Monday, 30 November 2009

So Long

Well, thanks, folks, for your sage advice on how I should spend my week.

Suggestions of getting away from it all, making the most of The Capital, spending quality Tooting time, and creating something beautiful were all taken on board. Baglady's suggestion that I take time to eat a lot of cake has been taken very seriously indeed.

In fact, I realised that, if I went away, coming home to a still-not-decorated dining room would vex me, and so the decision has been made to stay here and decorate my socks off, and then get a day or two out to do something more ... indulgent. And, Baglady, I'll be taking your advice, and eating cake, cake, cake!!

Thank you also for the one personal message sent, volunteering to keep an eye on me at my leaving drinks on Friday. In fact I was the epitome of sober control and grace.

Clearly that was a lie. I drank white white until it was all but coming out of my ears, and then I drank a little more. I danced in a bar that doesn't have a dance floor. I told a partner, "I bloody love you." I talked a lot (A. LOT.) of shit. Then I drank a bit more wine. And then ... I cried!

I cried! Oh, the shame, the shame! I shed actual tears.

The strange thing is that it wasn't when the most obvious people left.

I've been at that company for nearly six years, and despite that time there were people that I was entirely ambivalent about saying goodbye to. People who I don't much care for, and won't much miss. People who have skimmed past my life without really disturbing the surface of the water. They were not the people who got the teary farewell.

There are also people who have become good friends. As one former team-mate observed, we'll probably have lunch together and actually get to natter far more now than we ever have before. I already have a plan to meet up with four of the girls for dinner in a couple of weeks, and have spoken to a couple of people on the phone. I didn't need to shed any tears about no longer working with these people. They are friends. Good ones. That won't change because I'm working in a different building.

It was the others. There are people who I have really enjoyed working with, and who I've enjoyed the company of. People who, if I found myself sitting next to them at the Christmas party, I'd be happy. People who I've shared a joke with from time to time. People who I'd be quite happy to pop for a drink with after work. But realistically, these people aren't my friends, they are just good colleagues. We have never sent one another Christmas cards, or called one another at the weekend, and we never will. These are people who have been a influence on my life, but who I'm realistic enough to realise I have now said goodbye to.

This is what hit me as I tucked into my ... I don't know ... twentieth or so glass of dry white. I suddenly realised that I was actually saying "goodbye" and not "so long" to some people, and I'm afraid I broke.

I think of the number of times that I've been irritated by the fact that there is ALWAYS a crying girl in a bar at the end of the evening. I'm mortified that, on Friday night, that girl was me.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

And ... relax

Eugh! Enough of the emotions, already!
Now I've got all THAT off my chest, let's move on.

So, today was my last day at work! I've gone. Vamooshed. Escaped. Left the building.

It was a bit of a non-event really. Got to the end of the day, turned off my computer, and left. My leaving drinks are tomorrow night, so I've to go back to be plied with booze. Hell! I fear that's when I might get tearful. Especially after the fifth G&T. I worry I might come over either a bit "you know I love you", or, worse, "I'll tell you what I think ..." Someone please keep an eye on me!

And then I have a glorious week off before I start at the new place. Seven glorious days to myself. No calls on my time. Nowhere I have to be. Nothing I have to do.

So what shall I do?

Let's start with the dull and tedious. A few weeks back, I stripped all the wallpaper off my dining room walls and realised that to make it look nice was going to take a lot (A. LOT) of work. A clear week of graft would get it licked. I'd be done and be able to have it all straight for Christmas, which would be lovely. It's not interesting, but the idea of having that room sorted this time next week is heaven.

Or, I could enjoy being a tourist in my own city for a while. I've lived in London for ten years, and seen only about this much (*holds hands very close together*) of it. I could go to galleries and museums. I could walk to the top of things, and along the side of things, and around things that I've never yet seen. How much of London could I see in a whole week? Americans do the whole of Europe in ten days, so surely I could cover most of it!

I could go away. I could get online and book myself a few days somewhere. Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Blackpool. A nice little last minute mini-break would be good. And, after all, what's the point in being young, free and single, if I'm actually middle aged, bound to the house, and living on takeaway pizza? I could TOTALLY order takeaway pizza in Paris!

What do you think, folks? I'm throwing it open to the group. A clear week of zero obligation. What would you do?

Monday, 23 November 2009


Dear Boy 1

It's been a year. Do you realise that? Does that register in your mental diary? Probably not. Your life has moved on! Well I suppose your big news means that you're happy. I worried for a long time that you really weren't. Wishful thinking, perhaps. I suppose there was some comfort in hoping that you had left yourself half as miserable as you had left me.

I wonder if I realised then that you were more to me that I was to you. I like to think that, somewhere deep down, I knew it. In fact though, I think I was clueless. They say that love is blind, don't they? I always thought that was just a sentimental turn of phrase. I didn't know it was true. You assured me that I was what you wanted. You told me I made you happy, optimistic, thankful, and I bought it all. Does that make me very trusting, or you very smooth?

Come to think about it, I didn't know much about love at all. If you'd asked me, I'd have said that I'd been in love before, and would have believed it. I know now that I hadn't. You were my first true love. I'm sad that you shot into my life and out again in a matter of weeks, and in so little time left me questioning such a lot. It was all just too much really, too fast, wasn't it?

That weekend in York, by the way, was the happiest time I have ever spent. I don't care that the hotel room was hideous, or that it rained all weekend. I don't much mind that my train broke down and it took me hours to get home. I was quite the happiest I've ever been for those 48 hours, and that memory still reduces me to tears.

So anyway, something happened, and I'll never know what it was. You changed your mind about seeing me? About seeing anyone? Was it too much effort? You met someone else? Who knows? Who cares! I don't want to know. It won't make any difference to know. I wanted to know then, and you hung up. Now, I don't care.

What I do care about is that you broke me. I don't think you meant to. I don't think you could have anticipated that I'd be so shattered. In fact, I suspect that you still don't know. But that phone call (a phone call, for crying out loud!) left me hollow. Broken.

A year. It's not a long time, is it? But these twelve months have been quite a slog. I'm sad that it was you who made it so hard, when you meant so much to me. It took a long time to stop being surprised that you weren't there any more. Every time I thought of you, it smarted. Then every other time. Then once in a while. Then hardly at all. It's taken a long time to stop seeing you in crowds, or hearing your voice in a busy room.

So I'm writing say goodbye. I wish I could be magnanimous enough to want to keep in touch, but your most recent news smarted rather more than I can bear. I wish I could say that I just don't care. But I do, so I think it's best that I take my leave.

Yours, not with love now, but still with best wishes still.



Dear Boy 2

I'm so pleased that you came back when you did. I'm so pleased that you chose to get in touch with me. You didn't need to drop me a line that day, so I wonder why you did. No matter. You did, and I'm glad.

It's just that the timing was all wrong, you see. I did allude to it, but I didn't really tell you. I hoped that I wouldn't need to and that it would all come good in time. But it didn't really, did it?

You were so patient with me. You waited until I thought I was ready, and then you waited some more, and in all that time you kept in touch - emails, and text messages every day. You were just what I needed. You gave me something to look forward to, and you kept me sane. I wonder if you know how much I came to depend on you in those few months. You were my rock, and I don't think I ever said thank you for that. So thank you. I owe you a great deal for your inadvertent support this year.

And when we did go out, you were wonderful. I felt like I'd known you always, and it was so easy to spend time with you. You made it possible for me to let me hair down and enjoy being on a date, when actually I was so very nervous about it. About you. About everything, really.

It was just that I got scared. Your invitation away for the weekend felt so soon. The last time I went away for the weekend, I came home in love, and then it all went wrong, and I was panicked by the idea of starting that cycle again. I was still finding my feet, really, and your invitation, so well meant, threw me.

I don't think for a second that you would have hurt me in the same way. You're a very different man. I realise that now. But I felt so overwhelmed. You asked whether it was because I didn't like you, and it just seemed easier to say yes. It wasn't true. I knew as I was saying it that it was a lie I'd not come back from. But you made it so much easier to say yes to that, that to unravel all the things I was really feeling and thinking and fretting about. I wish a hundred times each week that I could go back to that night and play it again.

Ironically, when I turned you away, the only person who I knew would really comfort me was you. That's when I realised that I'd done the wrong thing. I just couldn't talk to you though. I don't talk (about real things I mean) to anyone much.

And now what? You've got this new girlfriend, and by all accounts, you're happy. I'm glad for you, if resentful that she, unlike me, knew a good thing when she saw it. If I thought for a second that you weren't happy, I'd tell you how much I regret that evening. I'd tell you how much I want to go back to that moment and tell you that I do like you. A lot. And that I'd love to spend time with you, but that I'm just not ready to go away for the weekend. It sounds so simple now. Such easy words. Why couldn't I find those words that night, without being thrown so far off balance? If I was brave enough I'd tell you that I would give the world for another chance.

But that's the thing. You would be taking a chance with me. I'm a flight risk, and I can't pretend I'm not. You know that more than anyone. So no matter how much I regret my flustered reaction, I can't ask you to give up something that clearly makes you happy to take that chance on me again. I'd like to. But it wouldn't be fair to you. I would need to be able to assure you that I wouldn't do the same again, and I can't do that. I can promise you that I'd try, but that's just not enough.

It worries me a lot that I did to you as he had done to me. You said yourself that I wasn't the only casualty of the happenings of last winter, and you're right. I'm upset to think that I might have hurt you - you of all people, when you are so thoughtful yourself. I'm so sorry for my very poor behaviour. I'm sorry that I tarred you with the same brush as others who'd preceded you. I'm sorry that I did wrong by you, not least of all because in doing so, I did wrong by myself. I'm so very sorry.

What a shame, you wonderful man, that you turned up when you did. If only it had been six months, or a year later, I might have been better able to enjoy you. I'd have loved to have loved you. Instead you overwhelmed me with charm and kindness, and I rejected it and you.

I'm writing because I find it so hard to talk about these things. I'm putting it down here because I'm too much of a coward to talk to say it out loud. And I just thought that you should know that I wish you were here every day, and that when you send me a text message, I feel a little bit warmer and that when I see you I don't want the evening to end and when it does, I feel again that I've lost something.

That's all. I just thought you should know.

With love, as always

Your T.S.


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Survival of the fittest

It's been a slightly emotional week for a lot of reasons. Boy stuff. Friends stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff. All far too boring and tedious to talk about here, but all a bit distracting in it's way.

The upshot is that I've had a bit of a Facebook cull, and it was, I can report, extremely cathartic.

Facebook is a strange thing to me. It's put me in touch with some people who I'm truly sorry that I've lost touch with. Just last week, an old friend looked me up. I'd thought about her a lot over the years, and tried to look her up myself, with no joy. It was great to piece together some of her life from snippets of news and a handful of photos. And other friends - people I've kept in touch with, but rarely get to see or talk to - are now more accessible. Maybe I only have a one sentence update from them every few days, or a couple of photos from time to time, but they are now part of my everyday life again, in a way that everyday life otherwise really wouldn't allow.

But there are other people too. People who are not really friends at all, but who have identified me a a friend only in this strange and hypothetical world. I am extremely lucky to still count amongst some of my closest friends, people I went to school with fifteen years ago, and more. We meet up from time to time and share stories and gossip and news, and they are always very easy people to drop back into a patter with. But other people I went to school with have also become Facebook friends, and this is strange to me. These are people who I would never send a Christmas card to, who would probably not stop and talk to on the street, and who I hardly spoke to at school. So why do they want to label me as a friend now? Just a numbers game really, isn't it? Those people were, I'm afraid for the chop.

I have learned some valuable lessons this year about the difference between people I know, and friends. Real friends, I mean, who root for you, and who you will root for. It only really counts if it cuts both ways. I've realised that, if, when the chips are down, the person you are calling on to put their money where their mouth is actually shrugs and walks away, then you can't count them amongst your circle anymore. If, when you ask them to be your friend, they aren't, well then ... there you have it. And it's hard to come back from that point. Once you know that they are only a fairweather friend, it's hard, in my experience, to make the effort again to do the everyday stuff without feeling slightly bitter. Those people have also been dropped. I've been very cut-throat about this, haven't I?

But then, it needs to be about more than support in times of trouble, doesn't it? I mean, let's be honest, we'd all hope that actually, we'll never need to call up the support network, but actually be able to just enjoy our friends. A very good pal (and reader of this 'ere blog. Hello!!) told me this week that a girl in her immediate circle of friends had cooed at her, "you're my best friend", and she'd replied, "no, I'm not," for she had noticed that if said friend needed a favour, she would be the first on the list, but that if she wanted to go out on the town, she'd call everyone else first. I know that they say "a friend in need is a friend indeed", but you want these people to be around for a sneaky G&T and a laugh in between times, no?

I've always shied a away from the phrase "best friend". It makes me squirm a little. Firstly, there is a need for that kind of accolade to be mutual, and things don't always work like that, so there's always a risk that a nose will be put out of joint. But also, it rather smacks of putting all your eggs in one basket to me.

I don't want one best friend, and a host of runners up. I want a network of fabulous friends who I love, and who I want to be available to always, and who I can socialise with, play out with, and enjoy entirely. I want to know that I can trust, and am trusted by these lovely people, and that this is the basis of our true and valuable friendship. It's about the quality and not the quantity, to me.

Doesn't sound like too much to ask, does it? So do this one small thing for me now. Go onto Facebook, or look down your Christmas card list, and identify one person who you know doesn't deserve you ... and delete them! I promise you, it's a beautifully liberating experience! Go on ... you know you want to!!

A 3BT ... Sent With Love

The rather wonderful 3BT has getting married today. Isn't that lovely?

She shares wee snippets of her life with me daily (it's one of the blogs that I most look forward to reading) and yet I don't really know much about her. I wonder if she's in a slinky, saucy number, which shows off her curves, or a big net petticoated frock. I wonder whether she arrived at the ceremony in a cab, a car or a carriage. I wonder whether her cake was fruit, chocolate, or cheese.

Any which way, I hope she's had a fabulously wonderful day. To raise a glass to her (champagne, of course darling) and to unashamedly steal an idea from the pages of Mr London Street, I give you my 3BT for the day.

1) I hop out of bed bright and early, with good intentions, but instead get distracted by a jug of coffee and a good book. At noon I look at the clock and realise that I've wasted my morning. Then realise that it hasn't been a waste at all, but a fabulous luxury.

2) Having given up finding the perfect colour for my dining room walls, I realise that it's a mix of two that I've already tried, and rejected. I spend the morning mixing and trialing and mixing and trialing until I hit on the right combo. I'm now inspired enough to not find the prospect of sanding the patchy walls a burden.

3) I hit the West End to go to the hen party of my oldest friend in the world. The very wonderful Angela gets married in three weeks, and has the dress, the flowers, the hymns and the cake sorted. How lovely to see a very old and much loved friend so excited about tying a very perfect knot.

Congratulations Clare! Hope you've had a most fabulously wonderful day!


Friday, 20 November 2009

Today, in my garden ...

Two men hacked ...

... and they sawed ...
... and they dug ...
... and they cleared ...
... twenty tonnes of ivy off my back wall!
Now what shall I grow on my lovely new back wall?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rules for the use of public transport

This has been a big week. Momentous. Massive. Mega.

There are new buses on the route of the number 38.

Previously the route ran on the controversial bendy bus which has apparently now toppled one cyclist too many, and been replaced with good old fashioned double deckers. Thank you Mad Boris.

All week, the bus stand at Victoria has therefore been swarming with those nice men from British Transport Police ... telling people how to get on the bus. I'll say that again. They've been telling people HOW TO GET ON THE BUS.

This morning I took the chance to ask one of the rozzers if they really felt they were needed in this role, and before he had the chance to answer a man interrupted and asked (whilst standing in the shadow of an approaching two storey bus) where he could find a number 38. Said copper turned to me, one eye brow cocked, and said, "you'd be surprised, love".

I have therefore found myself thinking a lot today about the vexatious things that people do on the train or bus that need addressing. I give you Tooting Tooting's guide to the use of public transport:

1) Don't be a nobber. If you're sitting down and you see someone old, pregnant, on crutches, carrying a child, looking a bit queasy, or in any other way balance-challenged, offer them your seat.

2) That is, unless the person in question is wearing a "baby on board" badge. They're just showing off.

3) If you are in any way balance-challenged, and you want to sit down, then ask. The sitters probably just haven't looked up from their copy of The Lost Symbol long enough to notice you. Don't just stand there huffing and muttering. That will only make you look a bit mental.

4) If you're on the phone, and you use a phrase like, "don't tell anyone, but ...", or "between you and me ...", or "can you keep a secret?" don't be surprised if the nearest thirty people to you put their books down and listen in.

5) You know those ENORMOUS three wheeled buggies? The ones that have a footprint about the size of the Isle of Wight? If you have one of those and have any choice at all, please don't travel in the rush hour. As well as taking up the space of about eight people, your child, surrounded on all sides by comparatively tall people, will be terrified, and will start to squark. Other passengers will then start to squark too. At you. It'll be a whole squarking extravaganza.

6) If you absolutely must eat stinky food on public transport, then so be it. It's not pleasant, but most of us have been caught on the 18:52 with a Cornish pasty at one time or another. But just eat it. Don't pretend it's not you and nibble it out of the bag secreted up your sleeve when you think no-one's looking. You'll just make it take longer and really, the sooner you're done, the sooner the whiff will pass.

7) No farties, please.

8) Please don't walk along the tunnel, walk down the steps, get to the entrance to the platform, then stop. Please. If you do that, fifty stampeding commuters will, as one, walk over you.

9) Broadsheets opened flat have the footprint of four three-wheeler buggies, side by side. They need to be folded in half. Or get a tabloid. (Also, I prefer to read something a bit trashier over your shoulder. Thanks).

10) If you're listening to your iPod, I should either be able to not hear it at all, or be able to identify the song, sing along, and maybe dance around a bit. Anything in between is plain irksome.

11) Men. Knees together. There just isn't room.

12) When you need to get off, wait your turn. Don't shove. And shoving whilst saying "excuse me" is still shoving. Pack it in.

I think that's all. But if I think of anything else, I'll get back to you. Thank you for listening.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dressing for dinner

A friend of mine is quite giddy with excitement at the fact that he's just booked his DJ for his company Christmas party.

I rally a bit against organised fun. It makes me come out in a bit of a rash. I loathe New Year, I struggle with hen parties, I try my best not to have a birthday unless I can help it. Any event, basically, which involves a host of planning, and won't live up to expectation makes me squirm.

But a wee bit of me felt wistful for the big dressy affair. It's been such a long time since I properly dressed up, and I do so love it. I used to work for bit corporate monsters which had annual dinners, and now I work for small niche firms where that sort of thing just isn't practical. I haven't put on an evening dress and heels for such a long time, and I'm not sure when I will next get the chance to. I wonder ... do we little girls ever tire of playing at dressy ups?

So today at lunchtime I was feeling a bit twitchy, and in need of a walk, so I left the office and wandered up Carnaby Street. The windows are all full of party outfits and sparkles now, and there are shoes, shoes, shoes to be gawped at, but nothing that I really need, so I kept walking.

At the top of the street, I ducked into Liberty's back door, and wandered aimlessly through gifts, perfumes, bags, jewellery, and lots of lovely things to satisfy my glamour craving.

Out the front door and on to Regent Street, and again with the windows full of sequins, sparkles, silk, satin, fluff, and feather. I slipped into one or two shops to let the fabrics run through my fingers and think lovely party thoughts, then back out again, and on up to Oxford Circus.

I decided that I ought to head back to the office, so I shuffled through the scrums, and nipped through a department store, back to Carnaby Street and to the office.

A shame, I hear you mutter, that, with such romantic shopping notions, and so many opportunities, I should come home empty handed.

Well you're WRONG! Of COURSE I bought something! Of COURSE I have something new and exciting to slip on. Of COURSE I have something just perfect for the approaching holiday season.

I am sitting here, typing this post, whilst wearing ... my NEW SLIPPERS. With pom poms on the toes. Oh yes! I am ready for the Christmas party season, and I'm doing it in style!

Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I Should Have Been A Stripper

Well THAT got your attention!

Folks, today you find me in a very warm and fuzzy mood, for I have been given ... an award! Yes, me! L'il ol' me. Who'd have thought it?

The too gorgeous for words Baglady has given me the "I Shoulda Been A Stripper" Award. Frankly, you can keep your Bafta, your Oscar, and your Emmy. This is where it's at!

So, there's rules to this 'ere award.

a) Post the award.

Done. Here it is. Look!

b) List seven personality traits, as evidenced on your blog.

1) A stickler. I can't bear bad grammar. It bugs me.

2) Mild paranoia. I live in the knowledge that, for all I am a stickler, you read this, circling my grammatical errors. I know they're out there. I can hear them laughing at me ...

3) Independence. Probably to a fault. I'm kind of used to doing my own thing, so I just do. But that sometimes means that, when I have to incorporate someone else into what I'm doing, I fail.

4) Creative. I'm a bit artsy. I make stuff and decorate stuff and then I pack it in pretty paper. I do love to make things that have no function but to look good. I'm currently making a bunch of beaded carrots. Well ... why not?!

5) Sweet tooth. If it's dipped in chocolate, I like it. If it's got a sugary shell, it's mine. I'll wrestle a child to the floor for a jelly sweet. I am, and will ever be, grateful that I'm not diabetic.

6) Nosey. I love to people watch. There are places in the world where I could happily sit for hours and just stare. If someone next to me has a book or a newspaper or a magazine, I have to read it over their shoulder. If someone is sending a text, I read that too. I am filled with glee when I walk past a house which has lights on and curtains open. I am too beaky by half!

7) Smutty. I am a firm believer in bum jokes being the funniest. There is nothing like a good drop of innuendo, or a double entendre. I do like to be able to waggle my eyebrows whilst saying "ooh err missus" (or similar). And who doesn't think that a bit of a cheeky fart is hilarious? *chortle chortle*

c) Give the award to seven others of notable personality and let them know.

Well this is tricky. Like Baglady, I'm aware that some people won't do it. She has also, curse her, sent it to two of the people I would have sent it to myself. Rats! So I'm cheating on this front, and sending it only to five.

The fabulous Amelia at 101 Bird Tales

The gorgeous Gillian at Fabric Nation

The very sophisticated Millennium Housewife

The currently glowing Molly at Oh For The Love Of Blog

And last, but by no means least, a blog I am quite new to, but am very much enjoying, the domestic goddess, Becky, at Teacups, Cupcakes

So there we have it! My very first (possibly my last) prize. Thanks Baglady, you lovely lady, you. I'm more chuffed (chufter?) than I can say.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ungood English #2

There I was, wandering up Northcote Road, in the company of good friends.

It was Sunday lunchtime.

I was chilled out and enjoying the day.

Until we passed the local dentist, whereupon I stopped in the middle of a busy pavement and squawked something unintelligible. So unintelligible that I don't know what I said. It sounded like this ... "Euagghhhrraggggg".

My companions stopped and looked at me, open mouthed, horrified. Then then followed my pointing, quivering finger, and realisation hit. They nodded at me. They knew.

What is that apostrophe doing there? Why is it there? WHY? How many new patients are welcome? Just the one presumably.


Let's move on ...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

It's Been A Long Time Baby

Goodness, but it's been AGES since I've been here for a catch up with you kids! Do I have a good excuse? No, not really. I've been socialising with actual people, and it's been lovely, but it does mean that I've rather neglected you, which is bad. I'm sorry. Rest assured, I do still love you.

So, this weekend, I've had a visit from the Very Fabulous Kelly (who might yet marry me) and her current husband, the Very Lovely Nathan. It's been great! We've had a fab and groovy time, with, I think it's fair to say, something for everyone. There has been gin and dinner and wine and accordions and a lot of weather and artiness and delicatessens and cakes and tea and crosswords and silliness and a lot of mulled wine and non-mulled wine and orange playing cards and Queen and cooked breakfasts and shop wandering and tapas and prize winning puddings and more artiness and ... and ... and ... I think that's about it. But that's enough, don't you think?

There have been four main themes to the weekend:

1) Food. Food eaten at home, food eaten in restaurants, food bought in shops and brought home to chomp on, food cooked from raw ingredients. Food eaten off plates, food eaten with fingers, food in pieces so big that they have to be prised in. Food, food, food, food, food. And, to cap it all, just after they left, I found a sneaky little bag of Percy Pigs hidden for me to enjoy later. Nom nom!

2) Impressions of (a) Stacey on X-Factor, (b) the owner of a very English retailer who telephoned my office this week, and who was not the calm, beautifully spoken, eloquent woman I wanted her to be, but a slightly mental, jittery, batty woman. Over the course of 24 hours, both impressions started to converge. One impression now fits all. It's crazy*! (*spoken in a slightly vacant, but excited voice).

3) Lead In My Pencil by Paolo Nutini. (Kelly, this clip will help us fit the words to the choon!) Altogether now, "rat-tat-tattle-ta-da-da-da-daaaa ... nothing's gonna bring me down!" I challenge you to listen to this and NOT have a little boogy!

4) The punchline "I used to have a boyfriend like that." "It was all a bit disappointing." "I used to have a boyfriend like that." "It's all about the sausage for me." "I used to have a boyfriend like that." "He'll only come up to your elbow." "I used to have a boyfriend like that." "It's all sticky in the bottom." "I used to have a boyfriend like that."

It's been great - I've had such a good weekend! I've always found it hard to have people to stay before, living in small flats with no room to manoeuvre, but this house have given me the gift of hospitality, and I love it. It's so nice to fill the house up with friends and family and be able to enjoy sparking company.

I love being able to potter around doing nice local things with people. Even more mundane jobs, like running for milk and cooking breakfast are more fun when there's people in to chat with, and to give me an excuse to get the nice china out, and put the milk in a jug.

The house seems hellish quiet now. There's six whole rooms and I'm sitting right in the corner of the front one. There's too much space by half, and I feel a bit small and lost. And what's more, for the first time all day, there's no-one singing, "nothing's gonna bring me down"...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

What the ...?

Firstly, I would like you to read this article (courtesy of the Beeb). Read it carefully please. There will be questions later.

Sometimes things happen that you wish hadn't. Sometimes things happen which are so mortifying that, whilst your whole being screams out to fix them, reverse them, make them better, the best thing is to keep a low profile.

When The News of the World reported that Max Mosley had been involved in an orgy with prostitutes on a Nazi theme he sued them for breach of privacy. Interestingly, he didn't object to the allegations relating to the orgy, or, indeed, the prostitutes, but to the Nazi references. Heaven forbid!! He said that it had been "particularly bad for his family". Yes. I can imagine that they were sitting around saying, "Dad, you just don't think how embarrassing it is for our friends to be able to see your swastika badge past that hooker's nipples". Prime example - keep your head down, and people will forget about it.

In fact, type the words "News of the World" and "libel" into Google, and there are loads of examples of people who should have kept a low profile. Neil and Christine Hamilton account for only a fraction of these.

Anyway, you've read the article above now? Here are my questions:

1) What noise can be so bad that a postman - a man who spends, say, a minute at each property on the street - has cause for complaint? And why wasn't he on strike that day anyway?

2) How can you fight for you right to a private life, when ALL the neighbourhood knows when you're having sex?

3) Is anyone else amused by the idea of THAT couple having animal sex?

4) This "loud noise" which she can't help making. What does it sound like exactly?

5) Disturbing? And for hours at a time? Every night?! What's he doing with that mo?

6) Should Rachel O'Connor be given ear-muffs by the State?

7) There have been an abatement notice, an Asbo, and THREE breaches thereof. Can you not show ANY restraint, people?!

And finally ...


Sunday, 8 November 2009

Blind Faith

"She asked me what my five year plan was, and I said 'I don't know.'" Amelia came over for a dirty curry and to set the world to rights on Friday night, and relayed a conversation she'd had with a particularly successful artist friend. She looked slightly wide eyed when she said it.

And with that, I realised that I've never had a plan.

Certainly I plan on a small scale. "Today I MUST push the hoover 'round", or "tomorrow I'm meeting Cat for breakfast", or "next weekend Kelly and Nathan are coming to stay". Even as far away as "my parents are coming for Christmas" (which, I suspect, will be another post, another time).

But the real stuff? The big things? Nothing.

I did a pretty vocational degree. We were all, apart from an astute few, who noticed what what was happening to them, going to be fed out of the education system and into the non-glamorous world of property, conveyor belt style. I went to a series of interviews and had an offer of a job which was conditional on a certain result in my finals. Which I got. So I went there. Not so much a plan, as a solution.

My next job was secured in a bar during the December Christmas Party Rush. The one after that I was head-hunted for, just at a time when I was feeling a smidge disillusioned. And now this job move - the result of a chance conversation at an opportune time. All of my career moves have been based on good luck rather than good management.

As for accommodation, I lived in a house share which was, in retrospect comedically dreadful (again ... for another time, I think) and which came to a mercifully swift end. I had two weeks to find somewhere to live. I walked past an estate agent's window as he was putting a new ad in the window, asked him if I could look at it, took it, and moved in within the week. I lived there for four years. Then one day an email about a flat to rent nearby was accidentally sent to me, so I moved there.

Buying my current home wasn't even something that I entirely planned to do. There was an incident relating to a drunk and slightly pervy landlord outside my front door in the wee-small hours, looking for a bed for the night. It was a one bed flat. I started looking for somewhere to buy the next day.

Even Loulou Workshop wasn't so much planned, as fallen upon. After a particularly miserable couple of weeks (work trouble, boy trouble, ill health, wallowing, self pity, woe, woe ...) a friend suggested that I could work part time and try to bring a little balance to my life. That was on the Sunday. On the Monday I spoke to my boss and asked if I could stop working on Fridays.

Friends can tell you about boyfriends that I've accidentally dumped. I once went for a drink at Kings Cross, and ended up in Lille. Just this weekend I went into the hairdressers for a trim and came out with a whole new look.

So no. I don't have a five year plan. I don't even have a one year plan. To quote a popular American sitcom, I don't even have a "pl". I have got this far though my life reasonably successfully, without ever having any purpose or direction. I bowl from one project to the next. From one opportunity to the next. From one chance happening to the next.

I just can't decide if that's beautifully impulsive, or dangerously reckless.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Today's blogpost is brought to you with the help of the letter T

This week sees the celebration of a number of key anniversaries, crucial for very different reasons, but all worthy of a little reminiscence. Humour me, if you will ...

There were two big 20th anniversaries this week, both of which made me stop in the middle of the my kitchen, gawp at the radio, and say "well that CAN'T be right!" I find it very hard to judge the passage of time. I'm not good at remembering if things happened yesterday or a week ago, and I'm really bad at judging whether things happened five or ten years ago.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I heard that this week saw the 20th anniversary of the first ever Wallace and Gromit film. A Grand Day Out was quite a coup when it came out. With only the fabulous Morph for inspiration, this was an art project gone mad; a half hour "short" which took seven years to make. I'll say that again. It took SEVEN YEARS to make. How obsessive are these boys about plasticine? (Very). OK. So it's not exactly Shakespeare. But I'll bet every one of you will read the word "Wensleydale" in a very particular way.

Almost (but clearly, not quite) of the same cultural magnitude, can you believe that it's twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall? I think it was the first politically important event that I watch unfolding on the news, with any appreciation that it was significant. A couple of days later, our German master, the slightly mental Herr Schroder (a man famous for his hamster impression, and songs about sausages), cried. His bottom lip wobbled, and he started to sob. It takes something pretty compelling to make a class of 27 twelve year old girls shut up. But we did. Until he felt better enough to sing verse two of the sausage song.

Incidentally, it's reckoned that if you stuck together all the bits of "official Berlin Wall" that have been sold to tourists over the years, you'd have a wall four times the height of the original. Honestly people! All German breeze blocks are not the same!

Also this week, of course, was Bonfire Night, all in celebration of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Let's get this straight. 404 years ago, a group of blokes made a cock-eyed attempt at doing a bad thing, and failed ... and we're STILL celebrating it today. Not bad, boys!

Poor old Guy Fawkes was something of a stooge in this sorry story, being a bit feckless, but knowing a thing or two about explosions. I imagine that, under the circumstances, the (slightly more switched on) co-conspirators were more than happy to stand back, pointing at Mr F, and rolling their eyes. The plot failed, rather amusingly, because one of the team realised that a pal of his would be in Westminster that night, and wrote an "anonymous" letter advising him to be somewhere else. The King, on seeing the letter, suggested someone nip down and have a quick scout around, whereupon Guy was found walking out of a room packed to the rafters with explosives, and (in my mind) a stick of Acme dynamite in each hand. When he asked what he was up to, he told them. Everything. Come of Guy, mate! Play hard to get! Have you never seen 24?!

Odd really, when you think about all the things in our long and varied history that NEARLY happened, that we celebrate this great non-event with such gay abandon. Still, the display on Wimbledon Park on Thursday (set to the theme tune of Star Trek, rather oddly) was much enjoyed. Thank you.

I don't much want to get into chatting about Remembrance Day. I feel a bit sentimental about it all and it reminds me a lot of my lovely Grandad who I might write about another time. Or I might not. I might keep it. But suffice to say, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918 some bad stuff stopped and some good stuff started, and that's worth a nod, don't you agree? Good. Now let's move on.

Ah, of course! Last, and by no means least, today, rather monumentally, is the 40th anniversary of the first ever episode of Sesame Street. I bloody loved Sesame Street, and like a generation of British children, thought that the alphabet ended "double-ewe, ex, why and zee".

Of course it was fine that Bert and Ernie shared a bed! Of course it was acceptable that the alpha male of the street was a large yellow bird! Of course it was socially acceptable to laugh at the grouchy tramp that lived in the bins! Because it's educational! But here's something I'll bet you didn't learn from watching it. Mr Snuffleupagus' first name is Aloysius. Did you know that? did you?

Now then children, altogether please ... "Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C"!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

I'm getting hitched!

Very near my current office (and regrettably far from my new office) is the stupendously fabulous Mrs Kibble's Sweet Shop.

Picture, if you will, the sweet shop that would feature in a period drama, or in a Disney film. It's a tiny shop, not big enough to swing even the tiniest of cats, and the windows and walls are lined with jars filled with the sweets of my youth.

I have told you before about my dirty liquorice comfit habit, and it's Mrs Kibble who is my dealer. I'm there regularly. It's getting embarrassing.

Today, I went to get some sweets for a friend. I don't say a "a friend" meaning "me". I really mean they were for a friend. Really ... I do. Oh, what's the point! Anyway, whilst there, I noticed some bags under the counter of cinder toffee.

Oh, sweet heaven! A cellophane baggie full of delicious reminiscences! What joy! It was divine. Nom, nom, nom!

But here's the best bit. In an email exchange with the very gorgeous Baglady I mentioned my purchase, and she made me this promise ...

If I will learn to make cinder toffee, she will leave Mr Manbag, and marry me!

Dearest reader, I am happy to confirm that I have accepted. I'm hoping for a jelly ring on my finger any day now!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

In Which Some Stuff Happens #2

1) My journey to work this morning was a series of perfections. I got to the station just as the train was pulling into the station, and got the last seat in the carriage (admittedly half under a particularly broad man), then got to the bus stand just as a fresh new bus was pulling up. Perfect!

2) I've been spreading my exciting news at work. Some people have been surprised, but supportive and happy for me. Some have been oddly stern and disapproving. Some have entirely ignored me, leaving me feeling like something of a social leper (mother has suggested I ring a bell as I walk through the office, calling out, "unclean!"). One was, I believe, a little jealous.

3) I got an impromptu invitation to lunch with some old friends. We went to a good old fashioned boozer up the road and all had pie and mash for lunch. It was wicked, but terribly, terribly good. Over lunch, one friend started a story with the phrase, "it all started to go wrong with the plaster on that bathroom wall. It's a long story ..." and the rest of the story was drowned out in our snorts of laughter. It's a wonderful feeling to spend time with friends good enough that we can all fall into the same jokes so quickly.

4) Regent Street's Christmas lights were turned on this evening. (Might I be the first to wish you all a very merry Christmas.) I had intended to run out of the office promptly and join the fun, but I got held up. Then, just as I was finishing up, the firework display started, and my desk turned out to be the prime spot to watch it from. What a lovely surprise!

5) I have all the bits now to make the headdress for my friend, the lovely Angela, for her wedding, so am about to setting in with pearls and crystals and wire, and create something lovely. At least, that's the intention ...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Going, going ...

Today has been a big day.

I have been feeling fidgety and dissatisfied with my working life for a while. A lot of it is itchy feet, pure and simple. Some of it is more irksome.

It's a strange thing, is the "9 til 5", when you think about it. I don't think my office is any different to any other. It's a strangely false environment.

I spend more hours in the office, than I have waking hours at home each day.

I sit at a desk with three close colleagues within six feet of me. Honestly ... if three people spent the day in my house, within six feet of me, I'd be jumping up and down shouting "get away, get away, get away!" within half an hour. But in the office it has to be OK. Because that's the way it is.

The only thing that we all have in common that we're all hired to do the same job. There is no personality test. There is no prerequisite that we are all friends. There is no requirement that we all have the same sense of humour. And yet, if we don't see eye to eye, we take it personally and are vexed by it.

I work in a company of 30 people which means that there's always something going on that no-one is meant to know about, but everyone actually does. The politics are enough to make Betty Boothroyd squirm.

And the love triangles! My life! Is every firm like this? There's always someone secretly chasing / flirting with / sleeping with / dating someone. Again, no-one is meant to know about these things, but everyone always does.

Recently, it's all just felt a bit like ... well ... school. Cliques galore and being picked last for netball. Really. I'm surprised I've not had an onset of adult acne to complete the experience.

But sometimes all these things resolve themselves without your really trying. I've had a couple of casual chats recently with another firm, and today they offered me a job! Hooray for me!

When I handed in my notice this afternoon, I was shaking. Now, I feel like with world is my oyster.

By Christmas I'll be working in a new office with new people. There will be new bits of top secret gossip, scandal and rumour. There will be new office politics, and new oddly familiar relationships with people I hardly know. And I can't wait!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Girl

I can't write for long tonight.

I've got to get to bed with a cup of tea and my book. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "so this is what it is to be a young, single, girl about town, with the world at her feet and a spring in her step." You're right. I'm VERY rock 'n' roll.

Actually, this is a book like no other. It is the third in a trilogy of, quite possibly, the best books ever writ. I would urge you to go out and buy them immediately. I'm not really a thriller reader, but BOY are these thrilling!

They were written by a Swede who, rather sadly (but actually, kind of adding to the appeal...) died having sent the manuscripts to the publisher, and before he knew that they'd be published at all, let alone that they'd become something of an international phenomenon. I gather that they were meant to be the first three in a series of many, but I suppose we will never know...

So. The first in the series is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. You should start here. Don't even THINK of reading them out of order. You'll become more confused than a confused thing. OK, so the first chapter has got more information in it than Norris McWerter's brain, but don't labour over it - it's enough to get the gist. Things REALLY hot up after that.

Move on then to The Girl Who Played With Fire. It's the second of the three, you see. By now you will have discovered a love for a leading lady who is, on paper, remarkably unlovable. You'll be rooting for her.

Things happen that will make you sit up, slack jawed, and realise that you've not breathed for half an hour.

Things happen that make you read so wide eyed for so long that your eyes will start to water.

Things will happen that will make you say, out loud, regardless of whether you're, say, on the Tube at the time (*blush*) "OH MY GOD!"
Finally, you may join me here, at book three; The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. This is what I'm abandoning you to go to bed with. Don't get me wrong. I love you all. But I love Steig Larsson more.

This morning I sat down to read for half an hour whilst I had a cuppa and closed my attractively slack-jawed mouth two hours later, having had two "WTF!" moments.

How I've got until now without picking it up again, just for a sneaky peek, I don't know. It's pretty compelling stuff.

So there it is. Not one, but three book reviews. Don't delay, order them immediately (here, maybe) and see what I'm talking about. You will lose roughly three weeks of your life, become slightly sleep deprived and possibly dehydrated, and perhaps need to keep an eye on your blood pressure, but by god, it's worth it!