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...

Monday, October 31, 2005

How to "do" a holiday cottage 

I think of myself as somewhat of an expert in the realm of self-catering holiday cottages, having stayed in a fair few in my time ranging from a dinky cottage for two to a large manor house accommodating a dozen people or more.

There are a few points that I think potential providers of holiday cottages ought to bear in mind if they want not to cause that well-known syndrome of "cottage anxiety" among their guests.

So they did okay on the zip'n'link beds. As for the rest - must try harder.

We did have a lovely time, though, honest!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sweet Jesus! 

What gets me most about this is the inconsistency. I'd almost be happier if they'd put apostrophes on every plural. At least that would have indicated that they'd thought about it, albeit wrongly.

How can someone successfully render "novelty" as "novelties", yet "candy" becomes "candy's" and "memory" becomes "memory's"?

What was even more irksome was that the name of the shop, which it almost hurts me to type - "Sweet Memory's" - was emblazoned on every single jar of sweets in the shop. For a shop whose sole purpose is selling old fashioned sweets from jars (a noble purpose, I think you'll agree), that's a lot of jars. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by sweeties and spurious apostrophes. It was like heaven and hell, all rolled into one.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Catty behaviour 

The cat looked up from his no doubt very important task of lapping up stagnant water from the indentations in the drain cover as I called to him (discreetly) from the bedroom window. He jumped up onto the outdoor table expectantly.

"Go and let him in the patio door," suggests Big sleepily, enjoying his first lie-in of the half term holidays.

I go downstairs and do as he suggests, sliding the door open and making more discreet tooth-on-lip sucking noises, the kind of noise which, for reasons best known to no-one, seems to be ideal in attracting our feline friends. As usual, it works a treat. I hear the scuffling sound of "cat scrambling up fence", after which two paws and a slightly startled looking face appear amongst the strands of honeysuckle as he hauls himself to the top. After deciding on the best route through the tangled, woody fronds, he lands heavily, yet neatly, on the decking and strolls into the house, mewing a vague greeting on his way to his first stop, the kitchen. He examines the morsels on offer there and I leave him to it.

Later, after drying my hair, I come downstairs and find the two of them, Big and the cat, snuggled up on the sofa in mutual admiration. Now that Big is on holiday, the cat won't need to be ejected again before I leave for work.

I'm enjoying having the pleasure of the company of a cat without the responsibility and associated costs. You see, as I think I've mentioned before, the cat actually belongs to our next door neighbours, but he used to live in our house and hasn't quite got used to the new situation. Yes, that *does* mean that our next-door neighbours used to live in our house too - there is a saga attached to this which I won't go into now, suffice it to say, it involves some lies, a planning application, lots of angry people, some dirty looks and many muttered swear words. The upshot is, we don't really like our neighbours, but we do like their cat, and any successful attempt to coax him away from them is considered to be a small yet significant victory, in our eyes at least.

Luckily, he seems only too happy to oblige if it means somewhere comfortable for him to snooze - on top of the box which contains the lawnmower, or amongst a pile of junk on the sofa bed - some warm humans to snuggle with and meow at and some pieces of furniture to rub against. Oh, and we *may* have got him a little bowl into which we *sometimes* put a few snacks and a drink... Are we bad?


Dear Reader

Please don't fret if you don't hear from me for a while. We're on holiday for a week, starting tomorrow. I'm quite sure you'll manage without me.

Love Anxious

Monday, October 17, 2005

Jeans can come true 

I bought the jeans.
Then the doubts set in.

As I observed the rigid fabric clinging to my not insubstantial thighs, I wondered if this fabric represented me, clinging desperately to my youth.

As I struggled, just a little, to fasten the button, I wondered if this was symbolic of my struggle against the ravages of both time and "lard".

As I regarded the artificially worn denim, I pondered on how I too had become worn down by life itself.

Should I, a 33 year old woman, really be buying jeans that require me to jump up and down in order to fasten them? I checked the bag and found that I still had the receipt.

But when I saw how they sat comfortably on my hipbone, flattening my stomach; when I saw how the back pockets were just the right size, positioned wide and low, to assist with the illusion which makes your bum just look a little more in proportion; when I observed the legs which were just a little bit too long (for me, that's a novelty); when I looked at the size of the garment and remembered the effort it took to get back down to that size again...

... "To hell with it, I'm wearing them". I cut all the tags off and strutted into town.

But I've still got the receipt.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's "about" time 

For the benefit of my newer readers who didn't follow me here from [the other blog], in case you're at all interested, here's some stuff about me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Country road take me home... 

Dear "Dolly Daydream" in the "J" reg Fiat Uno

Were you aware that you were driving on a road with a speed limit of 60mph? Were you aware that the road ahead of you was perfectly clear and visibility was good? Were you aware of the long queue of traffic behind you as you pootled along at 35mph? Furthermore, when you finally found the accelerator, were you aware that, at that point, you were in a 30mph zone? In fact, were you aware of anything happening in the world around you as you trundled along?

I await your urgent response to this matter.

Love Anxious

Driving would be fine if I didn't have to share the roads with other drivers...

It seems that, in the West Country, there are two extremes of driving. There are the "Dolly Daydreams" of this world who are overly cautious on a clear road with good visibility (these are most usually found during the summer season) and there are the (usually Subaru driving) maniacs, hurtling down single track country lanes which, admittedly, they probably know like the back of their hands. Although, probably more significantly, what they don't know is what might be waiting for them around the next bend.

I have a friend who lives in a village only accessible by such roads. Every time I have to pick her up or drop her off, my blood pressure gets a thorough workout. As I drove back from a very long Sunday spent both running and recovering from the Great South Run, with my friend in tow, my heart sank as I realised that I would have to drop her home before I could finally relax for the evening.

Once she was safely despatched to her chocolate box village in Devon, I still had the ordeal of getting back to "civilisation" via some very dark, very spooky, very narrow roads. Only when lines started to reappear in the middle of the road and streetlights heralded the start of the urban sprawl (in as much as there is any urban sprawl down here), the whimpering finally began to subside.

Sometimes I think I'm just not ready for "the country". The M25, North Circular, South Circular or the one-way systems of central London hold no fears for me, but I'm not sure I'll ever get used to country lanes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Jelly brain 

The mission was simple, if a little vague.

"Buy fruit and lunch stuff"

I'd mentally added "and pick 'n' mix white and pink mice" to the list because today has been one of those days where it would have been better for all concerned if I'd stayed in bed. Pick 'n' mix mice being my personal "cure" for Monday-ness.

I venture into town, wondering why the weather appears to have forgotten that it's supposed to be autumn and not summer. I wouldn't mind, but I'm wearing "the autumn collection" now. Which is, admittedly, largely the same as the summer collection, except it involves longer sleeves and fewer flip-flops.

At my first stop, I buy ham, cheese, salad and butter, which generally comes into the broad category of "lunch stuff". It is only when I'm back on the high street, striding purposefully towards the pick 'n' mix mice that I realise I've forgotten to buy fruit. Had there been a greengrocer anywhere nearby, I would have popped in, but instead I content myself with another supermarket, wondering if they'll mind my bringing a bag of merchandise from their competitor in with me. I rehearse my excuses ("Erm, I realised I'd forgotten something...") and venture in, grabbing the fruit and making a hasty exit so as not to waste any more precious mouse-buying time.

Finally, mice safely ensconced within their cardboard cup, I make my way back to the car, my stomach taking care to remind me of its feelings of emptiness and neglect.

Only when I reach my car do I realise that the "lunch stuff" I bought was missing a major component. You can have all the sandwich fillings and accompaniments you like, but without bread, it ain't a sandwich. And there was I, "sans" bread.

Luckily, the town in which I work is endowed with a plethora of supermarkets (to make up for the lack of much else), one of which was adjacent to the car park, so I was finally able to complete my lunchtime errand. The fact that I'd used up most of my lunch hour forgetting to buy the major components of my lunch is neither here nor there...

Of course, had I not been doing this:

on the Sunday, I might have had time to prepare myself for the week ahead.

I made a mental note to make paper, rather than mental, notes in future when on lunchtime errands. Then I forgot... and so it will go on.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Salad days 

Jamie won't believe the can of worms she opened up by asking the simple question: "How do you feel about tomatoes in your salad?" I could spout endlessly on the subject of salads, and if you find yourself still reading this post in several years' time, covered in cobwebs, you'll know that I did.

I happen to think that we don't "do" salads very well in this country to the extent that one of my so-called "business ideas" would be a chain of salad bars. But I'm not here to talk about my half-arsed business ideas... for now.

Now, I lived in France, but I don't subscribe to the general view that France does everything better than Britain in the food stakes. For a start, they (mostly) use UHT milk. Yeuch. I'm not going to get into a general debate on this topic, because it would go on forever and make me very angry and defensive. Suffice it to say, I lived in the so-called "Capitale de la gastronomie" for a while, I ate a lot of food there, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, despite what my French acquaintances would attempt to drum into me at every available opportunity.

But I'll concede that one of the things they do rather well is salads. "Les salades composées", which I guess would translate as "main course" or "prepared" salads. You can go to a common or garden bistro or brasserie and they will usually have numerous salads on offer - Niçoise, Lyonnaise, goat's cheese plus many more. Always simply dressed and seasoned, always presented in such a way that you can just tuck in without having to cut it, mix it or dress it, always served with a little basket of bread. Watch a group of French people eating a salad - they will all have a piece of bread clasped in one hand, like a little security blanket. But you didn't come here to learn about French quirks, there are people who do this much better than me...

Equally, when eating at people's homes, there would nearly always be a bowl of salad on the table as an integral part of the meal. Just leaves dressed with an oil, vinegar and mustard dressing.

So one of the things I brought back to Blighty (along with a 6'5" Frenchman and an inability to speak English properly, preferring a weird kind of "translated French", an affliction from which I took a few months to recover) was the salad "thing". I have a side salad with most meals, not least as a way of ensuring that I consume a healthy amount of vegetables. I'm not really a "meat and two veg" girl. I like vegetables to be integral to what I cook rather than boiled or steamed and served separately, but to boost my intake and provide a different texture to a meal, I serve a side salad. When I say side salad, I rarely mean anything more than a selection of leaves, cut, dressed and seasoned. I don't *need* anything more than that.

If I'm having a "main course salad", of course, other ingredients come into play - which brings us back to tomatoes (or as Jamie would say: tomatoes... oh hang on, that doesn't work unless you say it out loud...). A Niçoise salad requires tomatoes, for example. But, for me, the tomatoes *must* be sliced thinly, or at least quartered but usually "eighthed". Unless they're cherry tomatoes. I don't want to have to do battle with a half inch thick slice of beef tomato with no dressing or seasoning. I cannot eat a tomato like I would eat an apple, not even a cherry tomato.

Sometimes I'll take the tomato and just manually squeeze out the water and seeds over the sink before slicing it thinly. (This is actually quite a therapeutic activity, particularly if you think about someone you dislike whilst doing it). This is how I would prepare the tomatoes for, say, a tabbouleh or an indian style tomato, cucumber and onion chutney.

The answer to Jamie's original question, then, would be: if tomato "belongs" in the salad, it will be there. And only I decide whether or not it "belongs" in any salad I prepare or am served. Let that be an end to it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Faux naïf 

We went to a Manor House in the New Forest. All my friends were there and they all looked lovely. I had a flower in my hair. A particular friend of mine, C, looked very smart and was standing around looking nervous. I said "Hello" to him and went into the bar with my other friends.

We were then ushered into a different room. C and his friend were standing up and appeared to be waiting for someone. They seemed a little on edge. Everyone else was sitting around, chatting quietly. Some music was playing in the background - I recognised it as Holst, The Planets.

An official looking lady came in and introduced herself. Then C's girlfriend came walking through the room with her sister, her niece and her grandfather. She was all dressed up and had done her hair - she looked beautiful. Everyone turned around and quietened down when she walked in. She walked up to C and the official lady and they had a bit of a chat that everyone in the room could hear. Then she and C kissed and walked out of the room. We followed them into another area and had a drink there.

People started milling around and some went outside. Later, we had a meal and then some other friends turned up and had some drinks. Some of them got quite drunk. There was a disco too - the drunk people danced.

Big and I went back to our B&B and went to bed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The cat plays mind games 

By the way, I too have wondered why there's an "i" stuck to our patio door...