Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cultural Review of 2009

As in previous years, I present my highly subjective review of the year.

Film
I managed to see all of the films that were nominated for Best Film, Best Actor or Best Actress category at the Oscars, mainly at the beginning of the year. My favourites were Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire (although I still think Trainspotting is a way better film). I also loved Moon, which won an award for best British Independent Film (although the OH hated it) and Rudo y Cursi, possibly the best football film ever.

Music
I may have to retire the music category if my apathy towards new music continues. I did get out and see a couple of bands - Maximo Park and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were both fantastic and the support band at one of these gigs is my only new discovery of the year, Joe Gideon and the Shark. Rage Against the Machine being the Christmas Number One was probably my musical highlight of the year though.

Theatre
I achieved my aim of seeing at least one production for each month of the year, although amongst that list were some absolute stinkers. The highlights were seeing Sir Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot, the one-man show Stefan Golaszewski Plays and the very funny The Priory, but my favourite was Three Days of Rain with the wonderful James McAvoy.

Television
In the post-Wire era, any comments about television shows need to be preceded with the phrase "Its not as good as The Wire, but...". So with that disclaimer in place, I was impressed by In Treatment (although 5 episodes a week was a huge committment), Curb Your Enthusiasm was excellent and The Daily Show continued to inform and entertain. Embarrassingly, I became addicted to Come Dine with Me, but I'm hoping to ween myself off it. On DVD, we rediscovered NYPD Blue, which isn't as good as The Wire, but...

Books
I read over 100 books this year so its a wonder I found time to do anything else. The best were Tropical Fish: Tales of Entebbe by Doreen Baingana, Giraffe by J M Ledgard and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I also loved The Picture of Contented New Wealth by Tariq Goddard (I'm looking forward to his 5th book in 2010) and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which left me wondering why it had taken me so long to get around to reading it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Morph: Attempt 1

This is what Morph should look like




This is what my first attempt looks like:




Like Morph with leprosy.

Crafty Christmas

Amongst my Christmas presents this year were two craft type things, which I suspect may be aimed at children but are probably at the right level for my creative talent.

One was a Make Your Own Morph set. Morph is supplied in his raw form - a lump of plasticine - along with instructions turning it into the character. It all sounds simple but somehow I'm not sure it will be.

The other was a Pom Pom Owl kit, with wool to make two pom pom owls. Again, it should be child's play and again I'm certain I'll mess it up.

I will return to post the results when I'm done.

Belated Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to you all. Rather late as I've been in The North, away from computers for the past week.

Christmas was good - plenty of gifts, food and booze, but the best part was totally unrelated to the festive period. The parts of my visit I enjoyed were the walks on the beach with a small ageing, fluffy dog.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

I may be from the same town as the X Factor winner, but (part 2)

I will not be taking part in the karaoke at the office Christmas party on Monday.

I don't do singing. Even if I did do singing, it wouldn't be in front of my new colleagues, on a Monday lunchtime, stone cold sober. Equally, I'm not that keen on hearing my new colleagues sing on a Monday lunchtime stone cold sober.

I may be from the same town as the X Factor Winner, but (Part 1)

I won't be buying his single. Instead I will be putting my money (all 79p of it) behind Rage Against the Machine.

Certainly not to everyone's taste, I do actually like the Rage Against the Machine song, it reminds me of my youth. But even if you don't like it, I urge you to still buy it - you don't ever have to listen to it. Do something to stop the grip of the manufactured predictable pop machine of X Factor and their lazy complacency that they have the right to the top of the chart.

I have nothing against the show's winner, but I can't stand his so-called mentor Cheryl Cole, who perfectly typifies what is wrong with country, and is part of one of the most contemptible couples ever. She is someone who the nation has taken to its hearts based on her having nice hair (is it even real?) and what most people regard as a comedy regional accent. Another person encouraging young girls to believe it is more important to have lots of hair than a brain. She fell further in my already low estimation of her yesterday, when she compared the Rage Against the Machine campaign to bullying. It isn't bullying - it is nothing personal against the winner, who afterall could have been anyone - and that is hugely insulting to anyone who has suffered real bullying, which I'm certain never involved being stopped from having the Christmas Number 1.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lame Christmas Lights...

I was going to write a post about how lame Christmas decorations seem to be this year.
I was going to moan about the three pathetic light decorations on lamp posts in my neighboourhood

I was going to moan about the pretty but insubstantial tree lights in my nearest shopping area

I was going to moan about how ugly the lights are on Oxford Street this year

I was going too moan about the almost complete lack of lights in Covent Garden

I was going to speculate on whether these half-arsed efforts were due to spending cutbacks, a victim of "the current economic climate" or of environmental concerns.

But then I saw this which more than made up for the other poor shows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

First of the Season

I had my first mince pie of the year yesterday. They aren't my favourite Christmas food (that honour goes to Christmas Cake or possibly even the much maligned sprout), but somehow the mince pie signifies the start of the festive season most to my mind.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sinterklaas, the Black Petes and EuroPop

Last night I celebrated Sinterklaas for the first time. Sinter Klaas usually visits children at 2.30 and 7.30, but he arrived rather late in the pub, by which time the excitement had build up (and wine had been taken).

He was accompanied by the traditional Sinterklaas helpers, the Black Petes. The Black Petes however have been forced to change with the times, and had blue faces rather than black, as blue-ing up is not politically incorrect. They threw sweets and cinnamon biscuits into the crowds and a few lucky ladies were selected to receive gifts from Santa and answer whether they had been good all year, which was as seedy as it sounds.

Then the evening was rounded off with another thing the Dutch seem to love - bad EuroPop dance music including tinny techno-ish versions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Daydream Believer" and a few numbers in their native tongue.

Hope you all enjoyed Sinterklaas as much as I did.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Happy Sinterklaasavond

Or perhaps it is Merry Sinterklaasavond.

Either way, I shall find out tonight as I'm going to a Dutch pub with a Dutch friend to celebrate this Dutch tradition.

It involves gifts and poems. The gifts are bought, but the poems still need to be written...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

With a fringe on the top

My hair has always been more or less the same. I was born with full head of dark brown hair, and then any photographs of me, it is long, straight and brown. I must have had short hair at some point to go from the baby fluff to the long hair, but there is no documented evidence of this. For 30-odd years, I have had more or less the same hair style. The only major variation has been the issue of the fringe.

From the age of 3 to 16, I had a fringe. From ages 3 to 9 it was invariably a badly cut, wonky fringe, courtesy of my mother. Around the age of 10, hairdressers were obviously invented, and the fringe became straight. At 15, I wanted rid of the fringe. It seemed to take years to get rid of it properly and I spent much of the ages 16 to 18 hiding behind the awkward growing out stage.

I lived happily without fringe for probably over a decade, when somehow a hairdresser persuaded me to let it back into my life. The last few years have seen me swing from fringe to not fringe. and most recently being in the no man's land of the "sweeping side fringe". When I'm without a fringe, I admire the sharp, 60s style fringes of others, and imagine a fringe for myself like this:


With this thought in mind, I allowed the return of the fringe on Saturday. The elfin hairdresser seemed to greet the idea of the fringe with enthusiasm - I think she was more bored with the sweeping side fringe than I was. When it was cut, she proudly announced "It's back!". I was less keen. Now I am with fringe again, I'm looking enviously at those with cascading fringe-less hair and when I think of fringes and look in the mirror, this image comes to mind.




Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Week , Bad Week

On Sunnday the washing machine broke.



On Monday there was a leak coming from upstairs. The tenants don't care. The landlord won't answer her phone to me, following the last time when they flooded our place and she claimed it was nothing to do with her. We have turned the water supply off. 3 days without water hasn't bothered the tenants - we have been showering in the morning while they are still asleep.



On Tuesday my colleague bought me a plant to cheer me up. I was so touched I almost cried



On Wednesday, I won £10 on the lottery and laughed a lot at a play at the Royal Court Theatre



On Thursday, I attended my first AGM at the new job and I was personally thanked for something during the Chair's speech.




On Friday, the washing machine was fixed. I spoke to the insurance company, their legal assistance department, the Environmental Health department of the Council and the water company about the leaking from upstairs. Whilst the landlord is legally responsible for it, it could months of us taking them to court to force them to have the problem fixed. In the meantime, I have been advised to "take down the ceiling" ourselves to stop it collapsing and that I could be prosecuted for depriving the upstairs flat of water even though we have tried every means to contact the tenants and the landlord.

On balance an awful awful week with no signs of anything getting any better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

B is for Bicycle

I haven't been on a bike since I was fifteen (I've mentioned this before) but I'm increasingly drawn to bicycles. I found myself enjoying the Tour de France this year (mainly because of Bradley Wiggins) and aesthetically I find bicycles very pleasing. I think it might be the spokes.




After laudrettes (again I've mentioned this before), bicycles are my second favourite thing to photograph.


And bicycles feature on so many pretty things:
Bowls, cups and other colourful ceramcis from Circa Ceramics


Silk cushions by Ferm Living

and the B mug in the Urban Alphabet range by Big Tomato Company.


A project associated with my work fixes bicycles and the other day I found myself casually asking how much they sold the refurbished bikes for. Perhaps my days as a non-cycler won't last much longer.





Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

I have just spent the most enjoyable Sunday in a long time. We went to the Discover Dogs exhibition at Earls Court. It was superb.


200 breeds of dogs, from the slobering massive Mastiffs to the tiny Chihuahuas. Tibetian Terriers are probably still my favourites, although I had my head turned by some adorable Havanese, enjoyed stroking a candy floss like Bichon Frise and was nuzzled by a very friendly Bearded Collie by the name of Riley. The OH was rather smitten with the Glen of Imaal Terriers, who he said he would name Glen or Lamal.
We watched a round of the agility competition but had to exit the arena in a hurry in avoid seeing Mary Ray performing heel to music to the Riverdance.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

What I Learnt This Week

Where unbranded biscuits are concerned, custard cream are a safer option than chocolate digestives.

This Consumer Life

As posts where people list the things they've purchased recently seem to be pretty popular on other blogs, I thought I would do my own version.


Atomic Magazine Rack
A cheap and cheerful rip-off of a classic 1950s design. Technically I don't need another magazine rack - I don't even read many magazines other than Sunday supplements - but you can never have too many storage solutions.






Cashmere Mix Jumper Dress
I had an images in my head for weeks of the perfect jumper dress. It was to be of a length that that was short enough to possibly look like I'd insouciantly just thrown on a jumper over my tights, but long enough to be decent. It was ideally going to be grey, but although this dress also came in two shades of grey, neither was quite right. so, as so often in the past, I bought the black.







Laundry Bin
Shopping for laundry bins is not interesting. I wished I could have been buying anything else and very nearly got sidetracked by a bread bin instead, but in the end I came home with this, which was the least dull option.





Leather Satchel
This was featured at full price in the Sunday Times style magazine, where it seemed a bargain. But I got it for half price. It is very practical with useful pockets. I've owned it a week and I've not misplaced my keys, travelcard or phone once.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Music to Iron To

i decided that if I was going to iron for the week ahead, that it pass quicker if I had music on while I did it. The ipod was set to random and off I went. Whilst it did make the task almost enjoyable, it did slow things down as I spent half of the time time skipping tracks as I discovered that certain songs just cannot be ironed to. No matter how much I love "Thirteen" by Big Star, it just doesn't encourge the smoothing rhythm necessary to leave a shirt crinkle-free.

Here are the songs that gave the best de-creasing results:

Dancing in the Street by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
Vicar in a Tutu by The Smiths
Jump into the Fire by Harry Nilsson
Liar, Liar by The Castaways
Radio Free Europe by REM
Just Keep Walking by INXS
Paris is Burning by Ladyhawke

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Morbid Curiosity

I shouldn't have watched it. Complaining about it now, I realise that the simple solution would have been to not watch it. I may be turning into my Auntie Dorothy who used to purposefully watch programmes she would find offensive so she could complin.

And so long as people like me are willing to watch these things, so they will continue to exist. We have stooped to a new low and I am partly responsible because I watched some of it.

I'm referring to the Michael Jackson Seance.

Why did I watch (some of) it? The OH was out for the evening, to watch boxing, which in retrospect I may have enjoyed more as unlikely as it may be. So I drifted to watching rubbish on television and after two old episodes of "What Not to Wear", I watching this rubbish.

I was not a huge Michael Jackson fan (I'm writing this extremely cautiously as the last time I wrote about him, elsewhere, I was attacked by legions of fans). He was talented. The Jackson 5 were great. I liked a lot of his early stuff, although its not really my cup of tea. Equally, I don't usually watch these television ghost hunt type programmes. I don't think I believe in ghosts, but I am not certain. What I am certain of is that if they do exist, they are not communicating with this world through Derek Acorah.

The seance was a combination of exploitation and bandwagon jumping, never a good mix. It involved a known fraud, some emotionally vulnerable people and a couple of celebrities who would do anything to appear on television more. The programme started badly with David Guest complimenting June Sarpong on her beautiful lips and white teeth, and it went downhill from there.

The seance participants were four Jackson superfans. At least two of them seemed disturbed before it started and were sobbing uncontrollably once things got going (FACT: no matter how much you like someone's music and feel it is talking to you and you feel you know him through his lyrics and think he is a good person because of the things you know about him, you did not know this person - they were not actually your friend or your family, and if their death affects you as if they were, then things have got out of control). Even Sarpong seemed troubled when one of them brokedown when in "communicating" with his idol. I turned it off before the other two received their messages. I never did find out if Jackson's hat flew around the room as a finale.

Why couldn't there have been a cynic thrown into it? Or someone who believes in the paranormal but without the attachment to Jackson? And the introduction stated that they would not be getting into the legal area of who did what on the night he died. How could they know that? Ok so Acorah might not ask those questions, but how could he control what Jackson wanted to talk about? He might have been angry and want to point the finger at the guilty parties? But happily for Sky's legal department, he was compliant and didn't stray into slanderous territory.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Overheard Conversions No. 8

Shopping in Habitat, a very very posh couple were conversing with each other across the shop, shouting "Darling" before each product analysis, which included this from the man:

"Darling. Look at this. A decanter dryer. What stage do you need to have reached in life where you need a special device to dry your decanters?"

I'm not sure myself, but clearly neither myself and the other half, nor the Darlings have reached this stage as they left empty-handed and we bought a linen bin.

If you have reached that stage in life (I suspect I never will), then Habitat in the Westfield Centre has plenty of Decanter Dryers in stock.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fish Wife

On a temporary basis, we have a third person sharing our office. For reasons that are too complicated/sensitive/dull/ridiculous to go into here, she is not allowed to do any work at the moment, but is still expected to come into the office each day. To fill her time, she talks a lot about not much and seems to be on an endless cycle of reapplying her lipstick, handcream and perfume. The frequent sprays of the latter in a small windowless room has left me with stinging red eyes, but I haven't said anything because since she is only there short-term I didn't see the point in offending her and I reasoned that there were worse smells than an over-powering headache inducing perfume. Today I was reminded of one.

This morning I saw a pack of smoked salmon on her desk. "Shouldn't that be in the fridge" I thought to myself on my way out of the office. Minutes later on my way back in, I saw the salmon was open and she was snacking on stripes of it.

It wasn't even 11am. Surely there are better things for a mid morning snack than fish? I'm biased because I don't like any fish or seafood, but I understand that others may enjoy it for lunch or as a meal. But surely not as a snack? Its like sharing an office with a seal.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Bad Manners

Years ago I lived with a German woman who found it confusing that we British were always saying sorry. For example if someone ask us directions and we don't know, we say "I'm sorry, I don't know" and she would say "Why are you sorry? Its not your fault or your problem".

I was dashing from the train to the bus, when a boy who could have been no more than 14 asked me if I had a light. As a) I didn't have a light b) even if I did, I wouldn't have given it to someone underage, and c) I was rushing for a bus, I merely said "no". To which the lad replied "You should say 'Sorry no' not just no".

The cheek! I could begin to see that my old flatmate had a point.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quite Evil?

I know I wasn't going to say too much about the new job (hence the prolonged silence) but this has been bugging me for a week now.



A group of us from work were having a coffee and somehow the conversation turned to friends we'd lost touch with and one woman came out with a tale that has shocked me.



She mentioned how she was back in touch with a friend she had fallen out with years ago and then went on to casually reveal the circumstances. The friend lives abroad, has never lived in the UK, but has a property here, so when she was diagnosed with cancer, a loophole allowed her to have treatment here, even though she had never lived permanently or paid taxes here. The woman from work revaled that she called the friend "an NHS tourist", and then reported her to the media, appearing herself in a television document about the loophole. She then said to us that the friend refused to appear in the documentary, which she sounded surprised at.

She finished this charming anecdote with the phrase "Oh yes, I can be quite evil".

Now I agree that is unfair and even immoral that this person came here for treatment when they could afford to pay for it elsewhere, but in reality, faced with a friend who could be dying, whose first thoughts are whether they should entitled to the live-saving treatment?

I'm keeping my distance from this woman, as if this is any sign of how she treats her friends, I hate to think what she would do to someone else.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A beginners guide to train travel

Your seat reservation is only valid on the train you are booked on.
For example, if you have booked to travel on the 7am train, you are not entitled to that same seat on the 8am train. Equally if you get on the train a day late, "your" seat is likely to be taken by someone else.

This may seem obvious, but it clearly isn't to everyone as for the second time in a row, on my journey north someone told me categorically without any trace of doubt that I was in their seat, only for it to turn out that they should have travelled on a train on a different day or time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

War on Font

I realise there are plenty of more important things to be upset by, but over the last few weeks I've become increasingly annoyed, to the point of hatred, with the font Comic Sans.

I was determined not to gripe too much about my new job, but I seem to have landed in a company obsessed by this font. It is used unsparingly on posters, leaflets and websites. I'm going to make it my mission to eradicate it. But they aren't alone - it crops up everywhere, although thankfully Blogger doesn't offer it as an option.

I can only assume my company uses it because they think it suggests a fun, friendly and quirky nature. Let me disabuse them of those notions right now.

Do we really want to appear fun? I think not. How about ridding ourselves of the public-sector jargon-speak first?

Friendly? Certainly, but accessible is part of friendly, and the dreaded front isn't actually that easy to read, online or off.

Quirky? Again, we are hardly a quirky organisation, but Comic Sans is so ubiquitous, you distinguish yourself more by not using it. I understand we don't want to look too corporate, but there is a middle ground between that and looking like amateurs.

Personally, I'm rather a Tahoma kind of girl. Clear, easy to read, the thinking person's Arial.

And while I'm on, I'll be removing all of those exclamation marks too. We are not an over-excitable teenager on text.

Hard Day at the Track


Coming out of my work-based bubble, I'm slowly re-emerging in the real world and socialising again.

This weekend it included a day at the races as a guest of the Queen.

Indirectly.

The girlfried of a friend is PA to someone or other at Buckingham Palace and she was offered tickets for Ascot through her work. I went because it was a day out, a chance to dress up and most importantly, it was free.

The Premier Enclosure was rather disappointing - nowhere near as exclusive as I had hoped - in fact more people seemed to have the special pink badges than didn't. And more than a few people flauted the dresscode - there was many a man in a pink shirt sans tie.

I had what is termed a small flutter on the races. I know next to nothing about horse racing, odds or gambling, but you have to indulge a little I feel. Of the seven races, I gambled on just three, using equally unscientific methods in choosing my horse each time.

In the first race, I went with number 3 as number 3 has always been my lucky number, although I've never lucky and have no idea where the notiion came from that this was my lucky number. It failed to place.

In another race, I backed "Roker Park" drawn to the name as it was the name of Sunderland football team's old ground. Not that I'm a diehard football fan - I'm rather a typical fair weather supporter and supporting Sunderland an accident of birth rather than any great loyalty to them. In typical Sunderland fashion, the horse ran an unspectualar race, finishing second last.

But I did have a win. Ever cautious, I placed the minimum each way bet on a horse called Joshua Tree. I was thinking about Gram Parsons, rather than U2. It came from behind to win, and I went home £48 richer. Not enough to change my life, but it covered the cost of Pimms and the train ticket there and then some.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The View from the no. 42*

Weeks of my life have been consumed with buses. When I wasn't on a bus, I was waiting for a bus, running for a bus or changing buses.

The journey to work was generally fine, although my main bus seems prone to breakdowns - in the space of a week, I was on a bus that broke down, then I was the bus following a bus that broke down that had to pick up the stray passengers.

The bus journey can be rather pleasant on a morning. Apparently it takes you right past Tommy Steele's house, except I'm not entirely sure which one it is. There are some beautiful properties along the route, although their appeal is somewhat marred when you think about how many people must gawp into their gardens each day from the top deck of the bus.

The return journey however is a more stressful affair as no bus seems to travel without a handful of teenagers discussing how much alcohol they've recently drank. The young people of my new worktown are an interesting breed - the girls are like a race of superbeings, none of them over a size 6 or under 5ft10, all with waist-length toussled hair. None of the adults look like this so presumably they all either leave the town at 20 or decline dramatically (perhaps as a result of all that vodka drinking).

Anyway I was tired of the traffic and teenagers, so I've made a change to avoid the bus. I've not moved house or quit the job (although both thoughts have occurred to me). No, I've taken the rather less radical step of being a travelcard that allows me to take the train home (or more accurately two trains and a bus, as opposed to the two buses). My quality of life has improved although I'm sticking with the morning buses.


*the number of the bus has been changed to protect the innocent

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Harvest

I'm still someway off "The Good Life" style self-sufficiency (and being Felicity Kendall, much to the OH's disappointment), but I've had some success in the garden this year.

I planted some radish seeds and so far I've harvested 6 of them, but there are more still growing. I'm rather proud of this achievement.

Although I'm not that keen on radishes and there isn't much you can actually do with them, besides put them in a salad. If anyone has any radish recipes, please do let me know...

The next door neighbours apple tree continues to shed its fruit into our garden, most of them falling and rotting before we can do anything with them. But at the weekend, I plucked some from the tree and made an apple cake. It has turned out well but obviously we can't eat a cake every week, so again if anyone has any healthy recipes for cooking apples, please do post.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Changes

Whereas before I took a train then a tube to work, now I take the bus. Two buses in fact.

This is just one of the changes involved in the change of jobs.

Where I was in the arts before, I'm now in the Voluntary & Community Sector.
Where I worked in central London before, I'm now on the outskirts
Where my job had a UK-wide remit before, I'm now working at a local level in one borough
Where I worked 10 to 6, I now work 9 to 5

Its a lot of change. I'm still exhausted by it all. I'm still not sure what to make of it.

On the plus side, I have a new health club and whilst I am missing my outdoor swimming, this place is clean and quiet.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Proper Grown-Up Job

I start the new job tomorrow and to say I'm nervous would be an understatement. This is a Proper Grown-Up Job. A job with a 50 page business plan with "outcomes" and "deliverables" for the next 3 years with my job title next to them. I have targets I'm expected to achieve and I'm trying not to freak out about something I have to do in 2011.

Its a whole new sector, in a new location and in an office where I'm don't know where the kettle is located. In fact, I don't even know if they have a kettle.

But there may not be time for tea with all those deliverables to be delivered.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm not a technophobe but...

Mobile phones are a necessary evil of the modern world, but frankly they bore me. And nothing marks someone out as inane so much as endless obsessing and talking about new phones.

Now I've realised why this is.

Changing mobile phones is time-consuming. Doing it regularly probably doesn't leave you with much time for outside interests.

My old phone had become increasingly random, which was bad since it was always temperamental. So I took the free upgrade. Its a good thing I have a week off work as there is no way I could fit this around a full time job.

Waiting in all day for the phone to be delivered.
The endless switching, removing and inserting of Sim cards
The hours of charging
Phoning to register the phone.
Not completing the call because it turns out I need to do something else with the Sim card first.
More struggling with the Sim and the battery

I'm surrounded by pieces of phone, old and new, packaging, accessories and instructions that don't quite explain things fully enough.

And that is before I've even attempted to use the new phone, which has more functions than my computer. All I want from it are the basic phone calls and texts, for them to work overseas and for the battery not to need charging constantly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Exit Stage Left

I no longer work in the theatre industry. I imagined telling the company where they could stick their job, making a speech to set the record straight and dancing gleefully out of the office. But of course I didn't do any of that. I worked my notice as diligently as ever, mumbled my thanks at my leaving do and left quietly, still with some feelings of doubt and regret.

I'll miss a handful of people in the office and several more across the industry, plus a few other things that made the days bearable.

I'll miss the outdoor swimming, and despite the rocky start, I'll miss the "Bums, Tums and Thighs" class (I had farewell more teary with the instructor than with any of my colleagues).

I'll miss the smiling man who hands me the London Paper every night and the woman who sells the Big Issue.

I'll miss lunches from Food for Thought. I'll miss the shops, although my savings plan won't. I'll miss the journey to work that I can do without even thinking.

But I won't miss the job and I won't miss the department. And perhaps I will be able to re-enter somewhere down the line.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Overheard Conversations No. 7

On the train, a Canadian mother is talking to her young daughter, aged around 4, who is swirming about in her seat.

Mother: Sally, protect your underwear! That's the responsiblity you take on when you choose to wear a dress.

Sound advice there, that many young celebrities would do well to observe.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Replacements

The advert has been placed to find my replacement and the applications are rolling in. Its not looking good. I don't think I'm irreplaceable. Far from it, I think my job could be done by a trained monkey, so long as that monkey was trained in databases, web editing and desktop publishing. Its just the quality of applications so far has been poor.


Shrewdly, my manager has asked for applications the old fashioned way, a CV and letter by post and the majority of applicants have fallen at this first hurdle by emailing their application, thus proving they are unable to follow simple instructions.


And it seems that the young generation can't write covering letters anymore. "Here is my CV" alone on a page is not a covering letter. At the other end of the spectrum, a rambling three page missive about what you did at university with no reference to the job offered, isn't the way to write a letter either. You don't start a business letter "Hello". And a letter starting "You must be sick of reading these letters by now" may make yours stand out from the crowd, but in the wrong way.


Then there are those who don't actually want the job, but are unemployed and have to prove they are looking for work. So we receive a CV that has been photocopied badly folded twenty times to fit in a miniscule envelope , accompanied by an unreadable handwritten letter - all of which reaks of smoke. Anyone familiar with Trainspotting will recognise this as the Spud school of job applications.


Some have written acceptable letters, but they've talked up their experience - when you read the CV "extensive" turns out to mean three months in one job. And where has this trend for quoting a colleague or former employer at the top of the CV come from? This has passed me by but I don't like it. One quoted a former colleague saying she was "a problem-solver" but on further investigation the company is something she started herself after college so the "colleague" was more than likely her best friend. Another gave pride of place to a quotation from a publisher saying she "was very naughty for leaving" that company.


There was also one from a recent graduate who admitted they didn't have the experience we are looking for, but was willing to work for £4k less than the starting salary "subject to a review after 3 months". I'm sure they would be willing to work for that - for someone with no experience of anything, that would be a pretty good starting salary in most industries and very well paid in the arts.


My favourite so far has been the one that began "I am ideal for this position. I am currently manager of a massage parlour" and then lists their duties in the parlour, starting with "operating the massage machines". I've been in this job nearly five years and have so far haven't seen the connection with massage.

Shortlisting will be difficult. Not because of the usual spiel about receiving over 100 applications it was a tough decision. It will be hard to find six decent candidates to pick from.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

You don't see that every day

A woman in her 70s, wearing blue nail varnish on her toenails.

It matched her raincoat.

Life and Death in the Media Age

I experienced something new last night - sitting in a pub watching a televised funeral. I didn't set out to watch it in the pub - the trains home had all been cancelled due to the storms so we decided to wait it out in a nearby pub. The pub, where we've frequently watched football and cricket, was showing the memorial.

It was bizarre, but then the whole thing has been bizarre.


The memorial was, I suppose, a fitting tribute. The music was good, the rest I'm not so sure about. A celebration of his talent would have been good without the coffin being on stage.

It felt disrespectful somehow to be ordering a round of drinks while Brooke Shields was talking, although I did it anyway. In a hushed sombre tone.

Paul Gambaccini was commentating on the show and he made the most memorable comment on the star's death. Asked if in years to come, his legacy would be the music or the controversy, he replied that it would be the music "because anyone can own a llama". Having a pet llama wasn't the scandal that first comes to my mind, that is still in acceptable levels of eccentricity as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Micro-Climate

I live in a modest abode, not a vast estate. So it was rather strange on Saturday to find that it was raining in the back garden, but not in the front.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Boss Time

It was hard to ignore Michael Jackson at the weekend, whether it was the OH's obsessive news watching and "Earth Song" singing and the sound of his greatest hits coming from every car stereo. But despite this, the soundtrack to my weekend was not Michael Jackson, but Bruce Springsteen.

We were at a party on Saturday, which as a sign of our age began with watching Andy Murray at Wimbledon and ended with watching Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury. Some wine was drunk in between.

Bruce was great. I've always liked him and used to make my mother play his albums constantly on any car journeys when I was a teenager. But with the Glastonbury performance, he convinced even people who had never been interested in him. He has some great songs, and he (and the band) put in so much effort to their performances still. Tom Jones should take note - he put so little effort into his Glastonbury show that he was still unruffled without a hair or touch of makeup out of place at the end.

He clearly loves performing, realises he has the greatest job in the world and enjoys it. Something many stars could learn from...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tough & Corny

Putting my worries aside for an evening, I went to the cinema to see Rudo y Cursi, the new film starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of my all time favourite films, and this film was pretty much a "Who's who" of Mexican cinema.

The film was fantastic, soothing my worry that I'd gone off cinema. It was sort of about football, but you didn't have to be a football fan to enjoy it as you only saw the games through people's reactions to it.

The screening was a special event with the stars, director and producer in attendence. I'll admit that was one reason for me wanting to go - I do find Gael Garcia Bernal very attractive (despite his shortness). The discussion after the film was the usual thing - the panel were great, but were let down by the audience's contribution - mainly inane comments or nitpicking criticism that missed the point. But the stars made it a special event. They were witty and engaging, with way more charisma then you usually see on today's stars. Of course, there is no reason why they shouldn't be - young, good-looking, and talented. And perhaps that is the nub of it, most stars today aren't that talented and even less of them could be described as talented.



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Carnival!

I stepped out of my door, with the intention of taking the bus to the library, when I became aware of the sound of a marching band. There was no traffic in the direction I was going and then I noticed that people were standing in their gardens, on their doorsteps and on the curb.


A sign of the times, I wondered whether it might be a parade by an extremist group, but it turned out to be the local carnival. I had no idea it was happening but clearly it was a very big deal for other locals. Besides the crowds lining the street, which increased as I walked down the road, some shops had even closed for the day, with signs in their windows saying "See you at the Carnival".

So I slowed down and lingered a while to see the parade. As parades go, it wasn't really that impressive, but the fact that I saw some semblance of community for the first time seemed more important.

Having seen the entire parade pass by (a marching band, a beauty queen, one small float, a group with decorated umbrellas, some army cadets and their tank and some drummers), I decided to continue my journey to the library but as the traffic was being held someway back, I thought it best to walk. This meant that for a good ten minutes, until our routes diverged, I looked as if I was joining with the parade!


All in all, it was a cheery little event, but without the more colourful elements of the parade around it, the sight of the minature army and tank going down the high street might have been a bit troubling.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Escape from The Rut

I've been in The Rut for a long time. I've been bored and unchallenged, my mind was rotting. I filled up my time with "projects" to distract me, so I wouldn't dwell on The Rut too much. I'd made The Rut quite comfortable, made the best of it.

Then this week, I seem to have found a way out of The Rut. A new opportunity. A proper step in the right direction. Something challenging but perfectly possible.

I'm going to do it. I'm going to leave The Rut behind. But why don't I feel happier about it? Its the little things that make The Rut bearable that I'm worried about leaving behind. And that,strangely enough, I worked so hard to get into The Rut in the first place, that it feels like quitting to leave it behind.

Still it is all "subject to references" which is quite a bit thing when one of the problems with The Rut other people taking credit for things you've done. So I may not quite be out of The Rut yet.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Film Recommendations Wanted

So we've got the Love Film service and we received DVDs through the post. But the problem recently is that I haven't been enjoying many of them.

Here is a quick sample of recent picks:

Hannah Takes the Stairs - an American indie film in the little known genre called "Mumblecore". The sound is poorly mixed and the characters witter on about their nothing lives. I turned it off.

Somers Town - I've enjoyed Shane Meadows other films, but didn't warm to this one, perhaps because I knew it had started life as an advert for the Eurostar.

Blame It on Fidel - A French child suffers when her parents become revolutionaries. I found it hard to care.

The Baader Meinhof Complex - The Baader Meinhof gang are a minor obsession of mine, but this made a very interesting period incredibly dull.

Righous Kill - It should have been a warning sign that it was a film starring De Niro and Pacino that I'd never even heard of. Less than the sum of its parts.


There have been two that I have enjoyed

Mad Detective - very interesting film from Hong Kong about an ex-detective with mental powers that are great for detection but not for his own sanity. Like nothing else I've ever seen.

Six Shooter - a short film by Martin McDonaugh. Very funny in an odd, disturbing way.


So I'm looking for some recommendations. What have you seen that you've loved? I will watch pretty much anything, except chick flicks. It doesn't have to be new even.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Overheard Conversations No. 6

On the train, a group of men in their late twenties get on at the stop after mine and sit by me. From their conversation, I gather that they are all members of a swimming club that meets at my local pool, which isn't the one I use and I'm rather relieve now I don't.

Man 1: You should get John to join
Man 2: He doesn't like swimming. I don't know why. Actually I do know why. He told me why.
Man 1: Why?
Man 2: He finds it boring, just swimmig up and down.
Man 1; But its not boring. It is like flying, soaring in the air. Its a beautiful feeling
Man 2: And you can see up people's crotches

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The system

Why does travelling by the London transport system always feel like such a battle? Surely a transport system is supposed to ease your passage through the city, making things easier. But not in London. Every day it feels like the system has to be outwitted, and it becomes a battle of wills, you versus the system. You feel a sense of achievement if you manage to get somewhere without too much of a problem. But if you beat the system on your outbound journey, it will punish you on your return.

And this is when "a good service is operating on all London underground lines". And for this they want a payrise, they feel they deserve more than the £50K most tube drivers earn?

I managed to navigate my way to and from work yesterday, only adding three hours onto my day. Today, I fear the system will take its revenge.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Back in Black

Having made a real effort in recent years to not give in to my natural inclination to always wear black, I now find myself with a job that actually requires it.

I have a new job. Sort of.

I still have the old job, but I now have a new voluntary job as well (plus the bits of freelance stuff too - I'm not very good at doing nothing). As of the weekend, I have joined the 500 volunteer stewards at Shakespeare's Globe. It involves showing people to their seats, herding the crowds in the event of a fire and selling programmes, cushions, blankets and rain ponchos. And it requires me to wear black, which I now find that I have a lot less of in my wardrobe than I thought.

So far (after just two shifts), I really like it and am looking forward to going back next weekend. The thing with voluntary work is it is always much better than actual work, apart from the bit about not being paid.

Friday, May 15, 2009

That passed the time

VLADIMIR: That passed the time.
ESTRAGON: It would have passed in any case.
VLADIMIR: Yes, but not so rapidly.

A busy week with three nights out in a row, culminating in seeing “Waiting for Godot” at the theatre.

When I booked the tickets I was under the impression that I loved “Waiting for Godot”. What is actually true is that my 17 year old self loved “Waiting for Godot”, but experience has taught me that my 17 year old self can’t be trusted. My 17 year old self also loved “On the Road”, The Doors and someone called Dave who worked in a shoe shop.

The acting was great and I’m glad I’ve seen Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stuart on stage, but I was tired and wanted to go home. The glasses of wine I’d had at an event prior to the going to the theatre probably didn’t help (“You can’t go to see “Waiting for Godot” drunk, I’d explained to a colleague early in the week, winning the award for possibly the most pretentious thing uttered this week). But I think I enjoyed it more than the Australian I overheard on the way out saying “I would have just hung myself”.

On the way home I was thinking about great pairings who could play the lead roles and suddenly the best possible cast occured to me: Statler and Wardolf from the Muppets. I'm surprised it hasn't already been done, although a quick search did show up that Sesame Street did its own version called "Waiting for Elmo".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mad about Mad Men

Sadly it was the last episode of the second series of Mad Men. Slowly, without me at first realising it, I have fallen in love with this programme.
Not much happens, things just simmer and bubble beneath the beautiful surface. Although actually more did happen in the second series, nothing at all happened in the first.
I was always going to watch a programme set in the 1960s, and the period detail here didn't disappoint. It wasn't a cheap nostalgia, played for laughs like the Seventies details in Life on Mars. The sets are gorgeous. Pete Campbell may be an undiagnosed sociopath, but I want his apartment!
And the fashions. It is set in the early 60s, before it had really become "The Sixties" as we know think of them, so the clothes are more fifties style with full skirts and figure skimming knee length dresses. This is a time before the mini and before casual. Nobody wear jeans. Everyone is dressed up all of the time. Even to having a breakdown, Betty Draper looks wonderful.
Then there is Joan. The OH nearly falls of sofa every time she comes on the screen. Even I feel compelled to say "Wow" at her curves. Magazine articles are proclaiming the comeback of curves because of her. One article rather pettily pointed out that the actress Christina Hendricks just looked like any other big girl in her jeans and t-shirt in real-life. I find this hard to believe but what does it matter - why on earth would you wear jeans if you look this good in a dress? I'd do the gardening in a dress if I looked like that.

I've noticed some Mad Men Secretary style dresses appearing the shops too, and as I need something smarter than my usual attire for some upcoming work events, I tried some on. Having spent the last few years not being thin enough when waif-like or adrogenous figures were required, I now find that when curves are in, I'm not curvy enough.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nobody panic, Everybody panic

A week ago we were all going about our business, minding our own business, worrying about the economy. Nobody had heard of swine flu. Then suddenly we are expected to worry about it.

I was sceptical, put it down to another round of scaremongering that would amount to nothing much. Frankly I was too busy to be worried. I had other things on my mind (getting some shoes reheeled, finding a savings account with a decent rate of interest, that sort of thing).

Then tonight I read the story in the free newspapers that experts are warning to be prepared for 94,000 people in London to die. That is large number, but more than that it is a precise number. How do they know it will be 94,000, not 93,000 or 95,000? And apparently my borough will be the worst affected. Again, how do they know? Do they already have the names and addresses of the unfortunate ones? What makes this borough more susceptible to it? Should I consider moving?

Best case scenario, the best we can hope for is 7000 deaths. 7000 deaths doesn't seem like something you would hope for.

Is it time to panic?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You Look Just Like...

A conversation with my mother revealed that in her youth, someone said she looked like Gina Lollobrigida. Which set me thinking about how I have been told I look like.










I have been compared to the following people:

The Corrs (exact Corr not specified)
Happy with that so long as its not the male one.












Danni Minogue (circa Home and Away)
Didn't mind this. (It is very hard to find a photo of her pre-whatever it is she has had done to herself in recent years)








Katie Corkhill from Brookside
Less pleased with this one.








Sophie Ellis Bextor
Confused by this one.







A Gelfling from The Dark Crystal
This was meant as an insult I think.












Dec from Ant and Dec
The smaller one if you don't know - there are no photos of him on his own! Perhaps not as insulted by this as I should be. My friend who fancied him and had a photo of him next to her bed was more disturbed by it than me.








Rodney Bewes from The Likely Lads
This is the worst. I wouldn't have minded so much if they had said James Bolam, at least he was the cool one.








Suffice to say I don't think I look like any of them.
Who have you been told you look like?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The St George's Day Question

Part of me thinks it is a shame that we can't celebrate our national saint's day and that patriotism is associated with racism. But then I see people actually celebrating being English, I think that St George's Day is probably best ignored.



Once more the pub next door to work was flying the flag of Englishness. The bunting was being hung when I arrived this morning, and predictably at lunchtime, the band followed, subjecting us to an afternoon of songs that haven't been popular since the 1940s. A quaint, and mostly harmless notion of Englishness, although I got the impression that they were mourning the loss of the colonies and still celebrating defeating the Germans.

But this was better than what followed.

Late afternoon, the Enger-Land crowds turned up, with the Vera Lynn songs replaced by inane chants of "Enger-Land" and "I'm England til I die". In my five minute walk from the office, I was three times accosted by men drapped in St George's Crosses, starting with the innocous "Allo Treacle", progressing to the offer of "would you like to be wrapped in this flag with me, darling".

If this is what it means to be English, next time I'm accused of being Norwegian, Irish or Polish (all of which have happened), I won't contradict it.

I then passed a woman, clearly English from her accent, who looking at all of the people in flags, said to her friend, "There must be a football match on", obviously unaware that it was an important national day. There is lies the problem. There needs to be a way of celebrating St George's day for the rest of us majority who fall outside of the nostalgic and moronic.

BT&T

Once more I am attempting to broaden my exercise regime. Once more I'm remembering why I usually just swim.


Yesterday was the turn of "Bums, Tums & Thighs". I expected the class to be full of ladies with huge behinds, beer bellies and thunderous thighs, but it wasn’t. The rest of the class were all of dancer-like build, probably having glided over from the Royal Opera House. But I suppose that shows that regular attendance might produce results.

The class was a harsh reminder of how inflexible and uncoordinated I am. At no point was it fun.

I began to take personally the teacher’s comments about keeping a distance between our chins and chests (I am paranoid about my weak chin). Uncharitable thoughts about “proper academic subjects” crossed my mind when she mentioned her university for physical education.

When the time was nearly up and she asked the class if we wanted to do the relaxation stretches or one more exercise, the rest of the class responded that they wanted to do TWO more exercises. If I hadn’t been about to collapse with exhaustion at this point, I might have fainted in surprise.

Today I ache everywhere, but particularly in those three mentioned areas.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

City of Angels (and Roads)

It made a change to go somewhere that we didn't fall in love with and want to live. Most of the other places we've been in recent years (Cornwall, west coast of Scotland, New Forest, San Francisco, even Madeira) have looked like great places to live and we've started to look at property prices and job opportunities with vague ideas of how plausible it would be to move there. That didn't happen with Los Angeles.

I was glad I went and I enjoyed my time there, but for once I didn't wish I lived there rather than London.

My abiding impression of LA is of roads, lots of big roads. As a non-driver a place that is so reliant having a car was always going to have its work cut out to win me over, but I thought it would have something more to it. There didn't seem to be a real heart to the place, rather lots of districts with their own character, connected by big roads.




Hollywood Boulevard reached surreal levels of tackiness, but there wasn't really much there unless you wanted your photograph taken with a Marilyn look-abit-alike or one of the three spidermen.



Sunset Strip with its infamous bars was a bit grittier (lots of hair and tattoos), but it didn't live up to its mythical status. Any last thoughts about River Phoenix's death being a rock n roll way to go were dispelled by the reality of the Viper Rooms being a dive at the side of a big road (if the drugs hadn't finished him off then the traffic probably would have).



I attempted to recreate "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" by walking around the downtown area looking at the disused and unloved theatres. The older parts of downtown had some beautiful buildings, but they were disgracefully neglected and now home to assorted shops selling assorted tat. The newer parts were impressive, I quite liked the Blade Runner skyline and the Walt Disney Concert Hall is stunning. But there wasn't really much there (plenty of roads though).

I still want to move to San Francisco though.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Some thoughts on Flying

I actually quite like flying. I find the take-off and landing exciting. It is the in-between parts that I find difficult.

People will go to sleep in airports with an abandon that you don't see anywhere else. They will lie down on the floor, in the middle of the day, fully clothed, with their belongings left unattended and sleep. It doesn't happen anywhere else.

Airline food is invariably awful, but I love the ritual of it. The little trays, with the plastic cutlery, the antipation of opening up the dishes. It is a feast in miniature with more courses than I'd normally have (the main, the salad, the dessert, the cheese) - although in small and often inedible. The worst I had was a risotto served with side order of rice salad and on the outward flight the woman next to me had a pasta dish accompanied by a pasta salad.

Air hostesses are nowhere near as glamorous as they were in the Sixties.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Out of Office message

I will be away now until after Easter. Off to California.

The heat and superficiality of LA.
The fog and crippling hills of San Francisco.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A slight problem

I think I've gone off theatre.

I've been three times in the last three weeks to see plays and haven't enjoyed any of them.

The second one I disliked the least but the best I could say about that was it left me indifferent. It wasn't bad, but it lacked oomph, like scrambled egg without black pepper (or insert your own under-seasoned food analogy here).

The other two inspired a range of emotions including near hysteria (not in a good way), surprise, confusion and boredom.

The first contained too many words said quickly and loudly over and over again.

The third didn't contain enough words, being mainly physical theatre. I know a bit about physical theatre (I'm no stranger to Stanislavski , understand why it developed in the Catalan region etc) but I don't like it. Words are important to me; I like books, I like languages. I don't like mime or clowning, and for the same reason I struggle with dance.

But I was apparently in the minority, the applause was rapturous. Everyone else thought it was "simply marvellous, darling".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All about my Mother

On Mothers Day, some random thoughts about my mother.

My life is completely different from hers. By my age, my mother was married with three children. Her glory days as Miss Trimcraft, Miss Siemens Plessey and eventually Miss South Tyneside were far behind her.

Things I've inherited from my mother: a strong work ethic, an inate sense of fairness and justice, "the Sanddancer bum", and a love of Bruce Springsteen.

Some things I wish I'd inherited: her looks, her practical nature, her ability with mental arithmetic, her cooking skills.

My mother mispronounces the name "Malcolm" and the word "balcony", pronouncing them "Mollcom" and "Bolcony" respectively. Asked why she does this, she claimed that pronouncing them with an "A" sounds common.

She has an inexplicable mental block about the black suits in playing cards and has always referred to them as "shovels" and "cauliflowers".

Christmas is always tinged with subterfuge, as she disguises presents in different sized boxes or tells people they are getting something completely different, to add an element of surprise to the proceedings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Overheard Conversations No. 5

In the sports centre changing rooms:

Girl 1: I changed gyms because I wanted to use the pool
Girl 2. I like swimming, but (slight pause) I always drown.

Five minutes later outside of the changing rooms, I see them departing.

Girl 1: So are you are coming again tomorrow? To the gym or the pool?
Girl 2: (emphatically) Gym.


Good decision there to avoid drowning.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pschedelic Psaturday

Left to my own devices tonight, I'm having a retro evening.





Music courtesy of Beyond the Beat Generation - streaming "the undiscovered area of 60s underground". Their archive contains 27 versions of the song Gloria and 8 versions of Louie Louie.





The psychedelic film Wonderwall will be screening later and I have books by Richard Brautigan and Tom Wolf on hand. I may even put on a suitable dress from my collection.





If only I still had that lava lamp...

Friday, March 13, 2009

The cost of free theatre tickets

  • A pair of tickets to see a show at a local theatre – free
  • Drinks before the show- £10
  • Meal for two in theatre bar that left me feeling sick - £20
  • Replacing cardigan that I left on my seat but was gone when I went back two minutes later - £25+ (if I can actually find another plain black cardigan that is exactly right)
  • The 80 minutes of our lives that we aren’t getting back that were spent watching the dreadful show – priceless


Not the best night out ever. But getting back in the saddle quickly with another show on Monday. Hopefully that will be better.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Night Swimming

I think I have now been outdoor swimming in all conditions, having added windy winter evening to the set of sunshine, snow and rain.

The twilight added a romantic glow to the pool, but unfortunately the strong wind made it a more difficult experience. Swimming through the squall was hard work and in one direction involved being hit in the face with a constant spray of water.

My usual routine using a float was complicated by not being able to keep the float safely on the edge of the pool. Swimming along I was alarmed to see my float hurtling down the length of the pool, unaccompanied, at a speed much faster than I can achieve. It reminded me of when horses finish races without their riders. I felt responsible for this, but thankfully it didn't hit anyone as it skimmed down the pool, and we were later reunited although not where we'd parted company.

Still I'm considering going back again tonight.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Is it wrong...

that we have an important event at work, that has been causing untold amounts of stress and hassle, but I'm secretly looking forward to it because the conference centre provides excellent Danish pastries?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Stripe Update

My quest for the perfect striped dress has advanced.


Firstly, I found a dark grey and black striped t-shirt dress by a Scandinivian label, Resterods. So I was ideally looking for white and black, but I thought I'd at least get a lot of wear out of this one (ignore the wet hair and creases in the dress!)




Then on Friday, in H&M, I found this jumper dress, which is much more striking and closer to the ideal. I wasn't 100% convinced by it (although I do quite like this picture) but the OH's reaction meant I'm keeping it. He said I looked like a dancer from "Ready Steady Go". I don't know if that was compliment or insult, but that was certainly close to the desired effect.




So for now, I think my desire for stripes is sated.







Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Work, Mr President

No, not the multi-billion dolldar stimulus package for economy. Time will tell on that one.

I'm referring to his family's decision on their dog. They've apparently decided on a Portuguse Water Dog.




Their temperament is described thus:

Portuguese Water dogs make excellent companions. They are loving, independent, and intelligent and are easily trained in obedience and agility skills. Once introduced, they are generally friendly to strangers, and actively enjoy being petted, which, due to their soft, fluffy coats, is a favour that human beings willingly grant them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Project: 1950s Hollywood

Many years ago I read Peter Biskind’s book “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” which was a fantastic warts and all account of film-making in Hollywood in the Sixties and Seventies. I enjoyed it so much I rushed out to buy another book of his “Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood taught us to stop worrying and love the fifties” (not the most snappy of titles).

I expected it to be similar to his previous book, but on an earlier period, but that wasn’t the case. It is an analysis of over 30 films and how they relate to ideology of the 1950s. Unfortunately of this 30+ films, I’d only seen one and the book has been languishing on my shelves unread.

This year, I’m determined to read it, but in order to appreciate it I obviously need to watch the films discussed. So my project (for I’m quite fond of such things) is to watch the films and read the accompanying chapters.

So far I’ve watched:

  • Twelve Angry Men – my favourite so far. Perhaps a little too neatly tied up for modern tastes but very well done.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still – classic Sci-Fi. Surprisingly intelligent.
  • Attack – decent war film and not a world away from Generation Kill which I’m also currently watching.
  • From Here to Eternity – star-studded war and romance. Quite enjoyable considering I don’t really like war or romance films.
  • My Darling Clementine – the disc started to skip, so I didn’t finish it. I struggle with Westerns, which doesn't bode well for one section.

Tonight, I’m back to the Sci-Fi with “It Came From Outer Space”.

Friday, February 13, 2009

That New Car Smell

Next week I turned 34.

Invariably when I mention my age, people will be surprised and comment that I look a lot younger. I accept that I probably do look younger than 34, but I have lost that youthful glow. The gloss has gone.

I was finding it hard to describe this, but then last week I saw John Stewart interviewing the 21 year old star of Slumdog Millionaire. Stuart was comparing himself with the young actor, and saying how fresh the actor was. The way he described it was that he (at 46) might not look too bad, but he had lost "that new car smell".

This perfectly describes how I feel.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Other "Me"s

Claire over at the Mummy's Bracelet mentioned googling your own name in her list of 25 things which made me google myself again.



Here are the versions of "me" I came across:




  • Lead singer of a Manchester-based rock band

  • Photographer

  • Me in my work capacity

  • Failed Democrat candidate in a Pennsylvania election

  • Someone in planning in Local Government

  • Me in my freelance capacity

  • Someone who attended a Hawkwind event

I wouldn't mind people thinking the first two were me, but I suspect I'm more likely to be confused with the fnal one.

Who shares your name? Do you wonder what else you have in common?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Your Home is a Dump"

The girlfriend of the footballer Andrey Arshavin has been reported as saying she hates London because it is dirty and the woman are scruffy. She might have a point about it being a bit on the grubby side, but who judges a place on how its people are dressed? Are you going to dismiss a place brimming with culture and history because its citizens haven't all had manicures?

If a British person went to another city and made similar comments, it would spark a diplomatic incident and within a few days, they would be apologising and back peddling.

But it is perfectly acceptable for people to insult London.

A lot of British people do it too. Every time I go back up north, someone will tell me that they don't know how I can live in London/they hate London/London is too crowded/London is too expensive. Its so rude.

Imagine their response if I replied by saying how much I hated the town where they lived. I'd probably be punched. But it is fine for everyone to insult the place where I live.

Yes, it is expensive, but so are all capital cities, and so is Newcastle if you only ever go out on the Quayside.

And the transport system isn't very good, but it is just a means to an end. We don't choose to live in London because of the tube, unless of course, you work for Transport for London.

In Search of Stripes

For nearly three years now I've been searching for the perfect striped dress without success.

Ideally it should be black & white, round or slash neck (not v or scooped), preferably long or 3/4 sleeves, but I'm flexible on that detail.

Inspired mainly by this.


with a touch of her



and not too much of this


The closest I've come is this from American Apparel.




Unfortunately it is One Size Fits All, and whilst it does fit, it fails to flatter.
The search continues.
If you see anything suitable let me know.

Friday, February 06, 2009

25 Things about Me.

Roses posted a list of 25 things about herself with the invitation for others to do the same.
25? I struggled with the list of seven that was doing the rounds a while back. Apologies if some of these repeat things I’ve said before.

1. I have always looked pretty much the same as I do now, just in a different sized version.

2. I’m left-handed in terms of pen-holding, but do some things the right-handed way. I think I’m actually the opposite of ambidextrous in that I’m not good with either.

3. I found my first grey hair while I was waiting to go into a French lesson aged 15. If it wasn’t the invention of hair dye, I may be entirely silvered haired by now. I inherited this from my father.

4. I have claimed that The Monkees are better than The Beatles on more than one occasion because I know it annoys people, but I think I actually do prefer them.

5. I really love art and doing creative things, however I am generally rubbish at these things as I have no natural ability. An art exam at school was the one and only exam I’ve ever failed in my life.

6. I still find going to the cinema exciting, especially if the “Pearl & Dean” advert comes on before the film. The music sends a shiver of excitement down my spine.

7. My favourite clothing items are short black dresses and flared jeans, and I think I might be getting too old to wear either.

8. I can’t drive. I’ve never had a single lesson or attempt at it. I’ve just never been able to picture myself doing it and traffic scares me. I know I should do something to change this.

9. I grew up by the sea and still miss living by the sea (the smell of the salt air in the evening especially), but I never go on beach holidays.

10. I like spending time on my own and many of my favourite things are best enjoyed alone (swimming, reading and sometimes even going to the cinema)

11. I find it very difficult to relax. I’m either doing something or I’m asleep. There isn’t much of a middle ground.

12. I am such a bad singer that I don’t even like to sing to myself in private. I often have a song going round in my head though – today it is “Cover Girl” by New Kids on the Block which destroys any credibility I may have had. (My sister went to see them last week, that’s why I thought about it)

13. I don’t have much money, but given the choice between more money and more time, I’d definitely take the more time option.

14. I feel guilty about living far away from my family but in all honesty could not imagine myself living in my hometown again.

15. Aged 5, I organised a talent contest for the employees of my parents’ company and some of my toys. I was the judge. My toy Mickey Mouse won, my dad came second, my mum third. I was a very harsh judge of the other contestants.

16. I’ve just eaten some pumpkin seeds.

17. I know a little bit about a lot of things and am not an expert in anything.


18. I went swimming outside this morning even though it had been snowing.

19. I’m not a good cook, but I always enjoy anything I’ve cooked myself because of the sense of achievement. My family’s business was catering, so I used to see it as my small rebellion that I couldn’t.

20. I’m trying to do something good each day, no matter how small.

21. As a child, it was explained to me that films were different from normal television programmes because they were only on once. I went through a phase of crying if I’d missed a film on television because I thought I’d never get another chance to see it.

22. The best job I’ve ever had was working in a charity shop. Unfortunately it was unpaid. Other than that, it was ideal.

23. I worry constantly. About everything. I know I shouldn't but I can't help it.

24. I'm not at all competitive, which may be one reason why I was terrible at sport. I am however very competitive at pub quizzes.

25. I'm off to the theatre now.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

So much for January

Where did it go? What did I do?

In summary:

Had a haircut and changed where my hair is parted (a subtle change)
Celebrated the 60th birthdays of the OH and my remaining parents
Caught a bug
Dined out using some discount vouchers

In a word, uneventful.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wishing Wall

We went to the cinema last night (to see documentary about Hunter S Thompson, if you are interested). In the corridor, there was a display entitled "Wishing Wall" where local children had written their hopes and wishes for the 2012 Olympics. Visitors could contribute their own wishes too.

Amongst the dreams of "I wish I had a Gold Medal" and "I want to see Usain Bolt winning the 100 metres without even trying" was my favourite:

"I wish Boris would spend the money on pensioners and buying Woolworths instead".

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not quite the right word

Radio 5 was doing a vox pop of young people to see how much (or more accurately how little) they knew about the situation in Gaza. Most admitted to knowing nothing or next to nothing about it. Undeterred one young man still attempted to give an opinion. He described the conflicts as:

"a frivolous waste of time"

The OH entered the room at this point and understandably had to ask what the subject was.

Frivolous is not a word I'd use to describe it. Frivolous suggests an activity like shopping for a new hat or spending all your money on cake.

I think he may have meant futile.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bus Load

Psychology is a subject I find fascinating, but I'm not sure about the merits of a piece of research from Salford University that was reported in the paper yesterday. A professor has spent time and presumably money researching what your favourite seat on the bus reveals about your personality.

Top Deck of the Bus:
Back: Rebellious
Middle: Independent Minded, more likely to read a newspaper or listen to music
Front: Forward Thinking

Downstairs:
Back: Risk-takers who like sitting on the raised aera because it makes them feel important
Middle: Strong Communicators
Front: Sociable meeters-and-greeters

People who don't have a preference are categorised as "Chameleons" and they feel they can fit in anywhere.

This brings to mind a couple of questions.
1. Where do you prefer to sit? I'm a forward-thinking front of the top deck person
2. What about on single deck buses or the controversial bendy buses?
3. What is the point of this research?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Cultural Review of the Year 2008

Not a vintage year for culture in the Sanddancer household, but as I've done it each year before, I thought I'd continue the tradition.


Music
Live music was strictly old bands. Jesus and Mary Chain were consistently brilliant, MC5 playing with Primal Scream was legendary, but truth be told I probably enjoyed the WonderStuff the most. I ignored new music again, with the only new band making an impression was Vampire Weekend, mainly because I spent a pleasant lunchtime in a cafe with a glass of wine and a book and they were being played.


Theatre
I did go to the theatre quite a lot this year, as I was determined to make better use of the free tickets offered at work and I returned to my old amateur theatre. However, I didn't actually pay to see any professional shows this year so it wasn't really that representative of my usual taste. Billy Elliot was probably the best show I saw, although Wicked was a lot of fun too.



Film
The films I enjoyed the most this year were comedies, which again is unusual for me, but perhaps a sign that in gloomy times that is what is needed. I loved Juno and Burn After Reading made me laugh more than anything else I can remember. J K Simmons was in both films, a great underrated actor.


Television
The final series of The Wire wasn't perhaps as good as the previous four series, but was still way better than anything else. The Daily Show with John Stuart became must-watch television, especially during the American election. The SkyPlus Box has changed my life as I can now record daytime detectives.



Books
A new category for 2008 as I read more this year than I have in any year since I finished my degree. I discovered the books of Magnus Mills, a genius of deadpan and inventive alternative worlds, and I read all five of his full novels. I hope in 2009 he will write some more, but I hear he is working as a bus driver. Fup by Jim Dodge and Naive, Super by Erlend Loe were other short, quirky favourites, and I loved Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Light of Day by Graham Swift too.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Highlights of 2008

I'm not going to dwell on anything negative about 2008, so here are some highlights.


Best Holiday
Most of my holiday time was absorbed by wedding-related activities, but even if I'd been on a dozen holidays, it would have been hard to beat our week in San Francisco. I loved it so much, I'm going back again in 2009.

Best Wedding
Is it wrong to compare weddings? I went to so many, it seems an obvious category. My sister's wedding wins easily. It wasn't the most lavish, the most expensive or even the most romantic, but everyone had such a good day. I spent all day either laughing, smiling or crying! She did have the best cake too.

Best Meal
Brunch of "Vanilla French Toast with Warm Berries" at the Cafe de la Presse in San Francisco. Not something you can eat everyday, but so gorgeous I still think about it months later. A late runner-up would be our meal on New Year's Eve at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant in Bath - great service, great food and very reasonable prices.

Best Discovery
The outdoor swimming pool near work. Not that I'm ending the year any fitter, but I did give it a good go at various points and I hope to improve in 2009.

Life is far from perfect but I'm entering 2009 with a roof over my head, a secure job and a great OH and family.

Happy New Year!