Friday, 30 April 2010

Quiz Night

All the questions asked, all that remains is for our quiz master, Matt the Hat, to reveal the answers.

"So! According to the Italian government, which European country is the most cultured?"

He looks to his audience to throw in answers.


"No, no, no," says Matt the Hat. "The answer is ... Britain."

One team is incredulous. "Fuck off!" says their spokesman.

I think, maybe, the Italian government should have carried out a more thorough questionnaire before leaping to any hasty conclusions.

Monday, 26 April 2010

More Tea Vicar?

We are a fairly diverse office.

Six boys and two girls. Three fathers, and one stepfather. Two husbands, three co-habitees, and three singles. One marathon runner. An ex-military man, an ex-husband, and an ex-sailor. Four homeowners, two renters, and two multiple-home owners. One in his 20's, four in their 30's, two in their 40's, and one about to turn 60.

We are all very different. Different lives, different backgrounds, and different outlooks. But we've discovered a common ground.

We are all obsessed with tea.

Someone will do a tea round about six times a day, and each time, the reaction is as if everyone is on the brink of dying of thirst. Enthusiasm abounds. The steaming mugs are brought back through to us, and each one is grasped and slurped from, and everyone gives a pleasing, "aaaaah". There is nothing like a new cuppa tea.

One of our lads joined the company as a hardened coffee drinker. He would arrive and head straight for the Nespresso machine, with one of the little black capsules, and a small cup, to get a short sharp shock of caffeine, and go back, and back five and six times a day. Then one day he was accidentally given tea instead. And now he's one of us. We converted him. Lured him in and snared him. With tea.

But we're diverse in our tastes. PG Tips, of course, gets the popular vote. But I'm an Early Grey drinker myself, so I took a box of that in on my first day. One of the boys was given a sample of Redbush, and that's become a popular mid-afternoon tipple. And mint tea (or "lesbian tea" as it's oddly known between the boys) of course, for the return to the office from an indulgent lunch.

Then one day there were hangovers, and I introduced them to the wonder that is Twinings Morning Detox. Knocks all hangovers dead. Official. But it convinced us of the medicinal qualities of tea, and now we look to it to fix everything. Stress, hunger, digestion, hayfever. Everything.

This afternoon I discovered that there are no fewer than eleven different sorts of tea in the cupboard. I think that we've become obsessive. We have reached the point where we really only go to work to drink tea. I think that maybe we need to ween ourselves off.

I wonder if there's a tea for that ...?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Here Be Dragons

Today is St George's Day.

Yes, really!

Every year there is a flap about the fact that no-one ever remembers when it is, and it's not fair that there's no bank holiday, and we aren't patriotic like the Irish or ... well just the Irish really ... and it's a public disgrace, etc etc etc, blah, blah. blah, and EVERY year it sneaks up on us, causing a nation to rise up, as one, and say, "oh, is that today?"

I like a bit of patriotism, me. I like a bit of Rule Britannia. Singing Jerusalem makes me a bit tingly. I bloody love that crazy bunch of Greeks and Germans that are our royal family. And even I forget when it is. We're just not very good at celebrating our Englishness in England.

Don't get me wrong. Come the World Cup, I can guarantee that every second car will have a George Cross clipped to the back window, and you'll not be able to walk into a pub without hearing the tribal cry of, "In-ger-lund, In-ger-lund, In-gur-lund," but I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn't quite the same thing.

During the last World Cup, I heard a lot of references to, "the England football flag," (including one advert in a national tabloid newspaper, which should remain nameless*). Somehow I managed not to beat each person around the head as they said it, and shout, "it's not a football flag! It's your national flag, you great frigging chimp!" But you see why I'm not entirely convinced that this particular brand of flag waving really is patriotism, in the oldest sense of the word, because I don't believe that they know that's what they're doing. Bless them.

Now I'm not saying that I think that St George's Day should be a bank holiday, because, as it happens, I don't. Mainly because we already have a few around now, so it would probably be surplus to requirement. But I do think it would be nice if people knew a smidgen about our patron saint.

He's a fairly well loved dude, is George. He is patron saint to eight countries, two Spanish autonomous communities, twenty cities, boy scouts and skin disease sufferers and syphilitic people. Which is nice.

He was a soldier in the Palestinian army of the time, but one day the man in charge, in a move of questionable sanity, said that everyone in the army who was a Christian would be arrested, and our George didn't much like the sound of that, so he objected, and was arrested, lacerated on a wheel of swords (the new ride at Alton Towers?), then had his head chopped off. What a day!

I'm not sure when he slayed the dragon. That must have been whilst he was in the army I suppose. Palestine was crawling with dragons in those days. Rather amusingly, when I googled images of dragons to insert in the post at this point, the one on the right was one of the top in the search. I'm not sure, but I don't think that's a real dragon.

Anyway, happy St George's Day, one and all. I hope you're all eating boiled beef and carrots, and drinking warm lager, whilst wearing your Morris Dancing uniform, and waving handkerchiefs in the air.

God save the Queen!

* No it shouldn't. It was The Mirror.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Share and share alike

I have noticed that, when I drink, a lot of things happen.

I talk a lot more shit. A. Lot. But it's all interesting shit. I know all the words to all songs ever written, and prove it readily and loudly. And I'm a lot more attractive to everyone. I also find myself saying, "yes" a lot more than my sober, more circumspect self would.

It is for the last of these reasons that, in a couple of weeks, I have a Swiss girl coming to stay with me.

I was in the pub, with a couple of colleagues, when one said that he knew someone who was coming to London for a few weeks to improve her English, and needed somewhere to stay. And like that (*clicks fingers*) I was saying, "she can come and stay with me."

Now, someone (who will remain nameless) has suggested that I use the time I have with someone who says things like, "I am thankingful very much," to introduce some fake English words*. Others think it's potentially time consuming, some think it's interesting, and the people who know me best realise that it might end in tears.

I have, since student days, lived with two people. The first was a slightly obsessive compulsive girl, who was slightly mental but actually, in the main, either somewhere else, or on good form. In the main, we had a good time. In the main, it was ok.

The second though. Phewy! She was a bit crazy. Actually, that's not fair. I'm selling her short. She was absolutely fricking fruitloop! We lived together for a year, and it was the longest year of my life.

She was a smoker, which I knew when we took the place together, and, in itself, wasn't a problem. But I objected slightly that she used anything she could find to flick her fag ash into. Still, all was fine until I bought her an ashtray and asked her to use that instead of my wineglasses, and she threw a benny. And the glass in use at the time. A minuscule over reaction, perhaps.

Speaking of reactions, one evening I came home to the smell of gas. She had left the tap on the gas hob open a smidge. To be fair, it could have happened to anyone. So I went into the lounge (which led to the kitchen) and said, "I can smell gas." "Can you?" she said, looking at me vacantly, "I can't." Then she took out her cigarette lighter, and sparked up. AAAGGGHHH! I pointed out the stupidity of what she was doing, and she flounced from the room, ranting. All my fault apparently.

Oh, there were so many examples of abject idiocy! The food that went into the freezer was carefully frozen in portions for two. Each time she cooked (which, mercifully, was rarely) she would take, say, the two chicken breasts out of the freezer, and prise them apart, and use only one to cook a meal for two, and be surprised that there wasn't enough food. Can you imagine the sheer force that it must take to separate two frozen chicken breasts? Would you not, at any point in that process, think about throwing caution to the wind and using both? Maybe?

But then, if you dropped a heated iron on a cream lounge carpet, I assume you'd rush to pick it up, rather than using the immortal line, "gosh! That was close! That almost landed on my foot!"

Her finest hour was when she took something of a fancy to my boyfriend of the time. She'd flirted a little for a while, then one day decided to make her move.

As I've said, the kitchen opened off the lounge. Next to the kitchen door was our dining table. Immediately inside the kitchen (i.e. the other side of a flimsy internal wall from said dining table) was the fridge. We'd just finished our dinner one evening, and I was in the kitchen at the fridge, roughly, to paint a full picture, three feet from where she sat. It was from this position, that I heard her say to Boyf, "if things don't work out between you two, you can always give me a call." I stood, agog, at the kitchen door, looking directly at Boyf, who gawped back at me, opening and closing his mouth a few times, before saying, "actually, I think I'm alright, thanks." She knew I was in the next room and was entirely unrepentant. It didn't seem to cross her mind that she'd done anything wrong.

Still, not to be outdone, she started making dirty 'phone calls to his mobile in the middle of the night. We didn't realise it was her at first. It came up as "number withheld" on his phone, so it could have been anyone. It took some detective work to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The thing with making nuisance phone calls, is that it pays not to make them from the phone which you share with the person you are pestering, especially if you've already insisted on itemised bills. And the thing with being clinically stupid is that you should know your limits.

All told, I'm a little anxious about the prospect of sharing my home with someone again. I'm worried that it will be an invasion of my privacy. I worry that she will be a cookoo in my nest. I worry that Swiss Chick will flick cigarette ask into my wine glasses, blow up my kitchen, and set fire to my carpet.

On the positive side, at least there's no boyfriend for her to steal this time. And for that, I am thankingful, very much.

*Secretly I think this is a splendid idea, and am now collecting made up words. Please supply suggestions, along with a definition, and a sentence using the word in context. Thank you!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

There Went The Girls

So, the reunion lunch was terrific. I'm not long home from it, and am happy to say that, thanks to a special Wine Of The Week offer on Chateau Neuf du Pape, I've blown the diet.

Still. It was great to see to see the girls and catch up and natter and jest and natter and gossip and bitch a bit and natter. As anticipated, it was a little like no time had passed.

Still there were a few things that left us scratching our heads that I think you might be able to help me with.

Please can I have answers to a couple of questions:

1) What is the collective noun for transvestites? In the context of conversation, Pip said, "so this gang of trannies came over ..." and we questioned use of the word "gang". We have suggested a purse of trannies, an extravagance of trannies, a clutch of trannies or a camp of trannies. Any feelings on any of those? Or any other suggestions?

2) One of the girls (currently four and a half months pregnant) is going to a fancy dress party in a few weeks with a theme of dead celebrities. There was lots of debate as to which female dead celebrity would be apt. The idea she was most enthusiastic about was the Queen Mother. Any ideas?

All thoughts gratefully received.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Here Come The Girls

Question: What do two lawyers, a school exams co-ordinator, a lap dancer, a ballet teacher, an internet sales guru and a surveyor have in common?

Answer: They are lunching together tomorrow at a mini school reunion.

It's been ages since we all saw one another, and unfortunately we are a steam lined group of seven tomorrow, but it will be a lovely treat to see the girls, and have a good natter. Meeting up with them is like stepping back in time. Over the years, our conversation hasn't really moved on much, which is oddly comforting. If smutty.

We went to a girls grammar school in Kent, where our formidable headmistress was obsessed with the slightly unlikely prospect that one of us might, one day, be the next female Prime Minister. She was slightly batty, but fiercely proud of her "gals," and whilst we sniggered at her then, I guess her gin soaked heart was in the right place!

I'm not sure that any one of us was ever going to be Prime Minister, but we came out of her school as a pretty well rounded, if eclectic bunch. But most importantly, we came out having created ourselves our very own "old boys network" would make Mrs Lambert pretty proud, I'm sure.

Anyway, here's a photo of us when we were in the sixth form. We seem all to be rather slimmer than we are now, but are dressed, apparently, from our mother's wardrobes*. I had no idea then, that we'd still be pals now, but if I'd have known that photo would still be sloshing around now, I'd have tucked my top in, at the very least!

* We aren't! It's tragic, isn't it? We really dressed like that. We didn't wear uniform in the sixth form, but weren't allowed to wear trousers, t-shirts, trainers, boots, short skirts, long skirts, or anything attractive. Apparently. It rather limited our options, so we dressed like spinsters. Perhaps that was the idea ...?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Gillian McKeith Can Bugger Off!

This is Dr Gillian McKeith.

I assume that her expertise has never been imposed on the rest of the world (at least, I hope it hasn't), so, for international readers, DGMc was a TV dietitian.

She had her own show in which she would take someone who lived on diet of deep fried mars bars, and couldn't understand why they were fat, then make them poo in a box (POO. IN. A. BOX.) so she could analyse it, then tell them to eat broccoli and steamed rice, and then everyone would be surprised when the target lost weight.

Patronising cow.

A couple of weeks ago a couple of old friends came to stay. I have a photo in my kitchen of a gang of us at a wedding, taken about four years ago. Lorraine looked at the photo and observed that we'd all filled out a bit since then. Slightly indignantly, after they had left, I tried on the dress I wore to the wedding. I needed to prove her wrong. I Have Not Filled Out. Except that the zipper went about half way up and stuck. Clearly the zipper is broken.

With the last few days of lovely sunny weather, I've started putting woolly jumpers away and pulling summer skirts out, and it was with some disappointment that I realised that the zippers would probably be broken on a few of them too. And that my summer tops had probably shrunk in the wash.

So today I started a diet. A right proper diet. I can't do this by halves. If I tell myself that I'll cut back a bit, then I'll lie to myself and say that eating half a deep fried mars bar is clearly progress. So I'm properly calorie counting.

Oh. My. God. I'M BORED! Day one, and I'm climbing the walls! Plain porridge for breakfast, a tuna salad for lunch, and salmon risotto for dinner. Truth is that it's not wildly different from what I might have on a normal day, except that there have been no treats.

All I've been able able to think about all day is food. I've been able to smell it and hear it and see it all day. Even when it's not been there. I've had whole chunks of time when I've not been able to concentrate because I'm too busy thinking about cakes. Or sweets. Or chocolate. I have googled recipes, just so that I can read the words. It's like food porn.

At lunchtime through the week, I almost always have soup or a salad. I'm not a big sandwich fan. But today I hankered after rich creamy cheeses and fresh fluffy white bread. Real butter too, of course. Salted. Never unsalted. Never.

Dribble, dribble, dribble.

I need to snap out of it! I need to concentrate! I need to pull myself together and stop fantasising about food! I need to behave myself for long enough that the zippers on my clothes work again! I need to do this for myself before some crazy Scottish woman makes me poo in a box*.

* This post has enabled me to use the best post label ever.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Alice & Clement

Two things.

Firstly, thank you, lovely people, for your Alice charm bracelet enthusiasm!

Alas, silver flamingos and white rabbits are in short (hence, expensive) supply, but I am working on suppliers of both (and hats, tea pots, hearts ...) RIGHT NOW! Yes ... on a Saturday night! THAT, my friends, is how dedicated I am to the cause. I will get some more made up as soon as practical and let you know what, and when (and how much **cough cough**) as soon as possible.

Secondly, and purely because it made me laugh until a little bit of wee came out, I heard this joke the other day, which I would like to share with you. I make no apology if you've heard it before. Rather appropriately, since it's a year this week since the great man died, I give you ... Clement Freud.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

Last week, I had an email from a friend of a friend.

"I'm looking for a charm bracelet for a birthday gift for a colleague, on an Alice In Wonderland theme. Do you think you can do something? She really loves flamingos, so we definitely want to include that."

Time from order to delivery ... one week and one day. EEK!!

So, with visions of blue caterpillars dancing in my head, I indulged in a little
hardcore Ebay and Etsy time (can we have three cheers for internet shopping? Hip, hip, hip hooray!), within a couple of hours, I'd ordered up mushrooms, keys, Cheshire cats, tea pots, love hearts and ... a silver flamingo!

All week, little parcels have dropped through my letter box from
'round the world, and I've added them to the bracelet, and on Tuesday evening, I got to hand deliver this ...

Cute, no?

And look!! There is even a silver flamingo!

There was just one small glitch. You know how they say that art mirrors life? Well the White Rabbit, entirely in character, was late! He arrived this morning, and has been put on a clasp to be added to the bracelet in due course. Dapper, isn't he?

I've had so much fun finding all the bits for this bracelet. I think I see some more themed charm bracelets at loulouworkshop in the not too distant ...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Gateway to Europe

Whilst I was away, I observed something.

I observed that we and our European neighbours all behave very differently, but in quite minute ways. Sometimes adhering to a stereotype, and other times, not, but always following a theme.

I believe my observations can best be illustrated thus:

Picture a public garden, enclosed by a low fence, allowing everyone inside the garden to see out and everyone outside to see in. In the fence is a gate. Several people are walking from different directions to the gate and reach it roughly at the same time.

The Frenchman gets to the gate first. He opens it, walks through, and releases it to swing shut. He appears oblivious to everyone else in the garden. He slouches away without looking left or right.

The Englishman is next. As he gets to the gate, he apologises to everyone else, then holds the gate open in a slightly awkward way, and waits for everyone else. He is visibly vexed by the fact that this is happening, but too anxious to do anything about it, so he stands there, peeking at his watch from time to time.

The German man is a few back in the crowd, but he realises that he's not going to win and puts a spurt on. He consequently gets to the gate next, having barged some people to the ground. As he pushes through the gate, he pauses to look around and see if he's missing anything, then starts a new race ... in his head.

The Italian approaches, looks at the Englishman in a mildly suggestive way, but says nothing as he walks through the open gate. He exudes a confidence that makes everyone else stare slightly. When half way through the gate, at the point when he is in most people's way, he stops to have a chat with a friend, and reacts not at all to attempts to ask him to move.

The Spaniard is last. He strolls to the gate and issues warm smiles to everyone. When he gets to the gate, he seamlessly takes it from the Englishman and waves him away. He then walks through himself, and is thanked by all the other gate users for his time.

It's just the way I saw it. I'm not saying it's ALWAYS the same. Just ... y'know ... that's they way I saw it.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Gay Paree


A quickie (wa hey!) because it's late and I'm tired.

I've been in Paris for the weekend, which I'll tell you more about though the week, but in the mean time, I wondered whether anyone could explain to me why some things ...

... just look ...

... French?