On the up side

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Novel ideas

In the nick of time, I have managed to pull myself together and write a post for November. Managing a minimum of one a month really shouldn't be that tricky and yet somehow it seems that the time just flies past. This month however I can claim a good excuse: I wrote a novel. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and took up the challenge of producing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Yesterday night I reached the finishline and I am very proud of myself indeed. Out of nowhere I have managed to scare up around 36 hours of solid writing time that I never knew I had in the average year let alone a month. It just goes to show what priorities and deadlines can do.

After that huge creative splurge I am a bit worded-out though. Perhaps it's time to start writing here again more regularly when I recover.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Sporting parents

This weekend my parents had the dubious priviledge of watching me play football for the first time. I've been playing for years now at uni and then in London but as they live north of Newcastle they have never happened to be visiting on a day when I had a game. After yesterday they may be trying to time it so they never have to come again...

First up: it is the furthest away trip of the season, taking an hour and 45 mins for them to taxi me to the game. Then we concede five goals in approximately the first three minutes of play, and it is starting to look like the type of game which gets on the local news for being a record defeat. Fortunately we pulled overselves together and at full time the score is a mere 7-0, not even into double figures, which was a major achievement in the circumstances.

I think however they did actually enjoy it in the end. My Dad, resplendant in his wellingtons (it really wasn't that muddy - this remains a mystery to me), kept up a running commentary through most of the game much to the amusement of our goal keeper. My Mum had popped back to car to fetch an umbrella and therefore missed the first five goals so was probably under the impression it was going better than everyone else thought. I also managed to make it through the game uninjured, thus saving my Mum from running onto the pitch to rescue me from the evil opposition (which could have been embarrasing, not least as most of the oppo were half my age).

Games like this both remind me of the "good old days" of first playing in London (by the heavy defeat) and how much the team has improved (the second half always used to get worse, so it would have been about 40-0 if we'd ever had a start as bad as that!)

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

More, more, more

More holidays (good thing obviously), ever more DIY (will be a good thing eventually) and more football with the start of the new season (jury still out on whether this is a good thing) - together these activites have conspired to mean that a whole month has passed without entry. September will be forever missing from my archives list, a monument to my inability to sit down for five minutes at a time and plug the computer in at home. Unless of course I fiddle an entry somehow with the aid of the date and time function... Although that's probably a bit technologically advanced, and in any case only cheating myself as any other readers will have quite rightly wandered off by now.

I have been to my third wedding this year, cunningly combined with a short holiday, as my cousin lives in Valencia and was marrying a local girl. His round-the-world trip post university started with working in Spain to save some cash and learn the language, and became both longer and shorter than planned, in that he still hasn't come back after eight years but neither did he get much further than Spain... His Spanish is very impressive though and I can see the appeal of living in a city with a beach and a buzz of development but a laid back feel at the same time.

The service wasn't too long really, given it was a Catholic one, and the inexplicable Spanish was broken up by some very impressive singing from the choir, including a number in English at the end which had apparantly taken them months to practice. Afterwards very loud firecrackers were set off, approximately three paddy fields worth of rice was hurled at the happy couple, and we all hopped on a coach to the reception. An afternoon event of lunch and then dancing, it flew past (luckily speeches do not appear to be a Spanish tradition as that could have been tricky) until it was 8 o'clock and time for the coach back to our hotels. This may seem like an early end to the festivities but the Spanish brandy had been out at the end of the meal and most people were more than a little fatigued by the time the bus got back into town.

A few more days of relaxing in Valencia followed, before the Gaffer and I arrived back in London to be reconfronted with the "in progress" kitchen. A week of hard core decorating followed as the papering and painting all needed to be done before the imminent arrival of the new vinyl flooring (it's not as glam as tiles but a lot easier to remove if we ever need to replace the obsolete central heating pipes...). I can proudly announce that we're on schedule though and once the floor is down only a few finishing touches are required before it's finished. Given the amount of trauma we've had over it I think I'll be buying a red rope to hang across the doorway, so visitors can just peer in stately-home style.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Behind already

The disadvantage of a blog whose readers are mainly people who know me is that they start nagging in person if I haven’t posted for a while and they’re bored at work. I guess I can’t complain as the only reason I started my own blog was because Ms Jones wasn’t posting often enough to keep me amused…

So then, it would appear to be over 2 weeks since I came back from holiday already. The holiday itself is now a distant and dream-like memory, possibly aided by the fact that I spent an awful lot of it asleep, or drinking red wine. By the end of the fortnight I felt the most relaxed and creative that I have done for years. If only I’d stayed in France instead of coming back to work and the extra stress of trying to get a new kitchen fitted.

I’m sure there are people out there who thrive on the organisational challenges posed by new boilers, scaffolding, electricians, plasterers and ovens which are out of stock. I am clearly not one of them however and am making mental notes a) never to get a new kitchen ever again and b) never to take a job that involves organising things. Statto keeps telling me that the kitchen will be like giving birth ie I’ll be so pleased when it’s done I’ll forget about the pain to get there. I am yet to be convinced this is the case for kitchens, or indeed births.

I did manage to get a break from kitchen stress this weekend however, once the boiler had had its final checks on Saturday morning, by hopping on the train to Brighton to join the rest of my football team on tour. Wearing our matching tour T-shirts and a somewhat bizarre selection of “national costume” accessorises we went out to sabotage ourselves well and truly before the playing part of the weekend on Sunday. Most of the team had gone down on the Friday night and already been out once, so I have to admire their stamina as one night out does for me these days. Top marks go to the team member I think I shall christen Lunatic for the purposes of this blog, who had to be propped up between two other people to get into the club but still attempted to deny being drunk the next day. At least I wasn’t tied to her for the evening this year, a distinct up side!

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Girl's stuff

A bit of a public service broadcast moment: in the last two days I have endured two of the more intrusive treatments on offer to modern women. A bikini line wax in the name of pre-holiday grooming, and a smear test in the name of potentially life-saving screening. I can honestly say the second was no more painful and only marginally less invasive of personal space than the first, and yet I wonder how many women will think nothing of a regular wax but put off regular (only every three years for goodness sakes!) smears? It may never top anyone's list of fun things to do but five minutes mild discomfort is a pretty small price to pay. Go get it over with! More info here:

http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical/

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Following the mention of pre-holiday grooming, the more observant reader will have realised I am indeed off on holiday. The Gaffer and I are off to France, for a week with Ms Jones and then a week in a gite with my parents. A bona fide excuse for not getting round to posting! But for once, instead of rushing round like a headless chicken, my excuse will be extending lounging without contact with the modern world... Wine, cheese, croissants - what more does a holiday need?!

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An over-due reunion

Last weekend was the "approximately 10 years" reunion dinner back at my university. Students who had started at college in 91 to 94 were invited hence it was 11 years since I first arrived, and longer for others. For the most part everyone looked remarkably unchanged and instantly recognisable, even if I struggled for a few names. I had been a bit nervous and excited during the week beforehand and had managed to partly assuage these feelings by buying a new outfit for the occasion. Satisfied on the night that I looked presentable, I thoroughly enjoyed the drinks reception and dinner, unaware of the assult on my sense of well-being which was to come in the bar...
Reunions always have the potential to cause angst. The inevitable comparison of your own situation in life with those who left college around the same time for example (always forgetting that we never get the full story from others!), or the unpredictability of seeing people who were once important to you after a long lapse of time. In my case however I was circulating and chatting away in all tranquility, probably aided by the substantial quantity of wine dispensed during dinner, until I was unexpectedly broadsided by a smiling equiry:
"So, when are you due?"
Now I am prepared to concede that I might have worn an existing dress if it hadn't been a touch on the tight side currently; equally I am prepared to concede that choosing an empire-line style dress might have said "Jane Austen-esque" to me and "maternity" to others. I am not, however, prepared to believe I look pregnant!

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Reflections

Feeling very sorry today for those caught up in yesterday’s blasts and their families and friends, many of whom are yet to hear for certain what has happened to their loved ones. The area round my office in Cannon Street seems quieter than usual today, and my train was half empty this morning, as people have decided to stay at home and give the transport system time to get back up and running.

I cannot say I feel surprised by the attack – horrified yes, but not surprised. One of the wearing aspects of living in London has always been living with the expectation of an attack, even before Sept 11 and the other bombings since then. I only came to London in 1997 but I remember coming down for interviews in 1996 and being very aware that an IRA bomb had exploded on a bus that February. Then, after I had moved here, there were the nail bomb attacks in 1999 and a series of “Real IRA” strikes in 2000 and 2001. There will always be people intent on violence and mayhem, only the so-called cause or twisted justification involved varies. In the face of the present threat, as so many times before, we will just have to be vigilant and continue with our lives.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Gods above

I am not generally a religious person, however a long aquaintance with public transport in the UK has made me a firm believer in the God of Transport. Often Gods turn up in different guises across different cultures and based on the following tale anthropologists could probably find some similarities between my God of Transport and, for example, Loki the Norse trickster. Or pretty much any of the Greek gods on a particularly bloody-minded day. This then, is the story of "My Journey Home on Wednesday", subtitled "When the God of Transport is having a laugh".

I was suddenly in a great hurry to get home from work as a friend had called to say that they were waiting for me (luckily in the flat rather than on the doorstep), so I was glad to make it to Cannon Street station with two minutes to spare before my train. Except, there were no trains in evidence: all the information screens had died and lots of people were milling around aimlessly. The announcer declared my train would turn up in 10 minutes, making it still the quickest route home. As it was 30 degrees and I was carrying my own bodyweight in footie kit, handbag and assorted shopping I wasn't too keen to move. I waited. After a few more minutes the announcer decided that in fact the train was still behind the failed points which were holding everything up, so I decided to try an alternative, and walked to Bank to get on the DLR.

As I walked into Bank station, the announcer declared there were no DLR trains from Bank. Before I had even finished thinking "East London line to New Cross then", he cheerily added that there were also delays on the East London line. I dragged my assorted bags back up the stairs and towards the bus stop. Turning the corner, with a certain inevitability I saw the bus I wanted pulling away from the bus stop.

I got on the next bus anyway and got off to change buses at London Bridge. Thinking I might as well see what the trains were doing from there first I wandered in and discovered all the information screens were also down, but I managed to find a member of staff who told me I could get to Lewisham (a stop close to mine which has more frequent trains) from Platform 4 in five minutes time. As I arrived on Platform 4 I noticed there was already a train on the platform and realised it was in fact the one I had been trying to get from Cannon Street in the first place. I ran (bags and all) towards it and almost got there when the doors shut and it drew away.

I stood around for five minutes feeling extremely hot when, against the odds, the promised Lewisham train did actually turn up. I got on but in a few minutes I realised the God of Transport was really just rubbing things in, as we passed under the footbridge at my station and the people who had been on the train I had now failed to get twice in one evening were walking over my head. By this point I was starting to wonder if some kind of sacrifice might be required to placate the God and, if so, which of my fellow passengers might be suitable.

I reached Lewisham and went to get the bus up the hill. There were thousands of people at the bus stop which generally means any bus which arrives is already very full as there hasn't been one for a while. Resigned but still slightly defiant, I decided to walk. After 100 metres I glanced round to see 3 empty double decker buses arrive simultaneously and pick up all the people before whooshing past me up the hill.

I continued to walk. Defiance of the God had given way to a vague worry that my shoes might self-destruct or one of my legs might fall off, however I did finally reach the flat and collapsed into a hot, sticky heap on the sofa... Heaven help anyone who lives outside Zone 2!

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