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...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Crossed purposes 

A textual conversation between Big and Anx


Big and Anx live in Town X. Anx works in Town Y, which is about halfway between Town X and City Z.

Big: Fancy going to see The Proposition tonight?
Anx: What time is it on, love?
Big: 18:30
Anx [thinks]:I finish work at 17:30. It takes me about half an hour to get back to Town X but the cinema is on the way back into town from the motorway, so I should get there with time to spare.
Anx: I'd have to go straight there from work, but it's possible
Big: Of course you would. Do you fancy it? I am just thinking that we will not get such a chance later in the week with running and Thin Lizzy
Anx: Okay, let's do it. Can you get to the cinema on your own or should I pick you up?
Big: I will find out. I should be okay but will let you know
Big: See you there at 18:30? I should get going now.
Anx [looks at watch][thinks]: Why is he leaving now? He's only a couple of miles away...
Anx: Are you walking?
Big: To the station, yes, then the train. I just want to make sure I get there in good time.
Anx [thinks] The train? Admittedly, the cinema is alongside the railway line, but there's no station any nearer to the cinema than Town X station, so unless he's thinking of throwing himself out of the window en route, I can't see how a train is going to help. Why? Why would he be getting the train?

*furrows brow*
*scratches chin*
*racks brain*


Anx: Hang on, are you going to the cinema in City Z?
Big: Yes. Sorry, I did not mention that, did I?

Anx [thinks]: No, my dear, you did not...

Up until a few weeks ago, we ONLY ever went to the cinema in City Z. I am a self-confessed cinema snob, preferring independent, arthouse cinemas to the faceless multiplexes of suburbia. However, we have softened recently, mainly for practical reasons, and braved the "Odious" (as I call it) so that weeknight cinema trips do not have to involve quite so much travelling time.

So my initial assumption that we would be going to the Odious was understandable. As was Big's: that we would go to City Z.

I can just imagine us both standing in our respective cinemas, wondering where on earth the other one was...

Just goes to show: never assume...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


"Are you going to keep this up for the next four weeks, then?" he asks from the bath, eyebrow raised, as I brush my teeth.

"Hmmm.... probably not. I should be okay for our week in Cornwall," I reply. After spitting out the toothpaste, of course, to aid diction.

When you live in a household where one person has the equivalent of 95 days of paid holiday per year and the other has 25 days of paid holiday per year, simple arithmetic can tell you that you will end up with 70 days of bubbling, overflowing resentment. Even if you consider the Saturday mornings worked during term time and the handful of days of holiday devoted to preparing for the next term.

You see, it's the annual torture that is the Easter Holidays. Big will spend the next four weeks pottering about, relaxing and generally recovering from taking responsibility for other people's teenaged children. Sheesh, when you put it like that, he probably deserves all those days off!

Whilst there is of course an element of sheer childish jealousy in the glum demeanour I adopt when I consider the volume of lazing about which would be possible if I had 95 days at my disposal, there is an underlying philosophical side to it.

My frequent moments of world-weariness often involve the lament: "There's just not enough time". In common with most corporate wage slaves, I spend most of my waking hours doing something to which I am, at best, indifferent. When I'm not either at work or driving to work, I'm doing the things which need to be done at home: cooking, washing, cleaning, shopping, running, eating, sleeping, defecating, wittering on etc. So the things I *really* want to be doing (drawing, painting, making things, laughing, walking, seeing friends, cooking new and exciting things, watching films, reading, playing the guitar, learning the piano, having sex) are crammed into that teensie weensie bit of weekend or weekday evening left over when everything else has been done. Work to live, they say, but what if you don't seem to have time to live the life you crave when you've finished the work?

What still surprises me today is that I (or, for that matter, anyone) put up with this for so long without questioning it. It was only really 3 years ago that I started to realise that this just wasn't good enough. Maybe there's a "disillusionment switch" which is triggered as you pass through the 30 year-old threshold. What exacerbates the situation for me is the somewhat morbid consideration that, if I were to follow in the footsteps of my (late) parents, I'd be gone in somewhere between 10 and 26 years' time, and that's if I don't get run over by a bus in the mean time. I do have to wonder how best to use that time and my current lifestyle just isn't cutting it.

But until I've travelled back down that snake just to the right of the corporate ladder, I must make do with my 25 days and let Big get on with watching the cricket and playing Civ without gritting my teeth too violently.

I'll get there.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The "cigarette - bus stop" effect 

Many years ago, I was a smoker.
Many years ago, I lived in a city where there was public transport.

These two facts *are* related, as you'll come to learn, gentle reader.

Waiting for buses can be a frustrating affair. Granted, it's less frustrating in large cities where they actually have several buses per day. Round these parts if you miss "the bus", then you may as well just go home, frankly, because that was the only one. This week.

So, you wait for the bus for what *seems* like hours. In reality, only a few minutes have passed since you arrived at the bus stop. But perception is important here, because it's all you have. As the minutes tick away, you curse yourself, because you know that you could have smoked a cigarette in that time. You ummm and ahhh about it, and fidget as fellow travellers light up, smoke and stub out as if to torture you. Finally, you succumb to your habit and raise a cigarette to your lips, keeping your eye on the road to see if there is a bus about to rumble into view. You commit to lighting the cigarette, taking that all-important first drag and, in the time it took to focus on the flame of the lighter, as if by magic, the bus has appeared.

You are faced with the option of discarding the cigarette (a terrible waste) or doing that pikey thing where you drop the lit end off and save the rest for later only to find that it smells and tastes rather funny. Even funnier than normal.

You may wonder where I'm going here (I certainly do, sometimes) but stay with me.

You see, the cigarette at the bus stop, I've decided, is like a pregnancy test.

You wait, in my case 10 days, before succumbing to buying one. Then, literally, within an hour of having secured the item, what should appear on the horizon?

I'll give you a clue. It's red.


Pregnancy test. Unused. Still in cellophane wrapping. Genuine reason for sale.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A familiar topic 


There's only so much reading of how fabulous everyone else is that one can take.

There are things going on in Blogland which trouble me deeply. The fact that these things trouble me deeply troubles me even more deeply. And whilst it's possible in theory to filter out these things and just stick in your safe little "corner", the knowledge that those "things" are there means the temptation for self-torture is also there. And self-torture is something in which I am *very* well practised: if there is a stick available, even though I know I shouldn't, I will use it to beat myself.

I'm like a guilty child, sneaking onto the computer in the evenings, knowing it's wrong, forever returning to those blogs which haunt and wound me, which make me reach deep down inside my self and find it lacking in so many ways. Whilst Big observes with that look which is somewhere between exasperation and pity. "Why do you do it to yourself, love?" he will say. Other times, the silence and the tears in his eyes will say it for him. It must be like watching a train wreck.

Blogging is damaging me. I am unable to have a healthy relationship with it. I must stay away or risk doing more damage.

And another thing.

How long will I wait for my period to come before I admit defeat and have a pregnancy test? Because, really, that is the *last* thing I need right now. I just want to roll myself up into a ball and cry until "it" all goes away. But it won't, will it?

Please, please, please let all of this be pre-menstrual. Please?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Airport Anxiety 

Flying is generally a quick and efficient way of travelling from A to B, but, like most activities performed by my good self, involves a number of elements of anxiety.

1. Getting to the airport anxiety

There are not many of us who can boast that they live within walking distance of an airport, if such a thing could be boast-worthy in any other context than the "getting to the airport" context. Noise pollution, anyone? I am no exception to this generalisation. What this means is that, whichever method you use, getting to the airport will inevitably involve at least some unpredictability as you must rely on various forms of transport. What will the traffic be like? Will my train connect neatly with the shuttle bus and, once again, what will the traffic be like? Will my taxi arrive on time and, yes, you've guessed it, what will the traffic be like? Will there be long queues at check-in? Will I be apprehended at passport control for that pair of tweezers I forgot to put in the checked-in luggage? As cautious travellers, Big and I tend to compensate for the uncertainty by starting our journey with as much time to spare as would cancel out the majority of the time benefit of travelling by aeroplane. Friday afternoon was no exception and we arrived at the airport a full three hours ahead of the flight time. Four hours if you include the one hour delay to our one hour flight, the details of which we would learn a little later. Still, armed with digital audio players, magazines and access to a number of food and drink establishments, we managed to wile away the hours quite contentedly.

2. The "bleep" anxiety

I always set off the alarm when I go through the metal detector. Without exception. I can't work out whether it's my belt, my jewellery, my dental infrastructure or the underwires in my bra, but I always bleep and always get frisked, much to Big's amusement. But they never find it, y'know... (she tailed off, mysteriously).

On this occasion, not only was I treated to friskings at every opportunity, but my handbag also became an object of suspicion. On the outward journey, as I waited for it to emerge from the x-ray machine, the man staring at the screen stopped the conveyor for a moment, zoomed in on it, peered at it for a while then, allowing the conveyor to continue, grabbed it, gave it a shake and asked his colleague to put it through again. No explanation. On the return journey, as I was replacing my belt after the most recent frisking, a young woman asked me: "Is this is your bag, madam?" I then watched as she slowly and meticulously searched through the contents of the bag with constant narration - "I'm just going to take your iPod out", "I'm just going to move this glove" - removing the electronic items so that they could be put through "the machine" (I never learned what "the machine" actually did...), stopping to admire my mobile phone and attempting to replace each item exactly where she'd found it. Luckily, I'd had a bit of a clearout which meant that she didn't have to sift through 80 till receipts and yards of peeled off Trebor Extra Strong mint wrapper, but I hadn't disposed of the many and varied "bits of broken pen" which may have looked like bomb-making equipment or dangerous weapons to the (trained or untrained) eye.

Luckily, due to point 1. above, I wasn't in a hurry and was reasonably confident that I had nothing to hide, although there is always that element of self-doubt. Who knows, I could be an international terrorist without even realising!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


A rare, daytime posting from me today, though this doesn't mean that I am breaking my "no posting from work" rule. For the past couple of days, I've been working "funny hours" on site, supporting the implementation of my software which is used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'll start my shift at 4pm today.

Now, I'm certainly not advocating shift work here (Big will be in bed when I get home from work, which is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination), but what this has confirmed for me is that there is something fundamentally unnatural about waking up to the electronic bleating of an alarm clock and I think this is at the heart of my resentment towards the corporate life.

It is such a simple pleasure to be able to sleep until my body is ready to wake up. I can get up at my leisure, go for a run during daylight hours (rather than fitting it in after work and having a hurried meal on my return) and pick up some food for lunch on the way home. It's just so much more civilised - almost ironically, since it is in the name of civilisation that we lead this desperate existence we call "normality".

I guess this is the appeal of being self-employed and working from home (which, I think, is my current aim). The idea is that I will finally be able to achieve that balance which I've been seeking, unsuccessfully, for a very long time.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


They didn't know I was watching.

I stood at the window, taking in their activities purely for my own amusement. They continued their blatant display, unaware of the silent figure who watched, fascinated.

She was slightly drab and dumpy looking, but she knew what she wanted and clearly believed she could get it. He was more brightly turned out and cut a much smarter figure. She playfully chased him around whilst he played hard to get, posturing aggressively and resisting her advances. She knew just how far to push it, before backing off, knowing instinctively that she'd done what was necessary. Sure enough, as she continued to stand her ground, he approached with only one, urgent thing on his mind.

As I watched, he approached her, mouth open. Before I could take it all in, he had mounted her. I couldn't drag my eyes away, much as it seemed appropriate to do so. It was all over very quickly. A most unsatisfactory coupling it seemed, from my vantage point. But maybe this is what they both needed at that point in time. What did I know? A mere observer. Still, it had been enough to capture my imagination.

"They had sex!" I shrieked to Big, eyes wild with excitement.
"The blackbirds! I saw them shagging! She chased him around the shrub, then he puffed up his feathers, squawked and jumped on top of her!"
"Yes, dear," Big replied, rolling his eyes and returning to the football on the television.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Corruption from within 

Life as a corporate wage slave is not noted for its excitement. Frustration, yes. Disillusionment, of course. Utter futility, you’d better believe it. But excitement? No. One has to provide one’s own amusement within the grey partitions which make up the office landscape.

When I spoke to my boss about being made redundant (or not, as it turned out), he mentioned that he felt I had had a positive impact on the office, that since my arrival, there was a certain "je ne sais quoi", a new vibe in the office. I blushed, thinking to myself: "I’m sure I didn’t bring *that* into work..." then realised what he actually meant.

I reflected, at some length, on what I had brought to the office environment.

My first contribution was biscuits. There were no biscuits prior to my arrival! All the tea or coffee one could drink, but no biscuits. Evil temptress that I am, I began to introduce the odd packet here and there, offering them around to my more than willing colleagues. It was clear that the biscuits were a welcome addition, so I made my role in this regard more official, becoming "biscuit monitor", collecting "subs" and stocking up on a regular basis.

Then, of course, I introduced the bell. Initial bemusement turned quickly to amusement and the bell has become very much part of the furniture, providing its sweet sonority whenever required. Others were encouraged to foster their very own "noises": one colleague dug out a whistle for which he had previously had no use, whilst another downloaded a variety of wav files from the internet.

Next came the diminutive names. There’s something about the fact that I’m from East London, I believe, which makes me inclined to call people by anything other than their own name. If someone’s name is deemed "too short", it will be lengthened. Similarly, if someone’s name is longer than strictly necessary, it will be shortened. If someone’s name has the correct length, but requires "embellishment", I will provide it, free of charge. Of course, these judgements are all made subconsciously. There is no logical rule which can be applied to determine which names will be shortened, lengthened or "embellished". Some are left well alone. It’s not within my control, it’s simply the way it is.

More recently, of course, was the Venn diagram. Not well received by a certain party, but I still believe that every office should have one.

One of my more surreal contributions is again related to names, but in a slightly different way. A colleague has a name which, for reasons I am at a loss to grasp, I feel the need to say in a broad, Australian accent. It just sounds "right" that way. But, lacking as he is in a sense of humour, it can only be performed out of his earshot. Bizarrely, others have "caught" this affliction of mine, and whenever they hear his name, they will repeat it with the Australian accent. One colleague enters into it with gusto, bellowing the name across the office with a huge grin, much to my, and everyone else’s, amusement.

I suppose it was inevitable, really. There was always a risk that, once the habit had entered into the subconscious of the lesser mortals, it would be hard to control. And so it was today. The colleague with "the name" was at his desk. I mentioned his name in my normal accent, as I’d received a system message from him and wanted to ask him about it. My other colleague, on hearing the name, immediately spouted it in the Australian accent, without thinking. As if had been hypnotised and given the "key word".

I desperately tightened my lips to stifle any guffaws and tried not to look at my other colleagues who were doubtless stifling guffaws of their own. The colleague with "the name" looked slightly confused, but we all managed to act as if nothing untoward had happened and continued with our work.

I *think* we got away with it. This time.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Pears, eh?

As orchard fruits go, they seem on the surface to be utterly reasonable, appearing as they do in a variety of desserts, from a humble fruit salad through these so-called modern "smoothies" to "Poire belle Hélène" . But do not be fooled by their seemingly innocent shape and delicate flavour, kind reader. They are inherently evil. They sit there, like butter wouldn’t melt, in the fruit bowl. “Come, eat me, humble human. Taste my juicy fruitiness,” they beckon. So you approach, you are weak. You give one a gentle squeeze to test its ripeness, only to find it’s as hard as a very hard rock from Hardrocksville which has just won the annual prize for the hardest rock, like, ever.

This cycle repeats itself for several days.

Approach pear,
Pear is as hard as rock.

Approach pear,
Pear is as hard as rock.

Approach pear,
Pear is as hard as rock.

Until one day:

Approach pear,
Hand now covered in slightly granular, whitish, suspicious looking mush.

Most fruits have a couple of days when they’re not quite ready, another couple when they’re just right and a couple more where they’re edible, but on their way out. Pears, on the other hand, have, as far as I can ascertain, a one second edibility window. The likelihood of your deciding to attempt to eat the pear (or peel it – you try peeling a ripe pear, go on, I dare you!) during this one second timeframe is understandably very small.

The bastards! The juicy, tasty, delicious bastards!

On another subject, I've been having problems with comments recently, as you may have noticed. Switching to Blogger comments simply meant that I now have problems with two comment boxes, rather than one, since I have established that the original problem was with the browser, not the commenting system.

Now that I have downloaded a different browser which displays the comment box first time (not too much to ask, surely?), I am left with the dilemma of which comments to keep: Blogger or Haloscan?

This is where you come in, dear reader. Which do you prefer?

Obviously, Blogger + Haloscan is the "classic combo" for us old-timers who remember the days when Blogger didn't have its own commenting system (yes, really, young Blogger bloggers, in the olden days, we didn't have the choice: we *had* to set up an external commenting system - oh, how times have changed...)

So, why don't you vote with your "fingers" (or your voice recognition software, if applicable) and pop a comment in the comment box of your choice. Now, if that's not democracy, I'm a monkey's uncle!

By the way, my own comments will not be included in the vote!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Women are like waves... 

... and don't I know it.

On Tuesday evening, we were in an almost irritatingly buoyant mood, the two of us. Having eaten our fill of Italian food, we headed to the cinema to watch "Walk the line", a film which left us both with a warm feeling inside, despite the fact that the story was at times very troubled. We both felt the warmth independently but could sense that the other was feeling it too as we caught each other's smiling eyes at various points throughout the film.

As we walked out of the cinema with the closing credit music still ringing in our ears, he put his arm around me:

"You big-mouthed woman," he said.

"You long-legged, guitar-pickin' man," I replied in my very best "country" accent. We laughed and he squeezed me tighter.

As we walked up the path toward our house, we noticed that the stars were out in force. We stopped to just hold each other, right there in the middle of our front garden in the crisp, night air.

"I don't know why, but that film just made me realise how much you mean to me."

"Me too."

Why couldn't I have just held onto that? Why is it that by the time I got to this morning, the peak was long gone and I had descended into the seemingly inevitable trough. I don't understand the shadows which descend and oppress me with no warning. Hearing "Don't give up" on the iPod in the car on the way to work probably didn't help. By the time I'd got to the line: "Moved on to another town, tried hard to settle down...", my eyes were filled with tears. When left alone to contemplate, it seems that my default state of being is one of flakiness, fragility and, wouldn't you just know it, good old anxiety.

Maybe the people are right. The people who have suggested that I might need to talk to someone. A professional...

Or maybe I'm just ovulating...