take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pronounciation [sic] 

A friend of mine, knowing I was a stickler for saying things correctly, once added to his attempt at saying a foreign word: "I hope I got the pronounciation [sic] right". My friend and I both said, in unison, "pronunciation". Fortunately for us, he saw the funny side…

I’m not sure where my pedantic streak came from. Such a stickler am I that I will avoid saying a word if I’m not sure how to pronounce it. One example that springs to mind is the brand of cigarettes called "Peter Stuyvesant". Luckily, I am not often called upon to say it out loud…

When I go to a coffee bar and order a latte, I get extremely annoyed when the "barista" replies: "a larrr-tay?" I have to bite my tongue to prevent myself from snapping: "No, I'd like a latte please..." I don't think they'd "get" it. If they refuse to describe their products in English (now there’s another post right there), they could at least attempt to pronounce them correctly in their native language.

Another, coincidentally Italian, example is "bruschetta". I know it looks to an Anglophone eye as if this should be pronounced with a "sh" sound, but it’s not an English word, it’s an Italian word, and as such should be pronounced as "bru-sket-ta". The "ch" construction results in a hard c sound when followed by e or i. The rules of Italian pronunciation are extremely clear and consistent in this regard, unlike English! Unfortunately, Italian isn’t taught as a matter of course in this country, so how are people to know? It would help if the people serving the food would pronounce it correctly, for starters. Or just call it "baked bread with stuff on it", thus avoiding any slip-ups.

The latest example I’ve noticed is the French term "coup de grâce". On a number of occasions recently I’ve heard it pronounced, on television and in films, as "coup de grar…". Hello? What happened to the other two letters? And what’s with the r? I guess this stems from a vaguely held notion that often, the endings of French words are not "sounded", like in "coup d’état". The English girl with whom I shared accommodation on our year in France suffered from this same affliction. She would say "tout le mon…" as she believed that the "d" and "e" were not to be pronounced. She was supposed to be three years into a French degree; it would have felt "impolite" to correct her.

Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen – there’s another one. Just listen to the way he says: "trompe l’oeil" (and he does say it surprisingly often…) as if the "p" and the "e" were merely figments of someone’s imagination. As a general rule, if there’s a vowel at the end of a French word, you can be pretty sure that any consonants before it will be pronounced.

I can anticipate people’s response. Why does any of this matter? If you can get your message across, who cares?

I guess there are more important issues in this world to worry about (and believe me, I worry about those too). But since this is the one (the only?) area of study at which I’ve managed to excel, I *do* care. To me, it’s not enough just to say the foreign words, you have to say them like a native would, including all the gesticulations, flourishes and facial expressions. Only then can you come across as being fluent.

I'll shut up now...

Pick o' the pod, take two

And in a new series, I bore you with the tracks I enjoyed most on my journey to work:

A Forest - The Cure
Living on the ceiling - Blancmange

Monday, August 29, 2005

Anxious eats... 

I don't often do foodie posts as I feel there are some dedicated blogs out there which do a *much* better job, but I wanted to share with you one of the meals I've been enjoying making this summer.

There's something about North African/Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food which I find irresistible, from my first experience of falafel on a food stall at the Ideal Home Exhibition (of all places) during my teenage years. Sometimes I wonder if I don't have a bit of Middle Eastern blood in me: I have before been accused of being "an arab" by a nutcase at a bus stop - who knows, maybe the nutcase was right all along!

Living in London means that you can sample the cuisine of so many different countries and it's the main thing I miss now that I live in a small, extremely uncosmopolitan town. There are of course those from around the county who view it as a heaving metropolis. Bless.

So, may I present for your delectation an "anxious" attempt at a middle-eastern style meal:

Marinated lamb, halloumi, red pepper and black olive kebabs served with tabouleh and a lemon and coriander yoghurt dressing.

We like.

Oh, and in case you're a new reader (unlikely, I know, but hey), here's the lowdown on this 'ere blog. Also available down yonder sidebar.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Blog anxiety 

In this strange microcosm of society we call Blogland, status anxiety is, unfortunately, as omnipresent as in "real life", even more so since I’ve rashly decided to go to this.

I helped to organise a London Blogmeet in May 2004. Many of the attendees knew who I was, and there was a sense of equality about it. Here were some like-minded people who clearly interacted well together in a comment box, so why shouldn’t they do the same in a brick-built “box” which serves alcohol?

I am concerned about this one though. There are some blogging heavyweights going. The type of blogger who, through no fault of their own, makes me feel thoroughly and depressingly inadequate.

I’ve been blogging for almost two years, quietly and humbly posting regular excerpts of my view of the world to a small yet loyal band of appreciative readers.

I’d love to say that I don’t care that I get a pathetic number of hits per day, that I am never likely to be nominated for a blog award, be mentioned in newspapers or magazines or be asked to write elsewhere. I’d love to say it, but it wouldn’t be true.

When I turn up at this blogmeet and someone says "So, who are you then?" and I say "I’m [me]", I fully expect them to look at me blankly and say: "Oh...".

As in "real life", when someone asks: "So, what do you do?" and my reply is similarly met with an "Oh...".

Blog imitates life.
I’m just not good enough.
I've booked the train ticket, but there's still time to bottle out.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The effect that the introduction of the item can have on a standard-issue, despair-filled, open-plan office environment is truly amazing. The sheer novelty and "out-of-place-ness" of the item will bring a confused yet amused smile to the face of many a corporate wage-slave.

Most will find "activating" it hard to resist, giggling shyly as they gleefully note the effect they produce. As others are alerted to the presence of the item, principally by its ever more frequent "activation", the "prairie dog" or "meerkat" effect will be noted around the office, often accompanied by a bemused silence, or a nervous snigger. The braver ones will immediately seek to examine the item, eyeing its owner suspiciously, but with a wry smile, as they do so. They will seek to find a sinister reason for its existence, not able to accept that the item is just there to be what it is.

Mundane tasks will be embellished by its presence, playfulness will become a part of the office environment, hitherto rare bursts of laughter will reverberate around the uniform grey partitions if the item is activated with just the right timing.

All because I chose to put one of these on my desk, just for a laugh...

Bring it on 

Monday, August 22, 2005


One of the few features which I like about myself is my hair. It has served me well throughout the years, providing as it does my personal curtain to protect me from the world (and vice versa).

Inevitably though, being both a woman – where hair wanted is the exact opposite of hair possessed - and an anxious one to boot, the hair is of course just not good enough. It’s too fine. The number of times I’ve had a hairdresser say, with a smile: “Your hair is very fine, but you’ve got a lots of it”. Thank you. And this helps me how?

Whilst they admire and seek to enhance its shiny sleekness, I can’t wait to get home, smother it in mousse, tip my head upside down and give it the full force of the 2000 watt hairdryer in a desperate attempt to create some semblance of body. Only to find that, 10 minutes later, it will have returned to its default, lifeless state. And so the cycle repeats, every morning.

Colour-wise, I’ve tinkered about with it a few times, usually plumping for an all-over shade (limited by the number of shades which will actually show up on my hair – being bluey-black, browny-black or plummy-black).

In recent years, I’ve experimented with highlights to try and shed my "trying-to-be-a-goth" label, but after the initial flurry of excitement, this has tended to leave me with what I shall name the "Jaffa Cake" effect – layers of chocolate-coloured hair interspersed with what can only be described as "orangey bits". As the highlighted sections progressed inevitably downwards, I moved on to the "Duracell" effect, resplendent with my blackish roots and copper-coloured ends, an effect which has been exacerbated by the bleaching effect of the sun.

Frankly, readers, I had to sort it out. This weekend, armed only with Garnier Movida, I ended the reign of terror of the orange bits. The raven, my dears, has returned...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Small town life 

The letters page of one's local newspaper can provide a source of much inspiration to its readers.

A recent correspondent made a remarkable discovery. She couldn't help noticing that there appeared to be a correlation between rush hour traffic and school holidays. She noted that while school holidays are in force, traffic levels are significantly lower and journey times reduced. Could the fact that many children are ferried to and from school in cars be causing this effect?

A bold claim, I think you'll agree. I mean, who would have thought that an ever-increasing number of people carriers and Range Rovers (to cite a couple of typical examples) would make any difference to the traffic levels? For the past 20-odd years, the rest of us dunderheads have been scratching our respective heads, failing to see this subtle relationship between school term times and levels of traffic chaos.

It's good to know that I am sharing my town with such astute people who have their finger on the pulse of the latest issues in our society.

This article was brought to you by Sarcasm Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Irony Group.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Holiday envy 

Words cannot describe the resentment a corporate wage slave feels when sharing a house with a teacher who has eight (yes, eight, just count them!) weeks off over the summer. I know someone who went through the training to become a teacher merely because he couldn't bear the annual torture at the hands of his (teacher) wife. I am currently realising the horrible truth of it myself.

Our first summer together was spent... well, apart, with the scramble to see as much as possible of each other at weekends. The fact that he was spending his weekdays watching cricket/twiddling his thumbs/indulging in self-abuse was immaterial because he wasn't doing it in *our* home and I didn't have to witness it.

Last summer, I was "deliberately" unemployed so that we could spend the time settling in to our new life in the West Country.

But this summer is different. This summer, I have to get up every morning while he... well, he just *doesn't*! The fact of the matter is, he often *does* get up - this morning he put the rubbish out before I'd even got out of the shower. He spends his time at home sorting out the house from the move, washing clothes and dishes, gardening and preparing for next year at school, so it's not as if he's just lazing around watching the Ashes (although there is, of course, an *element* of that...). But the crux of the matter is, he doesn't *have* to get up at a set time each morning, and that's the bit which slowly eats away at me. That's the bit which makes me press that snooze button just one more time. That's the bit which makes me shuffle grumpily around the house muttering "I don't *want* to go to work" like a sulky teenager.

I know, I know. It's payback time for all those Saturday mornings he had to work during term time whilst I languished in bed. It's his reward for putting up with other people's children for most of their waking hours. That said, I still reserve the right to sulk about it.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Things to worry about #84830 

Horses. They stand there in a field, looking glum. I think it's the natural position of their head which makes them look sad. Reminds me of that joke about the horse who goes into the bar and the barman says: "Why the long face?". It's arguably funnier, though, when you substitute "Céline Dion" for the horse...

The time I worry most about horses is when I'm following (or more usually, overtaking) a horse box on the road, especially a horse box with little windows at the front. What on earth must be going through the horse's mind as it hurtles along, powered not by its own legs, but by an unknown force? As it watches images of the countryside going by at high speed whilst it just stands there, motionless, humble and dignified.

Yes, I worry about horses.

I worry about bees. Particularly the big bumble bees which come in through my window but can *never* find their way out again. They spend many minutes mere inches away from freedom, hurling themselves again and again at the window pane, buzzing frantically, never learning, never seeming to feel where the breeze is coming from and adjust their position. I want to explain to them that if they'd just aim a little higher, they'd be out. Unfortunately, there's no reasoning with a bumble bee.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

2 years on... 

... from this:

"Hi Big, Anxious here. J gave me your number - hope you don't mind... Enjoyed your company last weekend - felt a "vibe". If you felt it too, would love to hear from you. If not, no worries, just ignore this message and sorry if I have embarrassed you. Bye for now. Anx :)"

In that time:

And that's just the things which comply with my ascending numeric pattern!

We've come a long way, baby
Happy anniversary.

"So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


"Why is there a dog in our room?"

The first stage in answering such a question when it occurs in the middle of the night is to establish the following facts in order to properly engage the brain:

"Who am I?"
The Anxious One, 1 part blogger, 2 parts wage-slave, 3 parts hair, 700 parts incessant worrier

"Where am I?"
In bed

"Why am I?"
I don't think we've got time to deal with that issue right now...

"Who is that?"
That's your co-habitee (for want of a better term)

"What is going on?"
Your co-habitee has just asked you the following question:

"Why is there a dog in our room?"

*brain whirrs*

The fact that he's asking "why" there is a dog in the room rather suggests that there *is* a dog in the room. Added evidence comes from the fact that, a few weeks ago, he asked the question: "why is there a cat in the room?" at a similarly ungodly hour and, having heard the unmistakable sound of "landing cat" followed swifly by "mewing cat", it transpired that there was indeed a cat in the bedroom. This one, in fact.

However, cats being known for their agility in such activities as jumping on roofs and clambering through windows, this was less surprising a prospect than the presence of a dog in our bedroom. The last time I had checked my "pet ownership inventory", we didn't own a dog. I might add at this point, though, that this fact did little to deter the cat.

I looked around the room in the darkness, to which my eyes had now become accustomed. I couldn't see, hear or smell any evidence of a dog. It would be a very unusual dog indeed who didn't make his/her presence felt in at least one of these ways. With this in mind, I ventured, tentatively:

"Hon, there isn't a dog in the room..."

"Over on the left," said the co-habitee.

Now, at this point, the co-habitee was lying on his front, so his left was my right. I look to my right - no sign of canine activity. I decide to look to my left too, just to be sure. Equally, no dog to be seen. I guess if one were stretching one's imagination to the maximum, the hanging rail with clothes draped over it (putting things on hangers is *so* last year dahhling...) could, in combination with the right kind of tobacco, resemble the shadow of a large poodle. A large, silent, inanimate, unscented, two-dimensional poodle.

Examining the evidence placed before me, being:

I concluded that I would be best advised to go back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that there were no dogs in my room.

Ground rules 

This blog will be different to the last. I'm not entirely sure if it will work.

Firstly, I will not be posting from work. This goes against the grain for me, as I set up my first blog from work and most of my blogging time was kindly paid for by [insert old company name]. I'm not proud of this, but it's the way it was. Note, "was" - past tense.

If I'm to avoid the same fate as my blogging predecessor, I must not access this site from work, even just to view it. That means that I won't respond to your comments during working hours - that's 08:00 to 18:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time - the Greenwich Meridian Line passes through the district where I was born. Fact.), Monday to Friday. So if you leave a comment, please bear that in mind. I'm still wondering whether accessing Haloscan directly to look at comments would be advisable...

Bearing in mind the fact that I will only post from home and home being where the "heart" is, I can confidently predict that I will not be as prolific a blogger as my predecessor. I've barely time to wash my hair, let alone construct elaborate blog posts. I apologise in advance.

Then there's you, dear reader. If you know who I was, please don't mention her. This is my space, I want to keep it that way.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Body image 

Low self-image has always been a feature in the Anxious world. It began in my teenage years, when the seemingly never ending widening of hip and thigh coupled with a distinct lack of complementary “bustular” expansion left me with arguably the least attractive of female body shapes to contend with – the so-called “great British pear”. Let’s face it, the expression “it’s all gone pear-shaped” is rarely used to convey a positive outcome.

An unusual combination of dark brown hair and almost black eyes with deathly white, almost translucent and sometimes freckled skin, plus the healthy dose of dark and abundant body hair (too much detail, perhaps...) didn’t exactly help.

The last thing you need as a self-conscious teenager is to stand out from the crowd, but at 5ft10 and built like a brick shit-house, I felt not only like a sore thumb but one with a huge blue plaster on it. My self-consciousness was usually translated by the outsider into aloofness and self-confidence except by those who actually bothered to get to know the shy, fatherless little girl beneath the hulkish exterior. These people were few, but loyal.

I often wonder if that “fatherless” bit matters. How would I have turned out if my father had lived? I know I wouldn’t have grown up in Walthamstow, but in leafier Twickenham – the move was planned before my father’s illness took hold. Anxious, the West Londoner – or would that be Middlesex-er? – what would she have been like? Maybe she would have attended a grammar school rather than a comprehensive – would she have got better results? Would she have been imbued with confidence, ambition, elaborate plans for her future?

I began shrouding myself in shapeless clothes, a trend which would continue, with a couple of brief interruptions, until my thirties. No top was too long, no trousers too baggy. Nothing could cling, nothing could reveal the shape underneath. I would dread summer because I would stubbornly refuse to wear thinner, lighter fabrics and, as a consequence, would slowly boil within. Skirts, unless they virtually touched the floor and were completely opaque, were forbidden. Shoes, jewellery and bags were always chunky, never delicate, never feminine. I lost sight of the woman within – the only evidence was the long hair and heavy make up. Mirrors were enemies, to be spurned, avoided, turned away from. Ditto shop windows. Only the face could be viewed in the mirror, but even then, not at too close quarters...

Slowly, around the age of thirty, the change started to come. I’m not sure what started it. Maybe seeing one too many family snapshots which made me want to cry. Gradually, I began to change the way I dressed; clothes which fitted rather than shrouded, shoes which allowed my feet to come out of hiding. Then there was the running. Suddenly, clothes starting becoming too big. Tentatively, I began to reach for sizes which I hadn’t worn since my teenage years, finding to my astonishment that they fitted. I was able to look my new self not only in the eye but from top to toe, appraising myself objectively and with a smidgeon of ... no, surely not... yes, pride. It was *this* Anxious, the rather confident and (dare I say) sexy young woman, who was able to approach Him two years ago (almost to the day...) and say “Hey, here I am, do you want some?”

I can feel that woman starting to slip away a bit just lately. There’s the hint of disgust as she catches sight of her naked flesh, the jealous looks at the petite girls in their pretty summer outfits with their slim, tanned limbs on display. Where’s the acceptance that there are some things you can’t change about yourself, no matter how many miles you run or bars of chocolate you shun? Where’s the appreciation of all the qualities on offer, not just the external ones? That the body is the means of conveying the “self” within and is not “the whole story”.

I sometimes catch sight of her in the mirror but she keeps turning away. I wish she could stick around. I actually quite liked her...

I mustn't let her get away again...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ten years ago 

I had just received the results of my final examinations from London University. The day the results were published, I went to see my friend who lived in Stepney – he had been awarded first class honours, but was anxious to know what I had got, since we had spent a lot of time revising together in his cramped flat, which he shared with his wife and two young children. He was aware that I had actually read all the books (girly swot that I was) whereas he had gleaned some knowledge from me and made the rest up using his not inconsiderable talent for sounding authoritative. He felt it wouldn’t have been fair if I hadn’t also got a first, but it wouldn’t have surprised me – he was (and still is) one of the most intelligent people I have ever met . Not that a first class degree is any sign of intelligence – it can’t be, because I managed to wangle myself one...

My mother wasn’t able to attend my graduation ceremony as she was in hospital at the time being treated for a second occurrence of cancer. I went alone.

I was in an 18 month old relationship with a Frenchman who was approximately 10,000 miles away from me (and would be for another 8 months). My only ambition at that time was to get a job in a Francophone country so that we could live happily ever after when he returned from military service. The first part of the plan worked, I got a job in Brussels as an overpaid, bilingual secretary. On his return, after only 2 weeks of communal living in what should have been “our” “maison de maître” apartment, he went back to France to work out what he wanted, having realised that he didn’t actually know. A couple of weeks later, he told me he wouldn’t be coming back…

Five years ago
I had just moved into my first owned property, a 1930s apartment in Southampton which had (and would continue for some time to have) much untapped potential. I may not have been in a position to buy it had it not been for the untimely death of my mother and subsequent sale of the London home the year before, the proceeds of which were split between her four children. An unhappily early inheritance which allowed me my first step onto the property ladder at a very opportune time.

As a result of my sending out a batch of change of address cards, I received a very unexpected letter from the Frenchman who’d broken my heart four years previously. A brief attempt to rekindle the old flames turned out to be a raking-over of old coals but, ultimately, allowed me to close the door on that chapter of my life - a door which had been ever so slightly and painfully ajar for four years.

One year ago
I had just moved to Somerset, to start a new life with the man with whom I was clearly meant to be. I was just about to lose my car (and to an extent, my nerve) in a terrifying head-on collision, the reverberations of which still send a shudder through me whilst driving on single carriageway roads. I’m quite proud that we managed without a car for several months – until I got a job in a town not served in any useful way by public transport.

The cat came in again and hid in a box, peering out in a cute and amusing fashion, clearly delighted at his discovery. He then joined us on the sofa and proceeded to attempt to pierce the skin of His thigh until a (fake) leopardskin cushion was securely wedged between paw and thigh.

After 3 days of post-work sporting activities (tennis, running and running – in that order), I have spent a relaxing evening cooking, watching “Property Ladder” and… erm… writing a blog post!

I will be implementing a change to a barcode labelling system in a factory. I shall return home to find a houseful of men preparing for a weekend of gaming, whilst I shall prepare for a weekend of sisterly activities in Milton Keynes. Of all places.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


He comes strolling in every night at the same time – usually just after 8pm, as I'm settling down to dinner. He knows how to get in.

He wanders through the house, brushing past the furniture, casually. Sometimes I give him a drink. He normally sits on the cream coloured easy chair, watching me eat my dinner. I never give him any food, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Sometimes he'll amble over to the bay window so that he can watch the world go by as I eat. On occasion, he even sits in the front garden to get a better view. I pretend not to be bothered, but can't help peering through the slats of the blind to check up on him from time to time. I catch him with his eyes shut, seeming to smile to himself. I wonder what goes through his head. I wonder if he’s happy when he’s here. He never tells me what he wants from me, he just turns up every night. I’m weak. I don’t ask questions, I just let him do it, night after night.

When, and only when, he's ready, he'll join me on the sofa. He'll show a lot of affection and "butter me up” for a while and then fall asleep.

There have been times where I've shown him the door, but normally he leaves of his own accord, sneaking out without my noticing his departure.

He went through a phase of calling up to my bedroom window at night – usually between midnight and 6am. To begin with, I would always let him in, but I resolved to be strong and, though his calling infiltrated my dreams and disturbed my sleep, I would not give in.

Some mornings, I see him at his little window, staring. He catches sight of me and his eyes look up, expectantly. I turn and walk away.

I know he's just using me.

Look at him:

Bloody cat
I wouldn't mind, but he's not even *mine*!