I'm sure he isn't working for free and that he isn't being kept chained up when he's not playing. In fact, I'm sure he has quite an enviable life compared with many people in the world.

I used to like football a lot more than I do now and I think the reason I've gone off it is largely down attitudes like this from players who are so out of touch with real life that it is often offensive.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy St George's Day

Every year, there is an outcry of 'why isn't today a public holiday?' or 'why don't we celebrate our national saint's day like other countries do?'.

Whilst another day off wouldn't go amiss, the last two hours have convinced me why we don't celebrate it more. The pub next door to my office has had a brass band playing traditional English songs for what seems like an eternity.

The first tune, I thought 'how sweet' but twenty or so numbers later, they all sound the same and I want to bang my head against a wall. In fact, I'm not even sure whether the band are still playing outside or if they are just playing in my head. If this is the best celebration of our culture we can muster up, then I don't think we should bother.

(and who are these people drinking all day in the pub? They aren't tourists or students so how come they aren't at work?).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Living Normally

Truth be told, we are still feeling a little unsettled in our new place – it doesn’t feel quite like home yet. I think this is largely due to the lack of a sofa in the lounge (it is ordered but delivery date still unknown) which means we haven’t really been using the lounge. We are mainly sitting in the spare room, which is quite nice as it overlooks the garden, but it feels a bit strange. The original plan was to move the sofabed into the lounge was scuppered by our narrow hallway which restricts the free movement of the sofabed without dismantling it. We’ve also been going out a lot more than usual which I’m not complaining about as the OH used to be very difficult to move from the comfort of the home, but I have been worrying about not feeling more ‘at home’.

Last night we were out for my friend Colin W’s birthday drinks in Richmond, which was a good evening, spent mainly with people I used to work with at various times and who I feel very comfortable around. Anyway, we were talking to my friend Ruth about this unsettled feeling and she was telling us about her parents buying their first home and being too poor to buy furniture so they sat on crates for a while. She said the fact alone that it was ours should make it feel special and that we should have a house-warming pronto before the arrival of any more furniture. The thing with Ruth is that she talks ten to the dozen, but by cramming in lots of words, she manages to cover a lot of topics and with the law of averages means she does sometimes speaks a lot of sense.

Then coincidentally today on a browse around Urban Outfitters I came across this book ‘Living Normally’ which is described as an anti-style bible:

‘a refreshing reminder that a home should be a place to escape to; to feel happy in; and to live in. This affectionately photographed look at our everyday homes is a celebration of nice people, the modern family and our need to surround ourselves with memories and the curious ephemera of daily existence’.

I just had a quick look through it but it seemed lovely, a real refreshing change from pictures of minimalist over-stylised living. I think I'll go back and buy it soon as a reminder of what is actually important should I lose sight of it again.

Party Politics

I don’t have an answer to the Irish problem. I don’t particularly have any strong views on the situation one way or another except my rather hippy thoughts of ‘why can’t everyone just get along?’

However, today at work, I’ve had to contact the Sinn Fein!

I know they are a legitimate political party etc etc but the association with the IRA is still there in my mind and it felt rather risqué looking at their website.

I do worry from time to time that I might be on some sort of ‘list’ based on my internet usage, book buying habits (i.e. I’ve bought a couple of books by Mark Steele, the Motorcycle Diaries and various Spanish books off Amazon, which I’m sure now has me marked down as a wannabe revolutionary in South America!). Browsing the website of a controversial political party can’t be helping with this profile if someone out there is tracking my moves.

Anyway, I couldn’t find the information I was looking for on their website so I had to email them! Again with some trepidation. I’ve also emailed their big rivals the DUP as well as the Welsh National Party , Plaid Cymru too today, but so far the Sinn Fein are the only ones who’ve replied to me. They were very helpful so whatever else they may represent, I can’t fault their efficiency!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No Big Surprise

These little beauties from Topshop are in the sale.

However, what does surprise me as that they've only been reduced to £30 (from the original £50).

Even if they were giving them away, I could not be persuaded.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My day today...

has consisted of:

  • lots of curtains that are not long or wide enough
  • lots of people who can't fill in forms properly
  • the Data Protection Act
  • a big plate of salad
  • a little bit of sunshine

Last Supper

We’ve been watching a lot of Prison Break recently – in fact its pretty much the only thing I’ve watched since we moved. We are watching the first series on DVD rather obsessively, then the latest episode of the second series on the television every Monday. When this programme first came out, I scoffed its ludicrous storyline and didn’t watch it, but at the start of the second series, the OH had to write about it at work so he thought it would be a good idea to watch it rather than just relying on Wikipedia. And we’ve been hooked.

Don’t get me wrong, it is nonsense. Surely there must have been another way of breaking his brother out of prison other than having a cryptic encoded version of the prison’s layout tattooed over his (rather fine) body and then getting himself put in the same prison for armed robbery. But it is very watchable.

The other night his brother was facing the chair and was asked what he wanted for his final meal. He picked blueberry pancakes. I was rather disappointed it was just one course, as I’d always assumed you got a big slap up feast of three courses.

This is a favourite ice breaker/lull in the conversation topic of one of our friends – what would you pick for your final meal? I still don’t have a definitive answer after months of on & off thought:

Starter – French Onion Soup with the cheese covered bread crouton thing (if I’m allowed to be very specific, I would like it from Steph & Nic’s restaurant next to Madison Square Garden in New York!).

Main course – I really don’t know. I do love a curry but thinking practically, it wouldn’t go with my other two courses and it is quite filling. Perhaps something Mexican, something with a bit of chilli. This needs more thought.

Dessert – Summer Fruit Pudding with vanilla ice cream. No contest. Its not very healthy but at this stage, I don’t suppose calories matter.

What would you have? Most people surveyed by our friend would apparently have sausage & mash and apple pie.

Monday, April 16, 2007

La vida loca

Not how I would normally spend my time, but on Sunday evening we went to watch , El Superclásico, which you probably don’t know (I didn’t until yesterday) is the local derby game between two Buenos Aires football teams, Boca Juniors and River Plate.

Obviously, the OH will watch anything sport related but the reason I went along was because we were meeting up with Red Malc and his girlfriend Lara, who is from Argentina. It was a great night out – good company and one of those times that makes you glad you live in London. (I can’t imagine there being a very big Argentinean community in my hometown, where you are treated with suspicion if you come from the next town along).

The screening was in Zoo, a bar/club thing off Leicester Square, which isn’t the sort of place I’d normally frequent (they are the place offering the new style karaoke in front of live band). The atmosphere was brilliant – mainly people from Buenos Aires, with a few other South Americans and a few British people as well. There was lots of good natured singing of football songs which Lara kindly translated for me as my Spanish isn’t up to much.

At half-time there was a disco of Argentinean pop classics – a dubious selection the highlight of which was a reggae version of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. The DJ was apparently a member of Argentina’s mafia, known as the ‘El Gordo’ who as well as DJ-ing runs a market selling Argentinean produce, not usually available in the UK – bizarrely one of the best selling products is Hellman’s mayonnaise which people are convinced doesn’t taste the same here so there is a large market for importing it from Argentina!

Before last night, I had no allegiance to either side but since Lara is a Boca supporter, it seemed polite to cheer on her side who also seemed to have the most support in the room. Our friend Marc for some unknown reason decided he would support River Plate. Later, I asked Lara what dictated who you supported back in Buenos Aires – in her case it was because that was who her family had always supported, but generally Boca are the team of the poor, in Lara’s words ‘from south of the river, where it smells!’ whilst River Plate are the team of the rich. So I think I would have picked Boca too anyway.

The game got off to a very exciting start (although rather later than expected) with a goal in the first few minutes from Boca, but it ended 1-1. Whilst I won’t be hunting down every screening from their league, I will keep an eye on the progress of my new found team.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My new toy

I bought this last night at Ikea (in blue).

I'm very pleased with it. Sometimes little things make me disproportionately happy.
I have one hanging basket in the garden to water with it. I've remembered to water it every day so far but was using various cups and glasses until I bought this - I'm sure it will be even more of a pleasure now.
There are also several large pots in the garden which may or may not containing living plants - it remains to be seen - I give them an occassional water just in case. I'm not a natural gardener - I love flowers but am impatient and want instant results. I'm also a bit forgetful, which doesn't help. But I'm quite determined to make the most of our little outdoor space, so I may yet overcome these obstacles.
Any recommendations for things to grow that give quick results but don't die if you forget about them for a day or so would be much appreciated.

A Bridge Too Far

I'm scared of bridges.

Not all bridges - I'm fine on footbridges over water. The type of bridges I'm scared of are bridges where there are lanes of traffic running next to the pedestrian path or even worse, foot bridges over busy roads. Perhaps its traffic that I'm scared of, although I'm not that keen on bridges over railway lines either but I can just about manage those without vomiting.

In Prague, we went the wrong way back to our hotel one night and ended up walking along the side of a dual carriageway, right next to the traffic which also involved a bridge over yet more traffic. I was terrified. I didn't fair much better walking across Brooklyn Bridge. There is a lot of camera shake on my photographs - it doesn't look artistic, just a reminder of my horror.

Last night I went to Ikea. The quickest way to get there from the tube station involves firstly a bridge over a railway line (with traffic running alongside) and then crossing a bridge over umpteen lanes of rush hour traffic. I had to cross the railyway bridge - there wasn't much alternative. My palms were soaked by the time I got over it. I had every intention of facing my fear of the bridge over traffic but I was too shaken by the first bridge that I backed out. This added about another 15 minutes onto my journey time and I was very disappointed with myself.

A pedestrian bridge over a busy road just outside of my home town once collapsed - I don't think anyone was hurt but it has stayed with me so may be at the root of my fear. There were some lovely window boxes in Ikea that I didn't buy last night so I'll probably be going back there soon and perhaps next time I will manage to cross that bridge.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't Look Back

I keep receiving emails and letters from my old University reminding me about a 1990s reunion event which involves a campus tour and culminates in a disco. A thought crossed my mind about going, getting in touch with the one person from Uni that I’m still vaguely in contact with to see if she wants to go along. Of course, she won’t – she has a young daughter now – her days of university discos are long behind her and possibly something she is even in denial about now she’s a mother since hers were wilder than most.

Today’s email mentioned that there was an attendees list online so you could see which of your old friends were going. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked. Of course, there wasn’t a single name of the list I recognised. The sort of people I was friends with at university weren’t really the sort of people to go in for organised alumni events, just as they aren’t the sort of people to be on Friends Reunited, although I do still keep an eye on it to see if anyone interesting will pop up.

I know all this nostalgia isn’t healthy but I would like to know what became of people, how their lives worked out. I did bump into someone I knew from uni at the NFT about 18 months ago, which was a bit of a shock. Someone I had been pretty good friends with for a time and very briefly a little more than friends with. I didn’t recognise him and even when he said his name, it still took me a while to place him. It was actually a bit awkward, I blushed a lot and didn’t really know what to say, then our respective partners came back and we went our separate ways into the cinema.

If that was encounter was anything to go on, a big reunion event probably isn’t for me and no doubt would be full of people boasting about how wonderful their lives/families/careers are.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We're In!

So we've moved.

The actual move itself went briliantly, thanks to the lovely pair of removal men. I must admit, I had my doubts as to whether they were up to the job at first as they weren't exactly hulking specimens - one of them (Jari) wasn't much bigger than me, but thankfully he turned out to be a lot stronger. They were so friendly and helpful too.

The same could not be said of the man who came to clean the carpet in the old place (a term of the lease was that we had to have the carpets professionally cleaned before we left). He cancelled coming on Thursday and came on Friday instead and then had the nerve to moan that the carpet was dirty. Well, of course, it wasn't spotlessly clean, otherwise we wouldn't have hired a cleaner! Actually, it wasn't even that dirty - we had vacuumed the day before - but it isn't the newest carpet. It felt like a waste of money getting it cleaned but at least we did things properly so I'm optimistic we should get our deposit back.

The weekend was spent unpacking and arranging our things. It still feels a bit odd - we don't have a proper sofa yet so aren't really using the lounge much (we are sitting on the sofabed in the spare room which is quite nice as it overlooks the garden). It feels like we are on a strange sort of holiday but with our own furniture. This feeling was probably exaggerated by the glorious weather and the lack of internet access (although the phone works fine, there is a fault with the BT exchange so we can't get our broadband yet).

Being without the Internet is strange - until its gone, you don't realise how much you've come to depend on it. In a way I quite liked having a break from it, except when I turned up at the shopping centre on Sunday to discover everything was closed because I had no way of checking before I went out. I wasn't alone though - there were hundreds of zombie-like people wandering around the centre, not quite knowing what to do since the shops were shut and I thought about how much we are driven by unthinking consumerism. Not a pretty sight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Packing to go on holiday might be fun but there is no joy in packing to move.

Nearly all of our worldly good are now packed in boxes, bags and any other recepticles we could lay our hands on. There are just a few niggly little bits left that we need to use in the next 20 hours.
Just like the last time, we started well - months ago we sorted out books and videos. I thought we'd left ourselves plenty of time and that this time my packing would be super-effecient and organised, so that unpacking would be easy. But we ran out of time. All of our time and energy over the last three weekends has been spent on decorating the new place so packing has become a last-minute, cram things wherever they'll fit and hope for the best affair.
The old flat now looks like a warehouse. Its not pretty. I'm convinced the removal company either won't turn up or won't be able to fit it all in their van.
Tonight, amongst the boxes, we are having our final meal there - a takeaway from a restaurant that delivers its wood-fired oven pizzas to this postcode but not our new area.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Power of Freecycle

I mentioned Freecycle once before but today for the first time, I offered some things on it. And I've been blown away by the response.

As part of the Big Move, we are having a Fairly Big Clear-Out. The OH surprised me by suggesting we freecycled his acoustic guitar! I should point out, he can't play guitar, his ex bought it for him what most have been about 12 years ago and it has a string missing. It has been gathering dust in the corner of the lounge. He probably could have sold it but I think I may have sold him on the Freecycling idea. Within minutes, I'd had umpteen offers for it in my Inbox, which made me wonder if we might be unknowingly sitting on a valuable antique!

We've also found new homes (subject to collection) for our old microwave (OH's gran owned it before us), old scanner & printer and the coat stand (the hallway is too narrow in the new place for this).

I've really been amazed by it and highly recommend it if you have any old junk you want to get rid of. I'm now wondering if there is anything else I can get rid of...

Decorating Boot Camp

That is what our weekend has consisted of. Non-stop decorating under the sometimes harsh directions of the OH's father.

The lounge is finished now and the bedroom will be at the end of today (OH and his father are finishing it off this afternoon).

My arms ache from vigourous roller-ing. There is still an awful lot of packing to do before Thursday. Then we have to start the industrial levels of cleaning on this flat in an attempt to get back our deposit. This next week is not going to be much fun.