Tuesday, February 28, 2006

fish face

That’s a tired little face.

I’ve got used to the wrinkles, I call them laughter lines because I’m vain enough not to want to want people to think that a passing rhino slept on my face. Besides the puffiness of the bags under my eyes works in my favour, a natural balancing effect.

The company I work for is a publishing company and PR agency, and a large part of my life is involved with our own PR. That is entertaining the poor devils who apparently seem to think we know what we are doing and provide us with the money to do it. Actually that’s unfair, we’re good and we give a damn, every single person who works in that company will go the extra yard…in my case the extra gin & tonic. It’s something that’s just evolved, I seem to have a knack for it, even if that knack often simply comprises staying conscious long enough to pay the bill.

We work in the shipping industry and most of our clients are – well, it’s like an old boy s club, you know, one of those dreadful stone age industries full of moustaches and secret handshakes, entourages, dull ties and nepotism. It’s also full of Scandinavians, Greeks and Japanese, who like to visit London and enjoy them selves on a rather grand scale.

Today, for lunch it was the Danes, our Viking friends, who appear to think it’s quite suitable to drink eight pints of Guinness from midday to three, although I’m guessing, just guessing mind, that they are fast asleep in their hotel rooms by now.

It’s not that I had any intention of keeping up with them you know, but you have to at least show willing even if a few of mine ended up in the potted plant in the corner.

So I’m sorry, if when I returned to the office and you were the recipient of an email, it seemed a little dull witted.

As we say were I come from, “I’m goosed”.

Monday, February 27, 2006

when the bee stings

Soup is great isn’t it?

Soup is comfort food, nourishing and warm, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night.

I make great soup. Freshly chopped leaks and spring onions, sweet potatoes and yams, borlotti beans, chick peas and chopped fine beans and a handful of spinach towards the end, just to blanch it.

Then I add a can of soup, because I haven’t worked out how to actually add flavour yet.

But it’s scrummy with a big hunk of fresh bread.

Soup is good. Hot toasty dogs in front of an open fire are good. The tops of babies heads are good, fresh towels, crisp laundered bed sheets, a glass of rioja, hot buttered toast and tea…well, you get the picture. These are a few of my favourite things.

Lower down on my list of things to do when it’s raining outside is sitting in the middle of an astroturf pitch trying to bite back tears. Whoever it was that was charged with designing the soles of astro shoes was definitely overqualified. Make them grip they told him or her, and they did. If they’d told this person to design a condom the finished product would have been a microscopic mesh of carbon fibre and ruthenium capable of withstanding twelve atmospheres, deep space and being fired through a toilet wall without spilling a single tadpole.

Unfortunately this particular savant got astro soles instead. So when my meagre body decided to change direction with all of the feeble acceleration that I can muster, it was glued to the floor with the same coefficient of friction as a formula 1 tyre. Something had to give and it was my knee with an audible clunk.

On the bright side, I’ve found a comfortable way to sleep with it, but it does involve a lot of pillows and contortions, a sort of page 27 of the single man’s guide to the kama sutra…last night the covers rode right up over my head while I was asleep.

Maybe the soup was a bad idea on reflection

Saturday, February 25, 2006

what the...

I woke up this morning, crumpled and stiff on the sofa, panicky and breathless due to the large panting, idiotically happy spaniel on my chest...and my first cohesive thought was - "Tippi Hedren"


Suggestions on a postcard please.

Friday, February 24, 2006

caveat emptor

I have no idea what Kristie was looking for when she found this but I read it yesterday, and I still don’t know whether to be horrified, or laugh, so I’m going to settle for doing both.

At least I got a new word out of it, the “navus”, navel to ass.

All I’m saying is be very wary of what you sign.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

anyone for a food fight?

Getting older was never a thing that occured to me to worry about. Let's be frank here, I never expected it to be an issue.....

If some reason it did ever cross my mind I then I'd think it might be rather fun. From what I've seen one's autumnal years are filled with a whole host of opportunities for mischief. There's endless scope for frightening small children; getting too close and shouting at them v.e.r.y s.l.o.w.l.y as if they were deaf or hard of uderstanding, poking them with bony, liver spotted fingers, or demanding to know if they've seen your glasses when you are quite clearly wearing them. For engaging very busy looking business people in futile conversation on street corners, or chatting to the ticket sales person at the local train station about train times on a Wednesday afternoon three months hence of a service to Belgium out of Waterloo, while a queue of rush- hour suits mewl and tap dance behind me. I might wear a hat. Or better still wear a hat and drive. And I will certainly purchase a pair of fawn trousers to which I will add a damp stain to the crotch for when I travel on the bus. I will purchase a bottle of "eau de urine", I've never actually spotted it in a shop, but I'm sure it exists.

One thing I shall not be doing is eating "convenience" food.

I like to cook, in fact I thoroughly enjoy it. The very act of preparing something that I will find good to eat is relaxing and fulfilling. There's a sense of anticipation, and a glass of wine, maybe a few olives, and some music all add to the occasion...because that's how I feel about it, that dinner, even dinner alone on a weekday evening, if provided with a soupcon of tlc, should be a small but worthwhile occasion.

Conversely sometimes I just can't be arsed.

When the washing needs hanging and the dog's are wet through after a walk in the rain, or the bed needs changing, it's open the bills day, or I've just had a particularly long day at work - then I succumb to the celophane wrapped allure of something from the chiller cabinet. Something bland but microwavable, warm and quick.

Well, that's the theory anyway. The reality is that convience food is anything but convenient. After I've pierced the cellophane cover on my "pasta a la slop", it goes into the microwave for 4 minutes. I'm instructed to stir it at this point, and then return to the microwave it for a further 2 minutes. I'm not instructed to remove the lid so stirring seems to be out of the question, unless I'm supposed to stir it with a toothpick through one of the tiny perforations - so I shake it instead. It's hot, so I yelp and drop it onto the kitchen floor. Still, that seems to have done the trick, the contents have certainly been rearranged. When I turn my meal the right way up only a tiny amount of the liquid has escaped and I can see that some of the caramalised edges are now in the middle - good enough. During it's second spell in the microwave I open my packet of 'ready prepared' caesar salad...in order to prepare it. There's a knack to these bags, a knack that I don't possess. I pinch two folds of bag on either side of the serrated top and pull, gently at first and then with more force - it splits unexpectedly an inch to the left of the seam, all the way down to the bottom spilling my lettuce and a smaller bag of croutons on the floor. I step back looking for the croutons and find them - with my foot, they're actually quite large and very sharp, it's like finding a 3 - pin plug in a stockinged foot. My lettuce is now hairy and I find a colander to wash it. In the meantime the microwave has gone "bing"so my pasta must be fully cremated by now.

There's another, separate sachet of caesar sauce, with an indent where I am supposed to tear. Do they think I'm stupid, naive in the way of the sauce sachet? I approach it with scissors and take off the corner with a satisfying snip, and then as I squeeze it over the lettuce and croutons the indent gives way in any case, covering my thumb in white, sticky sauce as if I had taken a time out to masturbate before opening the wine.

My meal is fused to the inside of the carton. There's a tiny flap on the cellophane lid which, presumably, I am to use to tear it off. The carton is too hot too hold so I place it down on the counter and scald two fingers trying to grasp the tiny lip on lid - eventually, bored with the whole thing I simply slash at it with a knife and pour the contents into a bowl I should have warmed while I was distracted by the enchantment of arielly inclined lettuce.

I did eventually sit down with a glass of wine, hunk of bread, hairy caesar salad and a bowl of rapidly cooling pasta gloop with added fragments of cellophane. I enjoyed the bread.

So my question is: What will happen when I get older. Will I have to prepare every single meal from it's basic ingredients, or eat out every day of my life? Actually scrub that, it's more wide ranging than just food. So, so many packets and packages of household goods seem to be deigned with scant regard to the end user. My fingers are not in the best shape I know, but god forefend an elderly person faced with a "resealable" bag of dog biscuits. "Pull tab tear here" my arse, what with - a pair of pliers? "Reseal by pressing and running fingers along red line", not in a month of Sundays!! I've buggered it completely already trying to open it. Or something as simple as pulling open the ring pull on a can of beans, the instruction should say, "flip up ring and pull, and then bleed into contents".

Somebody, somewhere is obviously charged with the responsibility of designing these packages, and one might have thought their brief would include terms like "ergonomic", "ease of use" and "user friendly". Are they impish, derelict or just simply divorced from the real world? I'm beginning to think that they sit in offices, where they are fed, toileted and put into bed at night - to lead gay, playful and creative lives free of the clutter of any preconceptions about how their products will actually be used. Certainly none of them have grandparents.

If there is a hell then I hope that there is a room full of starving packaging designers and shelves upon shelves of beautiful fresh food - they wouldn't have a f#cking clue.....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

of tantrums and tents

Last night Aeolus stalked the skies of suburban London.

To lie in bed in the early hours of the morning as the god of the winds plays havoc amongst the trees and garden gates along the street, rattling roof tiles and ripping clouds from their moorings to scud across the sky.

To lie in the dark as moonlight, like steam, billows across the walls. To hear the wind turn the corner of the house, and feel it draw its fingers across the window panes…

Is, strangely, comforting I’ve always thought. To be cosy in bed when wild, wild elemental fury unleashes itself on the ordinary world outside is a feeling of being cocooned, safe, warm and glad. It’s the perfect time to roll and find a warm drowsy figure next to you, and perhaps make some love in the joy of sharing a nest in the storm…

…alternatively you could do what I did, and open the bedroom door, and let the dogs in. And so we lay, at 3.30 this morning, by candlelight, hairy bottoms and wet noses (not me!!), and a glass of wine and listened to the storm swell and rise, to driven hail and the manic clang and clatter of Aeolus’ chariot passing by.

I’ve had trouble sleeping recently. I’m late to bed anyway, but this past week, even when I’ve made it abed by midnight I’ve still been wide awake at 2. It probably happens to us all periodically, and I know better than to fight it now, so I’ll try to regard it as a chance to catch up on some reading. I’m perilously close to finishing Mason & Dixon which has defeated me for years.

The alarm will go at 6.30 come what may so there’s very little point in getting anxious? And, since it has happened many times in the past I refuse to lie there and let my mind run riot while my body tries to find a comfortable cool spot in a bed that is beginning to resemble a sack of seed potatoes. Trust me, unless you have nary a care world, never lie in bed in the dead, dread hours of the night and take stock of your life.

So I’m sure it was 4 or 4.30 this morning when I finally slid back and closed my eyes on Toffee’s rump.

It’s like the storm, it will pass, I know it will in a childlike way - because it always does. So it’s comfortable, my bed is like the thick walls of the house, a place of shelter.

And hopefully, when it does, I won’t wake up in the office with drool on my shirt…

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

May I use your dictaphone?

No, use your finger like everyone else.

I feel that apologies are in order.

I’ve been remiss, there have been so many people here to say hello and share things, and so many places that I would normally go to, to share your fun and wisdom, but I’ve just not made it of late. It’s just that I’ve been a bit pre occupied – and if you had the view that I have right now you’d see two sets of eyes staring reproachfully at me from the corner of the room, so I’m constantly reminded that I have priorities too.

Some time ago I stopped blogging. It hadn’t been what I thought it would be. I thought it was simply a place where I could have a rant and rave, to let out some of the bile anonymously and then simply walk away, sated. On reflection, perhaps it is, in fact it probably serves whatever purpose we choose – which leaves me floundering in a way. Because what I’ve found is that I’ve made friends here, really, genuine friends.

This is a matter of no small amazement to me since I’m incredibly selfish in that respect. I’m a user, I have any number of casual acquaintances that I can go have fun with and then, when it suits me, ignore. But here I’ve found people that I’ve come to genuinely care for, and I feel an obligation to, the responsibility of friendship. (Am I alone in this? Is this some anomaly in me, or is it a delusion that separation – the not really knowing the other – causes?). Or am I simply being up-my-bum?

So apology, part two (don’t worry, it’s only a two part series), is that I find I am almost congenitally unable to write what I think most of the time. Not when I’m doing this, but when I’m speaking directly to A N Other of you out there who’s decided that it was worth saying hello. I’m not sure whether it’s a simple lack of vocabulary, or concentration, but I find it difficult to reply to even the simplest message with any clarity. I look back and wince at some of the replies I’ve written when I think of how many ways it’s possible to interpret them, when a few simple words would have done. I believe I should sign messages Terry Fuckwit from now on, as a disclaimer.

So, you should know, that I still do come and read, more often than not in the early hours of the morning, but don’t always comment – as much for me as you, in case I come across one of my own comments and go into spasm.

On a different note, thank you for all of the offers of helmets. I do in fact have a perfectly respectable motorcycle helmet that I wear when I’m out on the bike, robbing a bank and taking a shower (I’m lying about the bank). By the way, did you know that a “helmet” in the UK is also slang for an idiot (wally, plonker, dipstick, helmet etc), and also the bulbous bit on the end of the willy that stops your hand from sliding off? No?...I thought not).

I’m afraid I can’t tell you any more though, because although I spoke to the consultant before the examination I didn’t see him afterwards, I have to wait for a letter. We did chat for a while though and it was reassuring that he didn’t look at me as if I had a large piece of broccoli growing out of my ear, or ask me if I was insured.

But – whether it was because it was Valentine’s day, whether it was a because she held my hand, or the uniform, or the fact that she laughed when I said “Goodbye Mr Bond” when my head disappeared into the scanner – I don’t know. All I know is that, embarrassingly, I had an outrageous dose of the hots for the nurse. It’s a very good job that they didn’t scan my whole body or they’d have found a very strange phenomenon below the belly button. (Golly it was warm in there!).

I can't be sure

but I think they would have enjoyed Valentine's day..

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm off to see the wizard...

You can generally tell by the other players reactions. You’re sitting on the pitch looking dazed and stupid and the first people to arrive will tell you, just by the looks on their faces, whether you’re off to casualty again.

“Do you want someone to come with you?”

“No, I’ll be fine….do I really need to go?”

“Yes. It’s small, but it’s quite deep and it’s bleeding like a bugger”. (We really need to consider playing in something other than white).

I have a book in the car anyway, which is good because you know you’re in for a long wait. Casualty staff regard sports injuries as tantamount to self inflicted wounds, which I can understand, they work long hours and see some awful things so my little knock is less than urgent……I’ll sit there for several hours behind little Johnny’s be-panned head and the nervous looking man with the vacuum cleaner attachment up his bottom….for a few more stitches.

This time though I’m feeling particularly stupid. There’s no denying it, I really am a bit of an ass.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a neurologist and a scanner for precisely the reason that I’m back in casualty, cumulative damage to the noggin. Over the years I have treated my head in much the same way that other people treat a favourite mallet or coal scuttle. I’ve tenderised it, to the extent where my fingers have been clumsy and numb at times, my left eye is a kaleidoscope and I wear a headache like a knitted cap.

The problem is that almost everything I enjoy doing, playing hockey, riding the motorbike, even just generally having a laugh with friends, involves some potential for further cranial abuse.

And I know (truly, I do) that I’m an ass for caring sufficiently to try to get something done about it –whilst at the same time putting myself in a position where I use my head to redirect hockey balls.

I just think it’s going to be embarrassing tomorrow when the consultant finds a neat line of stitches above my left ear.

I’ll lie of course, I’ll tell him I got a pot stuck on my head…

Friday, February 10, 2006

yes, you are in the right place, really....

...don't touch that mouse.

I once lay in bed and watched an episode of "dude, pimp my ride", (tipsy and too lazy to turn over). Have you seen it? Some poor girl was relying on her clapped out vehicle to ferry her clapped out Granny to and from her clinic appointments. The car was an embarrassment, body panels were held on with chewing gum and string, it was clunky, rusty and generally a mess - people who saw it would point and laugh, and think "poor girl".

And then some kind hearted soul took pity on her and took her decrepit rust bucket and transformed it into a thing of beauty (at least in the eyes of the girl).

When she saw her new transport for the first time she laughed, she screamed, she peed herself a little and generally had hysterics.....and I thought "what a pratt".

Well, you see that girl - that's me that is!!

I went to sleep last night with my rust bucket safely parked in it's normal state of decrepitude, and woke up this morning to This!! The blog elf visited me while I was asleep.

Thank you Ginger, I have to go change my trousers, I've had a little accident....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

HNT news flash from the past

Apparently they've been having a spring clean at Newbury hockey club, and decided to throw away a few less tasteful momentos. This was going in the rubbish until some one there rescued it, and returned it to it's rightful owner, me.

Now that's how to celebrate a goal....


Does any one out there in the US know an entrepreneurial spirit, with a sense of humour and preferably interested in web based sales....I'll make us all rich, I promise.

Monday, February 06, 2006

a dog's life

There are new licensing laws here in the UK, which mean that many places are open until later. It’s not without opposition, we have something of a binge drinking culture here, so it’s not sufficient to assume that if places are open for longer that we will be in less of a rush to drink ourselves into a destructive frenzy....but that’s not really why I’m writing. It just suits me.

I want to come home from work, relax for a little while - let the day wash away, take the dogs for a walk, have a shower and maybe a glass or two of wine and then go out later, maybe 10’ish for some fun with friends. I don’t want to rush.

Which is precisely what I did on Friday. I’m sure that any of the people out there that I irresponsibly corresponded with in the early hours of Saturday morning will give testament to the fact that I’d “had a good time”. (Sorry, I promise I’ll try to find something else for my tipsy digits to do from now on).

If only you knew. If only you knew what a rotten sod I’d been you would have erased me.

I came in, filled a glass and switched on the fire in the living room, and lay and stretched. Charlie came to say hello, and sat on my bum in front of the fire. We watched the goggle box like that for a little while, I have no idea what, just blurry moving figures, police sirens and people shouting “wada wada, woomba” at each other. Until eventually I’d cooked nicely on one side (stick a fork in me, I’m done), and went for a refill.

It occurred to me that the chaps might need a wee, so I called and Charlie appeared and I opened the back door….and there sitting on the top step of the stairs into the yard was the most soulful looking Spaniel I’ve ever seen in my life.

Five hours.

Five miserable, freezing cold, lonely hours.

The last thing I had done before I went out was let them out for a wee, like any responsible ‘parent’. Unlike any responsible parent I hadn’t made sure that they were both back in doors before I went out.

He stared at me with hazel brown eyes the size of dinner plates, shivered and stood up. He slunk past me and I could feel the cold radiate off him, like the antithesis of a radiator, into the living room to sit on the hearth with his bum nearly in the fire. Charlie looked down into the yard and then up at me as if to say “I’m not falling for that” and I shut the door.

Spaniels don’t sulk, they can’t, it’s simply not in their nature -but there was a definite air of “have I not been good?” about him, and it took a lot of biscuits and hugs before we saw even a tiny little wag.

(A girl did a similar thing to me once and I sulked for a week).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

business as usual

It's been an odd day. Apropos of absolutely nothing, my...the love of my life...called me and all of my internal organs went flippety flop, climbing over each other to reach a high point in my chest. "How are the boys" she said, "argle-bargle-morble-whoosh" I said.

Tonight I went back, to the pub, and played with my friends. 'She' was there, and nothing whatsoever happened, I was just a big hole in the room where a person should have been. It's a lucky escape I suppose, for one of us at least.

Why the f#ck I'm writing this tripe I'll never know....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

four play

Oo, look at me, I've been tagged!!

First time for everything I suppose. I was ordered to do this by Kristie who has been in a lot of pain recently poor girl, and taking some top notch drugs for it too, so please feel free to go and get your own back on her for having to read this...four things thingy:

Four Jobs I've Had:
1. Farm labourer. During the school summer holidays I was packed off with sandwiches and flask everyday to the local farm as a serf. I hacked down miles upon miles of thistles with a scythe, jumped up and down in a giant sack compressing freshly sheared wool, baled hay, mucked out the stables…and generally had a wonderfully healthy, bloody awful time. (It would have helped if I could have understood one single word that the local farmers said to me).

2. Analytical Chemist. Approximately as fun packed as having your willy caught in a revolving door. I mixed mud and fish oil – really. Then I would go home…smelling of mud and fish oil. I have very few good memories.

3. Least Valuable Player. For a company that installed intensive care units and operating theatres. Actually I was supposedly a project manager and I worked with the nursing staff to make sure that they didn’t kill any of the patients with the equipment we had installed. I was succesful occasionally. It didn’t help that the units that we installed were in some quite hostile places, Beirut, Johannesburg, the Golan Heights (really), Belfast, Algiers…I spent weeks in these places, wearing nappies and trembling....while other people doing exactly the same job worked in hospitals in Brighton and Cambridge.

4. Director of the least succesful medical sundries manufacturer in the histor of manufacturing medical sundries. Four million £’s worth of private investors money, two weeks trading, and four years in court. Even now, many years later, I look right and left when I leave the house before I commit to closing my front door behind me in case there’s a raggety arsed ex investor with a rusty knife in the bushes.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
(the censored version – I know you wouldn’t know the others anyway)
1. Underworld (come on, Kate Beckinsale + leather = complete attention)
2. To Kill a Mocking Bird
3. The Shawshank Redemption – pass the tissues (I have something in my eye okay!!)
4. Platoon – Rhaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

Four Places I've Lived:
1. Salford (Manchester)
2. Scotland – no town but coordinates available
3. Oxford
4. London

Four TV Shows I Love: (these probably mean nothing to most of you)
1. Soccer am
2. University Challenge
3. Will & Grace (yes I do!!)
4. Shameless – I so hope that you get the unabridged version of this in the US, it’s so outrageously, disgustingly, appallingly true – about life in Manchester, it makes me home sick.

Four Places I've Vacationed:
1. Vermont – I tried the Appalachian way
2. Greek Islands with a back pack
3. the Camargue
4. Marrakech

Four Favorite Dishes:
1. Riocha, on a dish, with some olives (the olives are optional)
2. Cheese on toast, with baked beans on the top, and sprinkled with parmesan (don’t knock it ‘til you try it)
3. Fresh grilled sardines with a lump of olive bread (and a cold, cold Frascati)
4. Fresh dates – eating a fresh date is the most sexually provocative thing you can do in public without being arrested. It’s like fruitilingus.

Four Sites I Visit Daily:
I wouldn’t lie if I said that I vist all of the sites I link to daily, please don’t make me choose?

Oh sod it, I have to have my daily dose of:
1.Wendy Wendy's World
2. Kristie and Melissa (it’s the way they are so obviously such good friends, they make each other laugh all of the time) Kristie and Spoke in the Wheel
3. Aims "Aims"
4. Sandra Not that Desperate

They’re all up there on the right, go take a look

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. in bed with Kate Beckinsale

or do I have to be semi sensible?

2. in bed with the girl from No. 27 (just down the road, I have said hello every day for two years, and every day she has ignored me)
3. Venice
4. on a beach, on a warm night, under the moon

And last but not least, four people who I would like to do this….

mmmm, it’s late, I’m going to sleep on it, nite nite, sweet dreams....

news flash

Oh ye of little faith - Laura is currently making a round of tea for everyone, and nobody has said a word about yesterday's trouser cough.

There's a charge in the air though, potential mass hysteria, woe betide the first person to giggle....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

and for my next trick

Laura is a pretty, conscientious, twenty-one year old working with us at the moment. She is on a work placement as part of her media studies degree. She is as middle class as it is possible to be. Proper without being prim, polite, presentable, bright as button, a little shy at first – a thoroughly nice girl.

Laura is concerned with her well being without being in any way obsessive about it, I know she enjoys her fair share of boozy nights out with her friends. But, sensibly, she also looks after herself.

So, because she’s been feeling a little tired recently (as most of do at this time of year?), Laura has spent the past ten days on a propriety de-tox course. It’s full of potions that need to be added to the gallon of water she has to drink each day, and a whole rainbow of pills she takes in fistfuls at seemingly hourly intervals. She doesn’t appear to have any actual ‘food’ in her diet anymore.

We have a busy office and it’s often very noisy but sometimes, for the odd luxurious moment, a brief calm descends.

This afternoon Laura filled one of these small oases of peace with a fart so loud, so deliciously throaty and protracted, that time momentarily stood still. Pens hovered, fingers wavered over keyboards and muted conversation dwindled into silence, a single telephone rang but nobody answered it.

Laura sat for a long moment in the dreadful hiatus following her anal exclamation mark - then, very calmly under the circumstances, picked up her purse and jacket and looking neither right nor left walked the length of the office and out of the door. As the door closed somebody began to applaud....

She’s switched off her mobile phone, do you think she will be back tomorrow?