Thursday, 31 December 2009

Eyes forward

I was meant to be out this morning, but I've been postponed until next week instead. Phewy! You know how it is. Sometimes you say yes to things that you realise later you should have said "no" or "maybe another time" or "agh! Stop asking me that!" to. But I have clearly done something good in a former life because when I pleaded with the Gods to get me off the hook, the Gods replied by text to say that something had come up. Yippee!!

But what it does mean is that I don't have any reason anymore to say "well, of course I'd have written something deep and significant about it being the end of a month, a year, a decade, but I was terribly busy," which I was kind of relying on.

This New Year has loomed rather large on the horizon for some time. It's ridiculous. It's just a date like any other. I mean, I would be unlikely to announce that I refused to acknowledge the coming of 18th June, for example, so why the angst about 1st January?

Really I want 2009 over. I am looking forwards to sticking a meaningful two fingers up at it. But there's something about this time of year, isn't there? Something that makes a girl acutely aware of the passing of time. Aware of what's happened and what hasn't and what might have and what what's changed and what's stayed the same.

The thing is that some wicked things have happened this year. Some really positive stuff came out of 2009. But it's easy (or at least, it is in my wee world) to wallow in the negative. I'm waltzing out of the year feeling like the negative has cast a shadow over the positive. Like the positive has happened in spite of the negative rather than to spite it. 2009 has been a glass-half-empty year, despite the fact that, it's really been two thirds full in the most part. What can I tell you? I'm an ungrateful wretch!

Anyway, the wonderful Ally at Today Is My Birthday posted up an end of year pop quiz last night, and it seems like as succinct a way as possible of summarising events, without giving me the chance to ramble incoherently, so I'm TOTALLY stealing it! If you fancy doing the same, help yourselves, kids!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Bloody loads! I joined a book club, I bought a house, I started writing a blog, I took part in an Open House event, I bought a power sander, I wore a mini-dress.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any resolutions last year. I usually make one which is suitably vague and unquantifiable (so I can manage my own fear of failure) but last year I sort of missed the boat. But then that also means I didn't fail, so hurrah for me! What shall I resolve for 2010? How about (a) to start 2011 weighing less than I do today (which is an all time high, so frankly, if I don't, I'm in trouble!) and (b) to be upbeat, positive, chirpy and generally happy!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Geographically close? Like, right next to me? No.

Emotionally, yes! My oldest bestest circle of friends had THREE new arrivals this year! So let's all say a bit hello and welcome to Amie Diane, Rachel Alice Blossom, and Aiden Michael. "Helllloooooooo Babies!"

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Geographically close? Like, right next to me? No.

2009 has been mercifully funeral free, which has made a happy change. There were too many by half in the two or three years before that. Let's go for another clear 12 months please people!

5. What countries did you visit?

Ummm ... have I left the country all year? I don't think I have. So just the one then.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

The surname "Clooney".

Materially, I really have most things that I want. I'd like to have a new car. Not NEW new, but new to me. And a wardrobe in my bedroom. And some nice pictures on my walls. But I can sort those things out nice and easily.

I would like to have more patience, and be more willing to not wallow, but to SNAP OUT OF IT! I don't know if I can buy them in Tescos.

I'd also like a telly that doesn't ever have Davina McCall, Tess Daly, Vernon Kaye or Alan Partridge on it.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Dates like calendar dates? 2nd January was a bunch of poo. Otherwise, I'm not good at remembering dates?

Dates like ... Hot Dates? Well I only went on a couple of dates this year, with Boy 2, who is lovely.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting to 31st December without running away to join the circus!

And, of course, buying a house. That's quite a hurdle isn't it? I'm not good at putting down roots, so just deciding to do it would, frankly, have been an achievement, but actually DOING it is quite something else.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not running away to join the circus.

10. Did you suffer illness of injury?

Not really. I cut my finger in May and still can't really feel the end of it. Does that count?

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My house. It's dead cute. It's got walls and a roof and floors and stairs and EVERYTHING! And it's slowly becoming less beige and more moi. I lo-o-ove it every day. It's also a story of good over evil - it's the result of me throwing my toys on the floor, jumping up and down, and shouting, "FINE! Bugger you then! If THAT'S the way you're going to be, then I'll do it on my bloody own!" which is a good thing.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mine. I'm bloody lovely.

Well, SOMEONE was fabulously supportive at the start of the year and warranted BIG hugs. She could have been celebrated, but for the fact that she kept hiding DVDs of Cold Mountain in my car.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

This question makes me appalled and depressed. (Not that no people did the same, but frankly they appalled and depressed me so much that I don't want to waste any more time on the buggers. So there.)

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bricks and mortar in part. Mostly on solicitors fees though. They appall and depress me ...

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Buy one get one free on Green and Blacks in Sainsburys.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Lead in my Pencil by Paulo Nutini.

Rat tat tattle ta da da da daaa!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

I believe that I've already answered all of those questions.

Than this very time last year, I am (a) sadder (but working on it), (b) fatter (but working on it), and (c) poorer.

But what way is that to measure life, eh? I've got my health ...

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Saying "no, no, thanks very much, but I don't need another slice of cake."

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Eating cake.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Here. At Chateau Tooting. With my parents. Eating cake.

It all went well until Salsagate ...

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

Maybe the evil Cold Mountain Fairy, referenced above, or maybe Mother Tooting. Or maybe the local Chinese Takeaway...

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?


23. How many one night stands this past year?

None. I am a virtuous soul. (Not for the want of trying!!!)

24. What was your favorite TV program?

I think Gavin and Stacey.

Would you like an omelette?

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


26. What was the best book you read?

Is it cheating to have a trilogy? Ah, what the hell! It's my blog, my rules. The Girl ... books are quite simply excellent. I cannot recommend enough that you all hop onto Amazon now and buy up the full Millennium Trilogy box set. Off you go. I'll still be here. You'll miss nothing ...

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don't think I can claim to have discovered anything. I'm not John Peel. I just listen to Radio 2 and press "shuffle" on my iPod.

28. What did you want and get?

My new job, my new house, more cake ...

29. What did you want and not get?

The heart of a ginger teacher from Hartlepool.

OK ... when it's put like that, I realise that it was possibly a lucky escape. But it mattered. And I wanted it. No accounting for taste, is there?!

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

I've not seen loads of pics this year. I can't even think what's been on. Clearly nothing has made a terrific impression ...!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 21, of course! I'm surprised you'd need to ask! (*ahem* ... 32)

I did nothing particularly. I went to work, I went home, I ordered a takeaway and I met my new neighbours. Who are now my old neighbours.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Goodness me! But I don't know. The ability to more often say "I TOLD you so?" The courage to say to my former boss, "actually, the reason I'm leaving is because you drive me nuts." More cake?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

If the zip goes up, it fits.

34. What kept you sane?

Boy 2, for the first few months. Unwittingly, of course, but nevertheless. And cake.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I tend not to fancy not-real telly land people. I tend to fancy real actual people. So I think none.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Stirred me? Well I got a small bit vexed by the expenses scandal, because it was all so grabby and petty and stupid and showed up all of our decision makers to be arseholes, which we already knew, of course, but which was a trifle disappointing. Besides which, my ducks don't have a house and if I'd know I could claim one on the council I'd have filled in the form.

37. Who did you miss?

I am a lucky girl. I have a lovely wee gang of friends who I picked up between the ages of three and eleven, and who I am still good friends with now. We've been friends through school, university, work. When we get together it's like we were never apart. We drop straight back into the same jokes, the same routine, the same levels of comfort. For a long time most of us lived here in south London, within a mile of one another and we saw looooads of one another, but inevitably life moves on and people move away. Some are still in the area, but others are in Colchester, Whitchurch and Truro and so we are all in the same place at the same time very rarely. I miss them individually, of course, but mostly I think I miss them as a group.

I just welled up a bit. I'm moving on.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I met some TER-RIF-FIC people this year!

I actually met Evans' last year, but riiiight at the end, so I'll count them. They're great. So are the Merricks and the Adds, and Mssssss Baker Day. I feel like I've known them forever, which is nice.

The book club ladies are ace too. They told me about this area which made me look at this area which made me buy a house in this area which made me join a community which has a book club. They made my life better, and told me about some wicked books. And some crappy ones it has to be said. I would urge you never to read Revolutionary Road. Or Wolf Hall. Really.

And I've met some ace creative types too who've become right proper friends. Even if they have made me use the phrase "but is it art?" seriously, and hate myself a little bit ...

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

It goes on. If it doesn't kill you (and most things don't), then it makes you stronger and you will learn from it and possibly make the same mistake again, or maybe not, but either way, it's all part of life's rich tapestry and most clouds have silver linings and there are plenty more fish in the sea. And other things besides.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I'm not good at song lyrics. I sing along with the radio and get it wrong. So I think I'll go with ...

... Rat tat tattle ta da da da daaa!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS! 2010 will be a new year and it Will Be Good!

Now read on ...


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Does Any Person Here Present ...

... know of any excuse that I can use for not having told you all about the wedding of the year, now almost three weeks ago?

No. Me neither. But since the bride and groom will be back from their honeymoon in a day or two, I think I should procrastinate no more and tell you about it.

So, the wedding was that of my lovely friend Angela who is my oldest friend in the whole wide world ever ever. We were friends when I was three and she was two. Isn't that amazing? And in Mark, she was marrying someone absolutely right for her in every way. They compliment one another perfectly, and appreciate it, which is just fabulous.

I get a wee bit emotional when I see my friends settle down with the right people which, by and large, they have (there are one or two exceptions, of course, which I think decorum requires me to not name ...) so forgive a little sentimentality.

The wedding was in a village near where we all grew up, at the church in which we saw another great couple married a couple of years ago, and the reception was (now you're going to like this) at a brewery in the next town. A brewery. Delicious!

And it was all just brilliant. The vicar was just batty enough to fit the bill, the carols were sung with gusto (but then, my friend Simon sounds a lot like Harry Secombe's more talented brother, so we tend to all stand behind him and mouth along), and there was enough booze that my friend Adrian gave us a wee monologue about how much he loved us all. The speeches struck an emotional note (reducing more than just the bride to tears ... **ahem**) and we even managed a bit of a dance (to, amongst other things, Chesney Hawkes (who knew that he was still going?!) which is something of a perennial favourite). It was just fab.

And the bride, of course, looked radiant, in quite possibly the most lovely wedding dress that I have ever seen. The story of how she came to be wearing it on the Big Day is quite a long one, which gives testament to the fact that sometimes, these things are just meant to be. That was her dress, and the planets were aligned to make sure she flaming well got down the aisle wearing it.

You might notice the small but beautifully formed doo-dah in her hair? Well that was courtesy of moi! I was given a brief to make something a bit like one of those, with some of them, and a bit like that, and absolutely NONE of them, and I created away. I think the customer got what she wanted. It certainly looked the part, even if I do say so ...!

But the thing about which I was most very really truly very excited was my gift to the happy couple. They have lived together for a few years, and really have everything they need to run a successful household. Their wedding list was therefore, rather magnanimously, I thought, with Oxfam Unwrapped. But this is my oldest pal, and I wanted to give her something more material and less worthy (don't look at me like that! I bunged a note in a collection box on their behalf too). Imagine my glee then, when I was pointed, by a friend of taste, at this lady, who made these (eyes right) lovely things for me!

Aren't they ace? A mini Mangela! Aren't they just the BEST thing you ever did see? I would urge you all to rush out and buy every bride and groom you know a pair of these gorgeous little buddies.

So there you have it! The social event of the year, and it was wonderful. Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses please and toast ... the happy couple.


Monday, 28 December 2009

Back to earth with a thump

So that was Christmas. In this house, at least, it's over for another year, and I can't say that it ended any too successfully. You don't need the details - they are too tedious - suffice to say, there was an incident relating to a bowl of tomato salsa, a cream sofa, an enthusiastically slammed door, and some frayed nerves. I think that all was resolved in the end, but it did rather take the sheen off the Christmas Cheer. If you ask me, the Little Baby Jesus has a lot to answer for.

And to top it off, I seem to have caught one of those snotty, snoring, wheezing, hacking kind of really sexy colds. Beautiful.

So all in all, when The Parents left this morning, I was feeling rather flat, and more than a little sorry for myself.

After an hour of self indulgent sulking and moping, I did what I do when I want to shake the mean reds, and I started walking. All did not start well, for I am still encountering teething problems with the sodding iPhone (am I the only person who thinks they aren't all that ...?) and couldn't get it to more than whisper music at me, so instead of setting my journey to the soundtrack of whatever the Shuffle threw at me, it was set to the thoughts running through my head. My journey went something like this ...

1) Bugger. Turned right instead of left. Oh well, I'll go 'round the block and look like I always meant to go this way.

2) Is that lady (could she really be drunk at this time? Well I suppose it is Christmas) going to veer left or right when I try and walk past her? I'll go left. Oh, dear! So will she! Squeeeeeze!

3) Do squirrels hibernate?

4) What IS that child wearing? And is it a boy or a girl? A girl. It's got long hair. Or maybe it's a boy with long hair. But what IS it wearing?

5) I wonder what will happen next Christmas. Will I have them come to me or will I go to them or will I do neither? Option (c) has a certain appeal. Perhaps a wee cottage somewhere remote with an open fire, a radio, no telly, and loads of books.

6) These houses are nice. I like the colour of that front door. Ooh, look at that nice Christmas tree. And I wonder where they got those blinds. They'd be nice in my house. Oops! Homeowner staring at me! Keeping walking!

7) Shall I go to The Nightingale for lunch? They do the lovely smoked haddock. But then it can be a bit brat infested. Perhaps I'll keep walking. Or shall I? Oh for goodness sake! Make up your mind and stop dithering on the pavement! Keep walking? Good decision. Now stop wondering about the smoked haddock.

8) Oh, these houses are nice too. I wonder if I'll ever live in a place like this? I wonder what I'll live in next. I wonder how long I'll live in my house. I wonder if I'll buy my next place alone or with someone. I wonder how long that will be. I wonder where it will be. I wonder if I will still live in London, or will I move out.

9) Good Lord! Is this year's "Must Have" accessory a three wheeler buggy? Everyone's got one! And did that mother really just say, "Please don't let him dribble on his tank top darling. It's Hilfiger"?

10) I know where I'll go. I'll go to Brew and have eggs Benedict. That'll hit the spot.

11) Oh sod. All the shops are shut. Bloody bank holidays! Wait! Cath Kidston is open. Perhaps they'll have something floral that I can't live without. I'll look after lunch.

12) No, not takeaway, eat in please. Yes a table would be nice. No, I'm not waiting for anyone. Yes, a table for one. One, yes. No, I'm really not waiting for anyone. (**Thinks to self: If you make me feel any more like a loner, you'll not get a tip, dear**). Yes, it is just me today. (**Thinks to self: There it goes!**)

13) That was nice. Now, a quick nip to Waitrose and then I think the bus home.

14) First I'll pop back and get a flowery laptop bag I think.

15) Oh look! There's the bus! Run, run, run, run, runnnnnnnn! Gottit!

16) Bugger. Didn't go to Waitrose.

17) Gosh, but I'm tired! Home, cup of tea, quick (!) blog post, and something easy for dinner I think. Something, of course, involving turkey (groan).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Ungood English #3

Sometimes there just aren't words ...

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A timeline

7:30am - TS stirs. After much deliberation she decides that she has to go to the loo. As she steps out of her room she trips over a Christmas stocking immediately outside her door. The spare room door is open. The parents are sitting in bed, each with a cup of tea, and are surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper and presents. TS goes back to bed.

9:00am - TS wakes again. As she steps out of her room she trips over a Christmas stocking immediately outside her door. Still. The parents are up, showered and dressed, and hopping from one foot to the other. "Is it time to open presents yet?" Father asks. "Coffee," TS states.

9:15 am - TS has convinced the parents to have breakfast first and presents after. She has prioritised a jug of coffee. It has helped. Bread, croissants, toasted muffins, and the obligatory range of six jars of preserve are served.

9:45 am - "Is it time to open presents yet?" Father asks. TS convinces the parents to clear the table first. The brother calls having already opened all presents. The Parents talk to the Brother. TS clears the table.

10:00 am - Present opening commences. All is calm. All is bright. Highlights include a slug trap and some smellies still bearing the "3 for 2" label. Classy.

11:00 am - "If that pudding doesn't go on soon we'll never be having it," Mother announces. TS puts pudding on to boil.

11:15 am - Present opening concludes. Father has put all his chocolates next to the radiator. The phone rings. "It'll be Great Aunt," mother concludes on the second ring. It is not. It is a friend calling with best wishes and thanks for presents. Great Aunt is pointedly called from a mobile phone in the kitchen.

11:45 am - Pudding is boiling, kitchen is clear of breakfast, oven is heating, phone conversations are concluded. TS decides to slope off for her shower.

12noon - TS comes out of the shower to be faced with a table cloth crisis. Her management training does not go to waste. Disaster averted. She can get dressed in peace.

12:05 pm - Father discovers he has left his chocolates next to the radiator. Mother is finding things in the kitchen. TS abandons hair and make up. Mother departs to do hair and make up. The bird goes in the oven.

1:45 pm - new potatoes cleaned, old potatoes and parsnips peeled and cut up to be roasted, baby carrots topped and tailed, sprouts peeled and crossed, stuffing made, red cabbage prepared, cranberry sauce located and tipped into a bowl, crudites chopped, dips and olives located, crisps, drinks poured, table laid, crockery located, crackers found, lost again, found again. Mother walks into kitchen and enquires whether I was going to put any make up on today. TS goes to put make up on and reassemble now rampant hair.

2:00 pm - TS glides downstairs, the picture of domestic goddishness, fully made up, hair rearranged, in jewellery which co-ordinates with her outfit. Father hands her a stiff G&T. She reclines by the fire. "Isn't it nice to sit down!" Mother declares.

2:01 pm - TS bastes the bird. Returns to gin.

2:03 pm - TS goes to heat oil for roast veg. Returns to gin.

2:05 pm - TS puts roast veg in oven. Returns to gin.

2:07 pm - TS remembers the sausages in the fridge and goes to put them in the oven. Returns to gin.

(Repeat for half an hour)

2:37 pm - Mother looks at watch and points out that it's nearly 3pm. TS deciphers code, drains gin and goes to throw starters together. Mother butters bread.

3:15 pm - Starters prepared and on table. Bird out of oven to rest (lucky bugger). All veg roasting / boiling accordingly. Mother is asked to make gravy. She frowns and shakes her head. She does not like the new roasting tin. Or the quality of what's come out of the bird. Or the shape of my table spoon ("It's different to mine. But I'm manage.") TS offers to make gravy. Mother says no. She'll do her best.

3:30 pm - Starters started.

3:35 pm - Starters finished. Return to kitchen. Father carves the bird. TS drains all veg / removes from oven accordingly, and transfers to serving dishes and to table. Mother is there too.

3:45 pm - All food on the table. TS surveys what she's achieved and is proud. Father says that the gravy looks like the best bit. TS bites her tongue.

4:15 pm - Everyone has had dinner and seconds. There is almost as much food left on the table as when we started. Mother says she told me there would be. TS racks brains to recall such a conversation. Plates are cleared.

4:16 pm - Father is asked to get cheese out and put on the table.

4:17 pm - Cheese is found spread liberally, still in it's wrappers, around the kitchen. TS decides to make up the cheese board herself.

4:30 pm - the Christmas pudding and white sauce are served. Disaster strikes when Mother realises she's forgotten the plastic sprig of holly for the top of the pudding. Life goes on.

4:45 pm - The thought of any more food makes TS feel a bit panicky, but there are standards to be met. Father and TS have token sliver of cheese each. Mother does not.

5:00 pm - TS says that the only thing she really wants to watch today is The Gruffalo at 5:30 so clears the table. She finishes clearing the kitchen. Loads the dishwasher. Washes the things that won't fit. finds things that have been "put away" and puts them away. She makes up a tray with coffee (two sorts), milk, cream, sugar, chocolates.

5:31 pm - TS enters living room. Gruffalo is not on. Father begrudgingly changes channels, then mutters throughout.

6:00 pm - Parents settle in for Dr Who. TS takes coffee things back to kitchen, puts ham on to boil for tomorrow, fixes broken candle holder thing, makes tea, finds cheese biscuits under dining table and transfers to tin. Finds more things that have been "put away". Puts them away.

7:00 pm - Father leaves lounge declaring Strictly Come Dancing "a load of old rubbish". TS re-enters lounge to watch said rubbish. Mother says, "Isn't it nice to sit down?"

7:01 pm - Mother falls asleep.

8:50 pm - Father re-enters lounge to peer at final scenes of Eastenders, play with candles, mutter about "a load of old rubbish" and prod Mother until she wakes up. TS misses seeing Archie Mitchell die.

9:05 pm - Father says he's had enough and is going to bed. Mother and TS watch a series of Christmas specials, before she decides to retire too.

Midnight - TS heads to bed for fear that she will soon turn back into a pumpkin. She is thankful to have had so much help preparing the feast. Really. She's not sure she could have done it alone ...

Friday, 25 December 2009

Well here it is ...

I've been bombing 'round since first light today (what am I saying? I've been bombing around all week!) dealing with food, parcels, and helping my parents absorb everything they've brought with them into the house (either they don't travel light, or they plan to stay for a while ...), and all the time pondering what I want to say to you all tonight.

In the end, after lots of head scratching, I have concluded that it is this ...

Merry Christmas!

With love

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Here we come a wassailing

I know, I know, that I bang on A Lot about how lovely my little village-within-a-city is, and also how slightly crazy my neighbourhood is, but humour me. For tonight was a prime example.

I would like you to picture a scene. Picture an email being circulated around a neighbourhood in July, suggesting that everyone gets together to sing a few hymns and other songs in the local pub, to celebrate the season. Picture 200 people turning out and sitting in the back room of the local pub and joining in. Picture those people all spontaneously knowing all the words to all the songs and all the tunes and singing with abandon. Picture those people whooping and clapping when someone sings a solo of one of the verses of their favourite hymn.

Totally inconceivable, no?

And yet, in December, if you call the hymns "carols", then it's a different story. An invite went around inviting us all to a carol sing-along and we all turned out.

What actually happened was a whistle-stop tour of the world's best loved carols - a quick fa la la la la la, and a bit of a ding dong, and a sneaky hark! within about 45 minutes. That, I can assure you, takes some doing. I. Was. Pooped.

Then the evening of "Christmas" songs went from the sublime ...

(Yes ... they are Abba-ettes. The only thing less Christmassy than Easter)

... to the ridiculous ...

(for those unused to student discos, those are the words to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor).

It's all quite bizarre. The youngest in the room were teenagers, and the oldest in their 70's. The solid rugby playing men saved up their voices for a resounding "FIVE GOLD RINGS" and the young girls gave a dainty "sire, he lives a good league hence". The young 'uns looked obligingly blank when we sang it "My Way" and the oldies looked slightly embarrassed when we sang, with gusto, that there was a place for us (somehow, someway, somewhere). But everyone, to a man sat, and bellowed out the songs for the benefit only of everyone else in the room and their own personal enjoyment. I even sang an Abba song. And THAT takes some doing. The carols and the Christmas songs took up maybe a half of the evening, before the old classics took over. But somewhere in the midst of it all was the Spirit of Christmas. Alive and well in a slightly odd suburb of south London.

Hope your festivities are giving you at least some of the warm glow that I'm currently feeling.



Sunday, 20 December 2009

In the words of Noddy Holder ...

... it's Christmas.

I might have been a little slow to catch up, but, as of today, it is Christmas in my house.

It's hardly registered with me at all that it's happening. I mean, there's been a vague awareness that something festive is happening in the world, but not with any specific focus.

Yesterday morning it hit me. In a week it's Christmas. Which I'm hosting. Admittedly only for my parents - just us three - but still. My fridge was empty. My house undecorated. My presents unwrapped. My spirit particularly unfestive.

In two days, I've turned it around.

My store cupboard is now groaning under the weight of yummy goodies. I managed to neglect to buy any normal food, but the calorie overload of the Christmas / Boxing Day dining table is sorted.

The house smells like Christmas. There is a heady combination of Christmas tree, satsuma, wrapping paper, and cloves about the place, which is very warming. And is it me, or do decorations have a certain smell. I think it's the aroma of last year, tucked in a box for 12 months.

My tree is, it's true, the smallest tree in South London, standing at a heady three foot six. But I've managed to get 120 fairy lights on it. And whilst I cringe slightly at the tack associated with Christmas, I'm a bit pleased with the opulent combination of glass baubles, porcelain snowflakes, and jangling bells that I've managed to pack on. The lowest hanging decorations do just skim
the floor and I'm aware that this might put pay to any plans Santa might have to arrange the plethora of presents that I am, no doubt, due under the tree.

Call me old fashioned, but I don't think the decs are complete without Nativity somewhere. I'm not a particularly religious person, but I do think it's only fair to give a small nod to the
little baby Jesus, in whose name we do all this. When we were small, our Nativity was made of cardboard and was folded and assembled each year. Inevitably the sheep and wise men would be arranged into compromising positions at some point over the holidays, and my Grandmother would have to be distracted whilst the stable was put back in order. I think these little fellas, standing just an inch tall, will be enough to do the job, without Doing The Job ...

And of course, no amount of decoration would be complete without the magic mistletoe berries. It's a funny little tradition, but one, nevertheless, that I feel strongly that a single girl-about-town ought to respect. My spring is therefore hanging in the hallway, waiting for some action ...

It's been a lovely, lovely day. Punctuated by a quite trip to down-town Furzedown for carolling, and a lot of crooning (my rendition of Silver Bells is enough to make Dean Martin squirm).

I'm really looking forward now to some good Crimbly baking tomorrow and to practicing a bit of The First Noel! Ho ho ho!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How old is too old?

I'm on the train home. It's late and the train is only half full. Or half empty, depending on your perspective.

Across from me is a kid on the phone to his mate. He's hard to age - he's in clothes that would suit a teenager but I'd guess he's in his twenties.

The conversation is about a job interview tomorrow. He don't want to work for no serious city dudes, bro. (He's white, but has been taking style tips from P Diddy).

He's just told his friend that he job he really wants ... the very career that his heart desires, is to be a ninja.

All I can think is, "you'll never make a ninja if you can't work out which way your baseball cap goes on."

The moral if the story: there comes a point in your life when you are too darned old to think that being a ninja is a viable career option.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A special request

"Will you write a blog about this wedding?"
"Yes, I imagine so."
"Will you put something in it about me?"
"If you want. What should I say?"
"Noooo! Don't do that! The hospital would find out and I'd be fired!"
"No-one will find out. The hospital would have to read my blog, work out who I am, work out that I know a doctor in your particular hospital, and work out it's you. What shall I say about you in my blog?"
"Um ... You can say that last week I had to touch a man's penis. Again."

Friday, 11 December 2009

The season of goodwill to all men.

Well ... most men.
Some men?
A few men?
Just a couple?

Nope. Sorry folks, but I am here to report that in The Big Smoke, the sentiment of the season has yet to reach everyone.

I am usually one of a few thousand faceless, soulless, unblinking commuters passing through Victoria station. Through Monday to Thursday, sometime around 8:15am, and again at around 6:15pm I race across the concourse without looking left or right, but with my eyes firmly on the goal. Frankly, every other soul in the station could be dressed as the Easter bunny, and it's unlikely that I'd notice.

Today I have travelled to my ancestral home (a 70's housing estate in Kent) in anticipation of a friend's wedding tomorrow, so had to travel into Victoria on one line, and back out on another, giving me about half an hour to dilly-dally in the middle of the afternoon.

I purchased myself a gingerbread latte (from AMT. Tooting Tooting coffee rating ... 5 stars!) before taking my place in the under-timetable huddle. As I took in my surroundings, I saw that, in the middle of the station, the Salvation Army band was about to strike up.

There is nothing that quite warms the cockles of my heart like a nice brass band playing a carol or two. In The Bleak Midwinter is a particular fave. It makes me feel all festive and jolly and I can almost smell the mulled wine just listening to it (or is it a gingerbread latte?) so I was quietly thrilled that this would be my entertainment until the stampede for Platform 1.

Oh, it was lovely! I almost welled up a little bit! It was, I think, the first time that I have felt truly Christmassy this year. And then ...

I didn't notice the huddle of three girls next to me, but in retrospect I wonder how they'd passed me by. In uniforms of skinny jeans and Ugg boots (is it only me that thinks 'Minnie Mouse' whenever I see this look?), and laden with Primark paper bags, they were having a loud, and detailed, "he said, she said..." conversation, and my instincts told me that they were headed for the same train as me. I was making a mental note anyway to keep my eyes peeled and aim for another carriage, when the conversation stopped abruptly.

In a loud and uncharacteristically clear voice, the ringleader drawled, "What. The fuck. Is that ..." and pointed a terrifyingly manicured finger towards the band. Her friends turned to look, and one of them, a little embarrassed looking, said, "they're playing carols, innit? For Christmas? It's, like, Hark the Herald Angels or somefink?" (The question marks are there because that's how she phrased it. I blame Home and Away).

The finger pointer's jaw dropped. This was clearly the most shocking news she'd had in many a year. Without tearing her eyes off the Sally Annes, she turned her nose up and confirmed her feelings to all around her with the following immortal words ...

... "well it sounds fucking shit."

And god bless us ... every one.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

You don't have to be crazy to live here ...

... but I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of pre-requisite that no-one told me about. Or whether it's only a matter of time until I start to blend in. Or whether I already do ...

I am a lucky girl. I live in the rare thing, which is a neighbourhood in London. We have a proper community here, in this tiny unknown corner of South London. There are all sorts of social groups and networks that exist here, which are focused on creating a lovely place to live. It's almost a village, but that it's hemmed in by a large sprawling city. I know my neighbours and their neighbours and the people beyond them, which is something which I've never had in London before. It's quite, quite lovely.

But there is a thread of craziness running through it all.

Tonight I discovered that there is a big annual event coming up which is something of an institution, and which anyone who's anyone in the community gets involved with.

Yay! Count me in!

It's a carolling event. On the last Saturday before Christmas every year, people congregate on the street outside the shops in the middle of the neighbourhood, and, supported by a local band, sing carols in the street, fuelled by mince pies and mulled wine from the lovely lady who runs the cafe. Isn't that lovely? What a nice thing to be able to take part in.

But because this isn't any usual neck of the woods, this wonderful, family, community, festive event takes place, very specifically, in the presence of a life sized cardboard cut out of Captain Jack Sparrow, in a Santa hat.

Is it me ...?

Merry Christmas everyone, and shiver me timbers!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

So many thoughts ...

... so little time.

100 thought flit through my mind all at once. I can't separate them into individual threads of consciousness.

Tomorrow is my first day at my new job.

My mobile phone is somewhere else in the house and is beeping.

I've had a lovely weekend away with a friend who I've known, we worked out, for 14 years. I last saw him in May.

The dining room is finally painted.

It's a new phone and I'm not used to it's peeps and whistles yet.

A friend of mine is a new Auntie.

What should I wear tomorrow? Trousers or a skirt? Flats or heels?

Another friend is going to India for the week tomorrow.

The house smells of fresh paint. It's comforting and stifling both at once.

Perhaps the beeping means I've got a new text message.

I'm a small bit jealous of her adventure. But I'm a big bit thrilled for her too.

We went together to the village Christmas market, where his mother was running the raffle.

I think maybe just black will be best. Trousers and a top. Low heels. It'll be safest.

Her new nephew is called Felix Ernest. What a mouthful!

I should move all the furniture back into the new room, from around the house, and get a bit of order back.

I only bought raffle tickets because I felt a bit guilty. She was raising funds for the church.

I ought to go and find the phone. It's bleeping like mad, and it might be important.

But maybe a nice necklace. Something chunky or coloured to cheer it up a bit.

She's excited for her sister and her new baby boy, of course, but sad that her parents might now not come to them for Christmas, but go to bounce their new Grandson on their knee instead.

I ended up winning first prize! Three boxes (THREE!) of Thornton's chocolates. That'll be nice for Christmas treats.

What will the weather be like in December in India?

Or maybe my red shoes. Would that be too much?

Och! That phone!

I understand her upset. I want to fix it and tell her that it's a one off. One of those things. But it does always seem to be one of those things, and I know it would just be platitudes. I can only tell her that I don't know what to say, and it seems so weak.

How will I sleep?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Adventures of the Invisible Woman

Today the Invisible Woman went shopping. She needed something fabulous to wear for a wedding next weekend, which she ought to have thought about before now. She decided to go to Westfield.

She left the house and set off to walk to the station. Half way there, four workmen stepped onto the path blocking her way.

"Not to worry," thought the Invisible Woman. "I am six feet tall and of not-delicate proportions. They will see me coming and step aside." (The Invisible Woman had forgotten that she was invisible). When she got to the workmen, she said, "excuse me please," which confused them, causing them all to look around to see where the voice had come from. Not being able to see anyone near by, they didn't move, so the Invisible Woman had to squeeeeeeeeze between them and their big mucky van, and then go on her way.

When she got to the station there were people using the two ticket machines, so she waited for them to finish. As one of them came available, another lady came from nowhere and stepped in front of the Invisible Woman. The Invisible Woman said, "erm ..." but the lady hadn't seen her, and was in a rush, so she carried on, and the Invisible Woman had to wait to buy her ticket, then to hurry for the train.

The train was quite busy, but there was a seat that a man had put his bag down on. The Invisible Woman asked if he would mind moving his bag, but he didn't hear her. She asked again, but he still didn't hear her. Then another seat came available so the Invisible Woman sat there instead.

She got to Westfield with a spring in her invisible step and a feeling of optimism about the shopping day ahead. Into the centre she went, and headed for ladieswear!

She drifted in an out of shops, but no-one saw her. Shop assistants stood in front of her, or cut across in front of her making her have to stop and let them through. Other shoppers also pushed in front, then ambled, slowly, in front of her, oblivious of the fact that the Invisible Woman wanted to get moving.

(Unfortunately, when the Invisible Woman tried on wedding outfits, and looked in the mirror, she noticed that her lumpy and ripply bits weren't invisible, which was a shame).

In and out of shops and changing rooms she went, and, whilst she was enjoying a day of her own company, and her own thoughts, she was a little bit sad that no-one could see her.

Finally, having tried on what seemed like fifty or sixty outfits, she found a dress that she liked, and headed for the tills, feeling triumphant.

At the tills there was one lady already being served, and there were three members of staff having a conversation. The Invisible Woman tried to catch the eye of one of the chattering staff, but of course they didn't know she was there, so no-one came to take her money (which by now, was burning a hole in her invisible pocket). It crossed her mind that, if she was invisible, she could probably walk out of the shop with the goodies in her hand, but the Invisible Woman does have some scruples, so she waited for the only member of staff who could see her, and paid for her new frock (new shoes, new bag, new cardigan, new other dress (just in case)).

On her way out of the shop, the Invisible Woman was walking between clothes rails, when a man stepped in front of her, and put several large shopping bags down in her path, whilst his wife tried on a coat.

The invisible red mist came down, and the Invisible Woman went crazy. She threw her new purchases on the floor, the better to jump up and down on the man's bags, and then, for good measure, on the man. As she did so, she screeched and screamed, "why can't any of you see me? I'm right here, and I've been fricking invisible all sodding day!" and tore at her clothes. She then did two laps of the shop, stark naked, calling out, "can you see me now? Eh? Can you? CAN YOU?!" before putting her clothes back on, picking up her shopping, and calmly heading back to the train station.*

The Invisible Woman in now at home with a cup of tea and the biscuit tin, too tired from a day of hardcore shopping to cook anything nutritious for dinner. She thinks that she might have the energy to get the giant bag of doritos out of the kitchen. She's thinking, "what the hell. If I'm invisible, I might as well be chubby and happy." Don't judge her.

* This bit didn't really happen, but in the film of the Invisible Woman's life, when she's played by Angelina Jolie's more attractive younger sister, it will.