Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Moves House
Ah, getting ready to move house again. I'm amazed it is all happening so quickly. Just amazed. Saw it last Thursday, moving in this Friday (well, picking up the keys. And then buggering off out of town to drive to Exeter and fetch my things so that I can bring them back. It shoudn't be too bad as these things go. I don't have much stuff, and it is already conveniently packed. It just needs to be moved out of Tom's spare room, which is frankly a straight shot out the front door, into the van and driven on up to Henley.

Yes, Henley. Rowing central, really. Seems like a very nice place, and I'm sure I'll have a whole bunch of new best friends when people start realizing they have a friend two minutes from the finish line.

Particularly when they realize they can get out of London for the weekend. I went out on Saturday night with Dan to SoHo. Everyone was there - Kats was at one party, Jim was in another bar. But this is just it - every tourist in the land and everyone in London was there. It was heaving, it was loud, and it was being seen for the sake of being seen, which takes a bit of fun out of the company you've gone out to spend time with. Then of course, I had to take the chucking out time Tube home. I don't care what city you're in. This is never a good time to be on public transport. I was shoehorned into a Victoria line carriage. There were a group of American tourists celebrating the 20th birthday of one of their group in the loudly drunk manner that announced to everyone that they thought it was cool they could legally drink (which they couldn't do at home). They did this by proceeding to act in the manner that other Americans begin to apologize on behalf of their nation to eveyone around them. It was bad. But of course I didn't need/bother to apologize, I was focussed very clearly on trying hard to make sure that the girl vomiting next to me didn't get sick on my shoes. This was pretty hard. There wasn't a lot of space to move my feet, and she seemed ready to renounce her amateur status and turn professional. Add into the mix an Elvis impersonator ready to sing for money (and getting stiffed by the American birthday tourists. Get the cash up front next time, King.) and a very obnoxious guy who got on, grabbed on to the rail, nearly elbowed some girl in the face and then got right in the face of someone who asked him to move and I was ready to leave London for ever. I do love London - the city, the culture, the museums in particular, the river and the history, but it is very crowded and that last tube is like Mr Toad's Wild Ride.

NOt that Henley is perfect. I don't know how rowdy it is or isn't at night as I've not spent the night there yet. But my MP is none other than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who is perpetually in the press for making a complete twit of himself, and a tale of whom was regaled to me by a co-worker.

"It takes a lot to get the NCT to boo you, particularly in Henley where they're a nice conservative polite lot. But they booed Boris quite heavily as he was drunk as a skunk, slurring his speech and awful to listen to." Well, there you go. It has been suggested I start looking for constituency problems just to be able to validly attend his surgery. Could be a laugh riot, I must say!

Packing packing packing.


Monday, April 02, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Plays to Her Strengths

If there is one thing I love to do, it is the old Quiz. And one of my favorite quizzes (unless you count sitting in on a Monday night competing against Pete in back to back University Challenge and Mastermind...and losing. Pete is VERY good.) is the monthly quiz down at the RAC in Pall Mall. Good company, good quiz, excellent booze and atmosphere, and 90% of the time we manage to win a squeaker.

There's a picture round. There's always a picture round. Last Friday, the picture round was mine, all mine.

Identify the companies associated with the following trademarks........

I'm sorry, did you just ask an intellectual property lawyer to identify trademarks? Can we turn it into a speed round? Please? I was 10/10. In about 30 seconds flat.

It didn't save us though. There was a seriously good team that although they didn't get 10 on the picture round, seemed to get 10 for every other round, so we got squished. But never mind, I proved those years of training good!



Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Goes Back to the House with the Clock In Its Walls

When I was about 8 or 9, I read a book called "The House With the Clock In Its Walls." I remember it as being fairly long, and I also remember it as being absolutely terrifying. It was my first encounter with a scary book, and given that I lived in an old house with a coal bin (which featured heavily in the story) I spent far too much time sneaking round the house at night if I had to get up for something with my ear pinned to the wall, desperately listening for sounds of Doomsday. Took me ages to get over it.

Then, a few years back, my friend Michaela came round and was doing a PhD in children's literature focusing on the classic gothic style horror novel. But she hadn't heard of this book, so I bought her a copy as I popped her on the plane back to Britain.

I mentioned this to her when I stayed with her last week. "It is in the room you're staying in!" she commented. I didn't think I could read it again. I mean, I know I'm 36 now, and that it was a children's book, but sometimes the memories are just too strong.

But it was night, and I was in bed, and I caved. It didn't take long to read the book, but it didn't matter. The text itself was no where near as scary as I remembered, although it was very well written, but that was mostly because I knew what was going to happen, so the air of suspense was a bit lost.

It didn't matter, though. I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard something, and immediately was ready to sneak around with my ear to the wall and listen. And I knew for a fact that these people do not have a coal bin in their house. Or even a cellar.

This sense of apprehension wasn't helped by our trip out the next day. Where did we go? I'll tell you. But first, a word of warning: do not hang out with people who study gothic literature. It will only give you many sleepless nights. For example, it is now four days later and I'm still up at three in the morning. So brace yourself. Where did we go?


What is Whitby famous for? Two things.

1) Fish and chips (and they are good); and

2) Dracula. Now I've never read the book myself, but it seems that now I have to in order to fully appreciate this little trip. Apparently Whitby is where Dracula makes landfall in Britain, before going to London and wreaking havoc. You can picture it. Get a good fog in that town, sweeping through the ruined Abbey on a cliff top, tranquil fishing boats in the harbour, surrounded by incredibly lonesome moors. Criminy. All very beautiful until you mention the Dracula factor.

I think I'm going to have to stick to much happier books for a while. Something like Frog and Toad Are Friends, or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Right after I read Dracula.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Life's been a major pain of the last couple of months. Moving house, living out of a pack for a bit, the general stresses and tribulations of existence, being told I was being offered a job and then being told that while that might still be happening, there was a yet undetermined delay.

All that was washed away by those five magical little words, uttered by my doubles partner Liz, who I swear knows me better than anyone.

"Its Girl Scout cookie time."

We love Liz.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Is a Little Unsure About Her New Digs

The local free paper came through the letter box today. Front page, very large point text.

"100th Crack Den Is Shut Down"
(Latest closures seal borough's 'remarkable' record)

Um, I'm sure that's a good thing. Or at least a better thing than having 100 crack dens lying around where people can trip over them.

Help me! Help me!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Moves To London

Here I am, all tucked up in North London. It is like having flashbacks to 15 years ago, when I lived in Muswell Hill. That was next to Alexandra Palace, coming up on it from the back or the left hand side depending on which road you took. Here in Crouch End, I walk out the door, turn right and there it is - the best view of Alexandra Palace I've ever encountered. It is a slightly strange neighbourhood. The road we're on is miles long and just lined with identical houses as far as the eye can see. It seems the epitome of nameless suburbia, and gives a feel that there is nothing to recommend this area at all. But if you turn left down the first road, which is only meters away, there's wonderful little cul de sacs and within five minutes you're in Crouch End Broadway which is wonderful. Wonderful! There is no Cafe Nero, which often tends to be my immediate benchmark as to whether I can cope. There are, however, a couple nice little independent coffee shops and those will outdo Nero almost every time. There's also a Starbucks, but that's always a negative. But there's wonderful little shops, and bookstores, and a massive park, and everything you could want.

I've also acheived a new level of housewifery. This actually started before I left Exeter, when Sara texted me to beg me to make a quiche before I left. Jim then wanted to know if I could do the dishes when I arrived. But that's nothing. I have acheived a new pinnacle of success. As far as I can tell or anyone can remember I am the first straight woman ever commissioned to design, pick out and shop for a gay man's kitchen. And bathroom! Mostly Jim doens't have the time, and he's still in a panic about whether he did the right thing buying this flat. The story of how it got decorated so far is hysterical. His friend Paul took him shopping, as he was sick of hearing him kvetch. They got to the store, and Paul insisted "Just pick an accent colour. Just one colour. Do it!" Jim moped, and refused.

That's the point where Paul said "Right. The colour is red, because you're pissing me off."

The accent pieces are fabulous. I love Paul. Everyone does. Paul is now desperate for me to come shopping with him ever since we talked about my running interference for James on those Oliver Sweeny shoes in Selfridges in the New Year's Sale at Selfridges.

I've been re-organizing shelves and things all weekend. Turns out I also iron and do laundry!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Makes Her Resolutions for 2007

I always make New Year's Resolutions (by always, I mean about the last dozen years) and for the most part I take them pretty seriously. I tend to carry a list of them around and seriously check in on them round about my birthday, which is conveniently almost exactly half way through the entire year. But this year, I'm putting them here, mostly because it was a heck of a New Year's Eve (um, weekend?) and I may in fact be too hungover to operate a pen in such a way that will be readable later in the year.

There are rules to New Year's Resolutions, but they're pretty general. First, there should be a mix of those that are easy, hard and middling to keep. A bit like the three bears. Secondly, if it worked last year and still seems like a good idea, keep at it. Plus, if possible/appropriate you should up it a notch. You know, increase your discipline a bit. Thirdly, everything should be within your control. The classic example is: I'm going to date so and so. Totally out of your control - So and So may in fact loathe your very existence and refuse point blank to date you. You just don't know it yet. But a resolution to ask So and So on a date, that's within your control absolutely. So go for it. Resolutions should also be acheivable. Don't just give up something you currently do 93 times a week. Restrict yourself to a smaller amount, (74 or so?) and then keep tapering it off if you can (revising to taper it off fully next year if you can.) Unofficially, there should also be a rule that your resolutions should be useful to yourself, but that tends to be axiomatic.

And so....the list.

First, the traditional resolution list starter.
1. I will not date anyone from Bromborough, Wirral. Two was enough. For a lifetime. And then some. Particularly that last one dated. Like shingles after chickenpox, he came back and worse than ever. It should be noted that I have not had even a slight problem keeping this since the list began, but it may arguably be harder now that I live in the UK where people from or in Bromborough are statistically more common than back home. Still, I vow to remain strong.

2. I will obtain a better job. Odds are looking good on this, but hey, you never know. Gotta keep going on this one.

3. I will not torment Charles more than twice about the sports celebrities I met at the SPARKS ball. After all, I merely encountered these people for all of five minutes. I may never meet them again or they might become my bestest friends ever (though lets face it, odds are strongly against that) but either way it does not make me a superior human being. Even if Charles thinks makes me better than him..............

4. I will try to make coffee approaching something suitable for consumption by humans at least twice a month. No more moaning about how rubbish my coffee is without still trying to make it better.

5. I will knit (and complete) a jumper for myself. Finally. At last. I have the pattern all picked out, so I just need to buy the yarn and get going. I guess in doing that I need to pick a colour, but I think I already have it sorted. I say I have picked a pattern. More accurate is I saw a lovely £750 Pringle jumper and have adapted it slightly. The nice thing is even if I use pure cashmere (which I'm quite tempted to do - after all, for all the work that it takes to do this sort of thing, I've never skimped on yarn quality. Why spend 80 hours making a beautiful scarf that itches, pills and no one wants to wear?) it won't cost that, and what's more it will fit me, which it wouldn't do if I bought it from Pringle. You know, what with my arms being longer than everyone elses. (If you e-mail me, I'll send you a picture of the original.)

6. I will not eat fast food more than once a month. It doesn't have to be from a chain - I just need to continue to eat better and this is an easy way to make sure things start to stay in check. If there is one month I do not eat any fast food at all, that doesn't mean that I can eat it twice next month. Calendar months set the rules.

7. Less shutters down. That one is kind of personal. But I know what it means, and so does the other person it applies to, so we'll work on it.

8. I will finish my second hat.

9. I will make enough jam and jelly this year to sustain my own needs and give it away to those who have asked. I had enough requests at Christmas that I felt badly for not being able to hand away whatever I should!

10. I will get at least £1000 into an ISA by the end of the calendar year. Ideally, I'll have more, but that's the bare minimum. That's not even £100 a month overall. That's doable once number one is acheived!

11. I will not drink Diet Coke more than twice a week. I never used to think this was a big deal. Then I moved to England, where everyone seemed to flip that I drank it every day. So, now it is a minorly big deal. Cutting back is a good financial and health move, and I'll save the money to do something special with it. Heck, it might help with number 10!

Any further ideas?