D. I. Cry

IMG_1860Recently I had to go into Wickes* as I had essential ironmongery requirements and I was reminded of how much DIY shops torment me.

*other hardware retailers are available

1) Dirty, dirty, dirty; why do these shops have to be so grubby? There’s always bits of sand on the floor and odd black marks all over the place and it reeks of WD40 and manliness.

2) Hazardous equipment; every so often there’s a tannoy announcement telling me to watch out for a forklift truck. A forklift truck! Who wants to shop whilst also trying to avoid industrial vehicles? Chuck in a couple of diving turtles and you’ve got yourself a real life game of Frogger.

3) It’s full of measurements; 110mm this and 305mm that. Is your garage door 2134mm or 2286mm high? Should I get a 15″ pick or a 33″ pick? Too. Many. Numbers.

4) I don’t speak hardware; I need a translator when I go shopping – composite, lagging, caulk, threshold, canopy, maserator, mattock, intumescent. It’s like another language. A DIY shop assistant can strike fear into your heart with the words “Do you want that in polished nickel, satin nickel, polished brass or brass plated.” to which the response is usually something along the lines of “Erm…. can I call my dad / husband / boyfriend / brother / neighbour / any other man in my life who might have a clue?”

5) Even the soap sounds adventurous; Can I buy some swarfega please? *growls in a rugged and masculine way*

6) Too much choice; There are over 60 different types of radiator. Who knew? And you can’t just go and buy nails you have more choice than pocket money day at Woolies pick and mix counter. There are clout nails, square twist nails, annualar ringshank nails (is it just me that thinks this one sounds like some sort of kinky item found in a ‘Private shop’?), round wire nails, green phosphated exterior nails…..

I JUST WANT TO BUY A NAIL. WHY IS IT SO COMPLICATED?

Tea for seven and seven for tea

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(or seven fall into a sugar induced coma)

I am very excited to report that I have been somewhere lovely for afternoon tea, thus achieving the first challenge on List 34.

I found some friends who could attend, a venue and a menu (mid sentence rhyming, how super) that was slightly out of the ordinary. Why have PG Tips and a scone when you can have apple pie tea, meringue carrots and edible chocolate cups? At the Sanderson Hotel in the West end of London, you can have a mad hatter of an afternoon tea fit for a March hare, a dormouse and even Alice.

The hotel is rather fancy, five star don’t you know, but this is probably a good thing, otherwise I suspect at least one of our party would have insisted on us channelling our inner Lewis Carroll outfit wise and we’d have been in fancy dress wandering around the West end shouting “Off with their heads” and “You’re entirely bonkers”.

Afternoon tea itself was very creative; drink me potions in delightful little bottles (so delightful that I suspect one of our party stole one… shhhh…don’t tell anyone), cakes shaped like clocks and fizzy popping candy making a curiouser and curiouser appearance when least expected, Heston Blumenthal style.

The savoury selection was also yummy, multi-coloured triangle sandwiches nestled alongside teeny homemade quiches. Although as tasty as the cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread was, I couldn’t shake the feeling that eating bright green bread was wrong on a ‘is this loaf radioactive?’ level.

There were some delicious mini savoury scones, unfortunately these were placed rather too near to the delicious mini sweet scones and some idiot got them confused.*

*possibly me

I can however confirm that cheese scones with strawberry jam and coconut scones with herb butter both make for unusual but not entirely unpleasant taste sensations.

Two hours later and we were all full to bursting and about one piece of rainbow coloured white chocolate or strawberry and cream flavoured mushroom away from type two diabetes. Alice may have thought it was the silliest tea party she ever went to. I prefer the Mad Hatter’s approach “it’s always tea time”.

Weekend Glass of Whine: Car Signs

IMG_0321Welcome to a new feature on my site:

Weekend glass of whine

It had a working title of ‘Things that piss me off’ which was less witty but certainly edged it on the accurate description front.

I decided to allow myself an opportunity to let off a bit of steam about pesky things that have been getting me in a bother over the past seven days…

A few days ago, I was driving along the road, minding my own business, when I pulled up to a roundabout and stopped behind a people carrier. There was nothing unusual about this. I was in a good mood, the sun was shining, I was feeling pretty chipper.

Suddenly I was confronted with a bright yellow sign dangling across the rear windscreen of the people carrier in front. “GRANDCHILD ON BOARD” it shouted at me in big black letters.

‘Oh my goodness’ I thought to myself, thank heaven for that sign. Had I not known that the vehicle in front was carrying small children, I would have just smashed right into it. I wouldn’t have bothered slowing down, applying the breaks or driving sensibly. I’d have crashed into that bad boy, bumper car style, before driving off like the ruffian that I truly am.

I understand that transporting small children in a car can be scary. I have driven my niece and friends children and I drive like my car is made of porcelain and filled with eggs, snow flakes, crystal glasses and butterfly wings. No-one wants to have to return children to their parents in more than one piece.

It’s just that the signs annoy me so much. I mean we don’t clothe babies in outfits that read ‘hold my head’ and ‘don’t drop me’ or buy cheeky little toddler dresses from Next with ‘If you pinch me I’ll cry’ slogans. I don’t have signs on my front door saying ‘Man lives here, please don’t nick the PlayStation’.

Plus, the sign could easily be misleading. I’m 36 years old and I have two living Grandmas so technically there could be a ‘Grandchild on board’ sign in my car.

Maybe I’ll go into the car signage market? Get one made up that says ‘I don’t have any children, or grandchildren but I’m quite nice and smiley. I’d rather you didn’t collide with my car if you don’t mind, it would be terribly inconvenient as I use it to travel for work. Thanks awfully.’de9182044cdcd519484cdeb1acdfbaa2

 

Where there’s a will

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Seven months ago I launched List 34; a list of 34 things that I would like to achieve before I turn 40 in ten three and a half years time.

With 34 missions and a four year timeframe, we don’t need Carol Voderman’s big mathematical brain to calculate that I need to be moving full steam ahead to complete the list in a timely manner.

So I’m very excited to share all of the marvellous things I have accomplished so far.

Here goes:

*dramatic drum roll noise to build suspense*

Achievements:

*longer than necessary pause like the ones on Strictly Come Dancing or the X-Factor that happen before the winner is announced*

I am the very proud owner of one ‘Last Will and Testament’

End of list

There we have it; seven months, one deed. I am ashamed. Not because there are so many other things left to do, that’s good, it gives me something to look forward to. My sense of disappointment is great because of how utterly, utterly boring this accomplishment is. Important, yes. Necessary, yes. Rock and roll? No.

I have not watched a sunset in a beautiful location (No 4) written a novel (No 6) or built an igloo (No 11), my life has been devoid of helicopters (No 19), treasure hunts (No 18) and charitable undertakings (No 28). What have I been doing with my time?

I have downloaded ‘The Great Gatsby’ (No 22) to my kindle but I haven’t read it and my savings account is not currently empty (No 32), 45p counts right?

I suppose what I have done is the bucket list equivalent of eating my green beans first (why must they squeak so?) and saving my potatoes until last (carbs are my friend). I’ve got the will out of the way and I’m heading face first into afternoon tea (No 1). Figuratively not literally, no-one wants a quiche face pack or scone exfoliator. I’m going to bust open Breaking Bad (No 14) and add to that 45p. Bring on New York (No 34).

***

If you would like to read my tribute to Kate, you can find it here

List 34 in full.

Ooh la la

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Anyone who knows me, in fact, you don’t even need to have known me, anyone who had any contact with me, no matter how small, during the past few weeks will know that I went to Paris last week. Seriously, the fact that I was going to Paris is genuinely recorded in the notes of a grievance hearing.

So great was my excitement about my forthcoming trip that my Facebook status on Monday looked like this:

“ParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParisParis”

despite this over-sharing on social networking providing an excellent opportunity for my friendly neighbourhood burglar.

But who cares about someone robbing the telly when you’re going on a city break? Anyway, I live with a man. Everyone knows that men amass televisions the way women covet cushions. Televisions for every room with screen sizes to rival Odeon, so had the goggle box been nicked, we would have been alright, we’ve got some king-size spares lying around.

Our Parisian adventure began with a trip on the Eurostar accompanied by coffee and a pain au chocolat courtesy of a lovely little French style patisserie Costa.

After boarding the magical international train, we somehow managed to offend the passenger sitting opposite us; an old lady who appeared outraged that we dare sit in our assigned seats and share the same carriage space with her. About five minutes into the journey, she stood up, picked up her luggage and vanished, never to return. I think perhaps we overdid the Fox’s Glacier Fruits.

The Eurostar journey is pretty straightforward and to my surprise, because I hadn’t really given it much consideration, the time in the tunnel is very short. It’s only about twenty minutes. When we emerged from the tunnel into the decidedly grey skies of France (easily confused for English skies) and Brad said ‘Hooray, we’re in France’ I gave him a withering look and said scathingly “Don’t be so ridiculous”. Excessive provision of Fox’s Glacier Fruits aside, I am an absolute joy and delight to travel with.

We arrived in one piece at Paris Gare Du Nord and successfully negotiated the Metro to reach our hotel. The Metro is exactly the same as travelling on the Tube apart from the announcements. It’s much nicer to hear a softly spoken, twinkly voiced French lady telling you that you are just arriving at Champs-Élysées Clemenceau than a sweaty man in a high visibility jacket named Bob angrily yelling at you to “LET THE PASSENGERS OFF THE TRAIN, FIRST” or having to get the Docklands Light Railway to a station called Mudchute.

Everything just sounds nicer with a French accent, even my own name. When the hotel receptionist said “Here is your key Zhjolyn”, I wondered why I’d been pronouncing it incorrectly for 36 years.

Hotel positives were that it was clean, quiet and friendly. Negatives were that the lift visibly dropped about three inches every time anyone stepped into it and there was a very threatening message on reception which warned that food must not be eaten in any of the rooms for “hygiene reasons”, this is despite the fact that they offered a room service food menu. Were you supposed to eat in the hallway? Who knows? Plus, I can think of a number of other less hygienic things that people may do in hotel rooms, particularly in the Montmatre district of Paris.

Our first day of sightseeing involved the Arc de Triomphe. As we headed towards it from the Avenue de Wagram, or Avenue de Wigwam as I preferred to refer to it, I was decidedly underwhelmed. “Look, it’s at the top of the road” Brad exclaimed. “Is that it? It’s not as big as I thought” I replied with not a hint of double entendre. Turns out I was looking at it from the side.

When I finally viewed it face on, it was indeed as big as I had imagined and quite staggering. Not least because of the ten terrifying lanes of traffic surrounding it; you can admire the majestic structure honouring those who fought during the Napoleonic wars and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War whilst carbon monoxide fumes engulf you.

We took in some culture with a visit to the Musee D’Orsay, although I counteracted this by childishly taking a picture of the Rhinoceros sculpture by Alfred Jacquemart, which is situated outside the museum, just because Mr Rhino had large testicles.

We saw the Moulin Rouge where a French man pinched my bum and Brad was offered “the best pussy in Paris” which I’m pretty certain was fille de joie and not feline.

We visited the breathtaking and spiritual Notre Dame and climbed the 300 steps to marvel over the views across Paris from the Sacré-Cœur. Then we sat down for quite a while, relieved that we’d made it to the top without dying.

We drank, considerably. We walked, considerably and we spoke some considerably pigeon French. “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Being a popular phrase.

Of course, no trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower. It’s an amazing landmark and quite magnificent. Although maybe I shouldn’t admit this but it does remind me somewhat of an electricity pylon, a beautiful pylon but a pylon nevertheless. That said, when it is lit up at night, even the most cynical of visitors could not fail to be entranced and captivated by the charming grand iron lady of Paris. I know I was.

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“Paris is always a good idea” – Audrey Hepburn

Santa Claus is coming to town

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Christmas comes but once a year, but bloody hell these years are getting shorter. It feels like I only took down last year’s Christmas tree 49 minutes ago.

I enjoy Christmas, but I’m not obsessive about it. I never put my tree up until at least the second weekend in December and I refuse to eat mince pies in November. If I’ve ever inadvertently consumed what appeared to be a mince pie before the twelth month, it most certainly will have actually been an Eccles cake.

My favourite part of Christmas is the food and drink spending time with family and friends and being grateful for the joy they bring to my life .

Sausages wrapped in bacon? Jeez Louise, it’s a porktastic pleasure (easy tiger) for a confirmed carnivore like me. Everything else is wrapped in pastry. Jus-Rol’s* profits must increase by 1200% in December.

*other pastry manufacturers are available.

At Christmas, you get to drink Bucks Fizz and Baileys, Snowballs and Eggnog. Christmas drinks must have maximum viscosity. If it can almost be eaten with a spoon, it fulfils the Yuletide beverage criteria.

I enjoy the fact that everything is a bit special and unusual at Christmas. On any other day of the year, if I walked into my mothers house at 9am, swigged down a glass of alcohol and helped myself to a handful of quality street she’d be simultaneously phoning Alcoholics Anonymous whilst googling “if my daughter eats chocolate for breakfast will she develop diabetes?” And yet at Christmas it’s magically okay. She’s force feeding me faster than you can say seasons greetings.

I love a pantomime, the annual tale of a boy who is actually a girl, who meets a girl who really is a girl but whose widowed mother is a man in a dress. Sounds like a typical Saturday night in Brighton.

I like the audience participation; the hissing and booing, the “Oh no he isn’t, oh yes he is” and “he’s behind you”. Yep, still sounds like a Saturday night in Brighton.

Here’s a question for you. What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas quacker! There’s a bonus Christmas cracker joke for you. Who doesn’t need to pull on the end of a toilet roll tube filled with highly unstable silver fulminate causing a small explosion in order to be rewarded with a tissue paper crown that your Nan always manages to put on upside down and a bright yellow plastic comb or a fortune telling fish?

Cheesy Christmas music is one of the signs that Christmas has arrived. Not when it starts playing in supermarkets though, because they’re wishing it could be Christmas everyday and mistletoe and wining it from early September. I mean Christmas songs on the radio. When Shane MacGowan and Kirsty McColl start to trade insults, you know the season of glad tidings has arrived. Nothing says Christmas like a good old fashioned slanging match. You’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk, you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot…. Ahhh good times.

The Meeting Commandments

IMG_8368From AGMs to workshops, briefings to seminars, no workplace is complete without a multitude of meetings. Ladies and gentlemen, I present “The meeting commandments”

1) Desire to consume digestive biscuits is directly proportionate to the length of the meeting; 9.00am: Who would eat a digestive? It’s the worst biscuit known to man. It tastes like sawdust. I’d rather lick the carpet. 11.30am: Is it just me or do those digestives smell tasty? Have they changed the recipe? 2.00pm: Where are those digestives? I’m so hungry, I have to have one right now. Oh my gosh, tasty brown wheaty goodness you are the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

2) When you are asked a question, it will not relate to anything discussed in the 4 hours, 59 minutes and 35.5 seconds when you were actually paying attention. It will instead relate to something discussed during the 24.5 seconds that you spent thinking about who your favourite Strictly dancer is/what you’re going to have for dinner tonight/why someone decided to fill the office biscuit tin with digestives/where you can buy red shoes to match your party frock/when the meeting might end (delete as appropriate).

3) PowerPoint has magical time bending qualities.  One real life minute is equivalent to seven minutes in PowerPoint land.

4) There will, without doubt, be a debate about the temperature of the meeting room. In the blue corner will be the chilly clique, all wrapped up in outside coats and scarves and yet still shivering. In the red corner will be team tropical; scarlet and sweating, they’re either feverish, overweight, menopausal or  sitting next to the closed window being blasted with magnified sunlight.

5) Yawning etiquitte. Do you a) Unashamably go for it. Open wide like you’re sitting in the dentist chair flashing your tonsils like a badge of honour. b) Become the master of disguise and sneakily transform your yawn into a fake cough or sneeze. c) Fight the yawn, clamp your mouth closed, hope that the yawn does not try to escape out of your nostrils or ears and try not to look too much like you’re sucking a lemon.

6) It is scientifically impossible to write on flip chart paper in a straight line.

7) Video conferencing brings a whole new raft of challenges, not least that if someone in the video conference rustles their papers within 10 feet of the microphone in a meeting room in London, it will produce a racket measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale in a meeting room in Scotland.

8) Getting the giggles in a meeting is bad form, however, being stuck in a tiny room for hours on end, deprived of oxygen and forced to consume digestives can sometimes cause spontaneous irrational laughter which can be difficult to contain.

9) If you are taking a conference call on hands free whilst driving and you are not actively involved in the discussion at the time, please remember to mute your phone. No-one wants to hear you chomping on your travel sweets or agressively referring to another motorist as a bloody bellend in a BMW.

10) If you are going to invite me to a meeting; ensure that digestive biscuits are not on the agenda.

Autumn admiration

IMG_8278Every year, I’m surprised when summer ends. No need to keep room in the freezer for more Soleros. Time to put my flip flops into ‘summery stuff’ storage. I must gauge correctly when the winter duvet should be unveiled and hope it’s not at the same time as an Indian summer shimmying on down. Yes, Autumn is upon us and that gives me an excuse to go all listy on you and share my favourite things about the season of soup, scarves and sparklers.

Tights

My legs are not elegant or dainty, they are not long enough for regular length trousers or pretty enough for flippy summer skirts. If I had to describe them in one word, that word would be sausagesque. Squirt a bit of mustard on them and stick them in a bun and Mr Richmond and Mr Wall would be admiring their meatiness. I spend the majority of summer trying to keep them out of the public eye for fear that Mr Punch might arrive to save them from a crocodile. Then the colder days draw in and my squashy, stubby little legs can be encased in thick black tights. Beautifully concealed within a cloak of darkness. Oh wonderous lycra camoflage, how I love you so.

Lights on at dusk

The ending of summer seems to sneak up surreptitiously. You get home from work, used to light evenings and realise it’s actually getting dark. That’s when it happens; you put the light on without thinking and I get to see inside your home. I am Mrs Nosey Parker of Busybodyville when it comes to soft furnishing. My inner interior designer is clapping her hands and jumping up and down with glee. Does the smartly dressed man who lives across the road have a lounge worthy of appearing in Homes and Gardens or is it a sixty minute makeover gone wrong? Will I spot a cushion to die for and spend the entire winter googling variations of the phrase “Where can I buy a purpley bluey greyish coloured cushion with a funky pattern and a bit of fur” in the desperate hope that I can steal the style of a random stranger who lives near to the supermarket that I visit on the way home from work? Who knows what those unexpected lounge lights will bring.

Custard

Oh tempting, tasty, canary yellow delight. You are a golden shining halo of joy, exponentially enhancing any pudding eating experience and for this, I am truly grateful.

Strictly Come Dancing

Handsome men, gorgeous women, sequins, smiles, live music, dancing, celebrities that in the first instance you’ve never heard of but by week three you know the names of their children, their favourite food and you’re trying to find out where to get ‘Team *insert celebrity name*’ t-shirts printed. Every October, as soon as I hear the theme music “da da da da dee da da, da da da da daaaaah” I become sofa judge: dance guru. I sit in front of the telly yelling “No, no, no heel leads!” and “Excellent projections” and “Ooh, Rumba, that’s a tough dance for the male celebrity”.

Autumn. Just fab-u-lous, daaaaaaarling.

Not very cool. At all

IMG_6500Inside my mind, I am young and cool and trendy. In real life I am hurtling towards middle age at tremendous speed. I’m so uncool that if I were cool, it would immediately and without question become uncool and I’m only slightly more trendy than Ann Widdicombe.

I generally manage to live my life in complete denial of my out of touch ways, although I can trip up when I accidentally “tape” a television programme or use the words malarkey, frock or shenanigans. I also spell every word correctly in my text messages and punctuate accordingly. In my humble opinion communication by text can only be improved by the addition of a semi colon.

This week, my out-of-touch-ness was off the charts. I was in the office when a birthday card made it’s way to my desk for signing. For those who are unaware of office birthday card etiquette, one of the unwritten rules is that you check out the messages from people who have already bestowed their biro birthday greetings to ensure that your message is slightly different to any of the others. I have a stock supply that I can call on.

The traditional:  Happy Birthday. Birthday greetings.

The “insert upbeat adjective”: Have a great/super/wonderful/marvellous/splendid day.

The instructional: Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Eat cake. Drink fizz.

As I was checking out the rest of the birthday messages in the card, I came across one which horrified me. It was written by one of the summer job students currently working in the general office and it said “Happy Birthday! Have a sick day.”

What?!

There are so many things wrong with that message.

1) Throwing a sickie is completely unacceptable behaviour – Standard HR party line.
2) This is the HR department, we’re generally considered to be some sort of internal police force, this is the equivalent of a signed confession.
3) It’s so obvious. Why not mention secretly and discretely that someone should go off sick? Don’t write it in the bloody card for everyone to see.

Then it dawned on me that summer job student meant ‘sick’ as in to be great or brilliant and I suddenly felt rather ‘sick’ as in ailing and poorly.

Still, I got over myself, realised it was srsly funny and LMAO. Squee! Don’t throw shade on my mistake, I’m just #totallynotdownwiththekids.

***

Translation and further information about the final paragraph of today’s blog can be found at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com.

My friend Kate

There is a very famous first line of a novel which came to mind when I heard the news. In Love Story by Erich Segal, Oliver Barrett IV says “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?”

The quote kept going around in my head, with some slight modification. “What can you say about a thirty-four-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved food and travel, Dexter the dog, and Steve?”

There’s no other way of putting it really; on 15 July 2014, my friend Kate passed away after a tragic accident and knowing that I will never see her again, is terribly sad.

I worked with Kate for six years, but I can’t really remember her being just a work colleague, we had a lot of fun together:

At the risk of sounding like the cliché queen, Kate really was a ray of sunshine. She was always bright and positive. A doer, always trying new things and going to new places. She had a tremendous passion for life and I take comfort from the fact that she experienced so much.

Kate was witty and intelligent. At work she was calm and composed and had a confidence and self assurance that made everyone feel at ease.

Outside of work she was a pleasure to spend time with. I can remember so many social events that we enjoyed together; canal boats, comedy nights, dinners, dancing, drinking. She was at my flat when the infamous ‘Robert Leader’ cocktail was invented. I say invented as though it was something that we planned or thought through. I think the conversation went something like this:

[Quite a few vodkas into the evening at Chateau de Josiejolene]

Me: Right, who wants another drink? Vodka and orange all round?

Everyone: YES!

Me: Balls. I’ve only got a tiny amount of orange juice left.

One of the gang:  [Because my measures of vodka are always colossal] Can you add something else to it?

Me: Erm… I haven’t got much else.

One of the gang: I’ve got some Red Bull.

Me: Fair enough, let’s stick it in.

If memory serves correct, I think Kate was the guinea pig who tried the made up drink for the first time and deemed it acceptable for the rest of us to drink. I can’t recall why we decided to also stick a cocktail cherry in it. Drunk logic I’m sure.

Inspired by my gorgeous, enthusiastic, adventurous and spirited friend, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I could best pay tribute to her and I have decided upon List 34.

The list consists of 34 things that I would like to achieve by the time that I am 40. An age that until 15 July, I was pretty apprehensive about heading towards. Now, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity.

Goodbye my lovely friend. Thank you for the smiles, the laughter and the good times: