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...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Oh, pants! 

My new trousers are too big.

Clothes being too big is a bit of a double-edged sword for women who have self-image problems, particularly those of the "I wish I were slimmer" persuasion.

Firstly, there is the delight that a garment exists in this world which is too big for our perceived, bulky frame. We revel in the gap between body and waistband, inserting a thumb and following it as far around as flexibility will allow. We pull delightedly at the loose fabric on our hips and note with glee the way the bottom hem pools on the floor. We remark with a cheeky smile that the trousers can be pulled right off without needing to undo the fastenings - all without a trace of Lycra.

The dark side comes from the realisation that the reason the trousers are too big is because the size below, that elusive size we'd like to be but can't consistently claim to be, was just a little too snug. The pockets were trying to flare out with the hips, making the inner pocket material visible. The fabric clung a little too enthusiastically to the buttocks and upper thighs. The extra journey the trousers had to make around the curves made the bottom hem fall slightly short. You and I know that ankle-flapping trouser hems do not a good look make.

So, we take the next size up, slip it on and think "Ahhh, that's better," as we fasten the waistband, effortlessly. Hot and bothered from trying the garment on in the first place and satisfied to have found a garment which fits, we hastily remove ourselves from the changing room and make our purchase.

What we forgot to note, of course, was that though the garment fitted, it didn't fit well. What it lacked in "ankle-flapping trouser hems" it more than made up for in both "baggy arse" and "flappy hip" effect. The self-colour fabric belt caused bunching, visible under a well-fitting top...

Where I used to shroud myself in such shapeless tents, I now realise the error of those ways and favour well-fitting clothes in just the right shape, just the right fabric and just the right size to make everything seem in proportion - an objective which seems about the best a woman like me can hope for.

Which leaves me with my new trousers. My new trousers which are too big. My new trousers which are too big and not easily altered.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Things to make you go "moo!" 

I love my moo mini cards.

I started out loving everyone else's moo mini cards and feeling wistful that I didn't have any of my own. A familiar activity for me - substitute "moo mini cards" with just about anything else and you've pretty much summed up my raison d'être.

In a rare moment of pro-activity, I decided it was probably about time I had my own flickr account, solely so I could get my grubby little mitts on some of these desirable objects. I hastily uploaded a selection of photos and ordered the minimum amount of cards - one hundred! Evidently, this meant that I had a number of repeats of each design, which gave me an idea for what to do with them.

Five moo mini cards (could be any odd number, but must be odd, so I'm told), all the same, stuck bang in the middle of a piece of mounting board (A3 size, detail fans). A unique piece of *ahem* art!

Friday, October 27, 2006

A rose by any other name... 

During a gmail chat with a fellow blogger the other day (all the kids are doing it, you know), it transpired that my co-chatter did not know my real name. It will probably come as no surprise to you to know that "Anx", lovely name though it undoubtedly is, is not what I call myself in real life.

Since I'd known the blogger for a fair while and was sure I could trust her, I "revealed" it in a surprisingly blasé fashion, throwing it over my shoulder like I would some previously spilled salt (see previous post for a variety of salt-based advice).

Her reply to my revelation: "I think I kind of saw you as a Catherine."
(hint: Catherine is not my real name)

I immediately became fascinated by the idea of my readers putting a name to my blogging self. As you sit at your computers, eyes glazing over from the thrill of it all, do you ever imagine what my name could be, or do you just think of me as "Anx"? Or [that other name I used to use before]?

You know what's coming, don't you?

Let's have a bit of fun. See that comment box down there - why don't you pop in there and put down what you *imagine* my first name to be. Now, I know some of you already *know*; if you are one of those people, I'd be grateful if you wouldn't put my real name in the box. Either keep schtum or perhaps you could think back and imagine what you thought my name was or should be.

There is no prize for guessing correctly. For my part, I shall not make any indication as to the veracity of your claims. I shall simply sit, excitedly, awaiting your responses.

Go on. Indulge me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Salt it out 

My salt went fluffy.

Anyone worth their salt in the kitchen knows that when salt goes "fluffy", it's near impossible to use. It must have got damp during one of my steamy sessions at the cooker, spatula in one hand, salt pot in the other. If this misfortune had befallen the decanted salt in the small glass dispenser, it would have been an acceptable loss, but this was the bulk supply in the girthy cardboard tube - my only supply.

I stowed it away for a couple of days in the dining room, in the hope that the drier environment would allow it to - ahem - salt itself out. Reader, it did no such thing. It remained there, stubbornly fluffy, decidedly unpourable, resplendently unsprinklable.

Then I had a wheeze. (Not wees, on this occasion. Although I probably did have a number of wees between noting the problem and having the wheeze).

In that kitchen there was an oven. And in that oven was a pot. And in that pot was some red cabbage, braising gently. And with that red cabbage were onions, apples and spices. They all got on very well in the pot and conspired to produce a delicious vegetable dish which tasted nothing like a cabbage - and that alone is to be applauded. But I digress.

Whilst applauding, I noted that right there in front of my anxious eyes (see peering eyes up yonder page for an example) was a warm, dry place. Ideal for snuggling vegetables ("snuggled red cabbage" - hey, I like that description) and... and... and for drying a large container of salt!

I decanted it into a Pyrex bowl. I placed the bowl right at the bottom of the oven. I then threw caution to the wind and stuck the cardboard tube in while I was at it (sans plastic lid, of course).

Some minutes later - freshly snuggled salt, recanted back into its warm, dry, still girthy, cardboard tube, flowing again like the day it was born.

Cabbage which doesn't taste like cabbage.
And free flowing salt.

What more could a girl want?
(Don't answer that)

In the absence of Big (deserted for the weekend!) I made do with homemade Dorset apple cake.

Do I qualify for the position of Domestic Goddess yet? Do I?

You nearly got a very different post. Oh yes. One of the dark, despairing, dismal ones, heavy with self-pity, self-loathing and self-indulgence. But do you know what I did? I wrote myself right out of it. Yes I blummin' well did.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Say no more 

My "profession" is one normally carried out by middle aged men. Or, should I say, middle aged boys.

I have since discovered that [Insert old company name] was quite unusual in the balance of male and female software developers, due to the fact that they actively sought to recruit non-IT, usually humanities graduates to train up. Presumably, this was because IT graduates would rather stick needles in their eyes than code the kind of old-school, legacy computer systems which have provided me with 8 years of "joyful" employment. Though I must admit that those needles have had a certain appeal to me in recent years.

Nevertheless, there were enough males of a certain kind to ensure that occasionally, Beavis and Butthead style fnarr-fnarring, prompted by the innocent mention of a word which in a different context might possibly be construed as rude, would be audible above the general hum of the air conditioning.

Of course, in my current department, as the only female developer (though not the only female in the department), the balance is very much in favour of schoolboy humour. Unfortunately, eight years of experience does not seem to have hardened me to this and I continue to open my mouth and put my foot in it (where "it" is a prime opportunity for boyish sniggering).

Emerging from the kitchen, bemoaning my now legendary bread products: "Oh. I've just got my baps out and they're all mouldy!"

When asked what I'll be doing that evening: "I'll be cleaning my rug"

Of a network cable: "I can't get it into the hole"

Of a tap covered in salad dressing: "Ugh! It's got a greasy knob"

Will I ever learn?

What I need is an innuendo parser. Something which will submit my phrases to a pre-check program and return them, cleaned of all possible double-entendres. Then I might actually be able to have a flowing conversation with my colleagues without the constant interruptions of guffawing, nudging and winking.

However, knowing my colleagues' considerable skill in dreaming up double meanings for the most innocent of phrases, I imagine that I would be left with... well, nothing. Keeping schtum is hardly an option, though. Given my propensity for constant gibbering, I can only imagine that I shall continue to boldly yet inadvertently provide amusement to the department.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


"Are you going to get up, then?"

I snuggled up to him and flopped my arm over his chest, in a probably-not-so-subtle attempt to influence his decision.

"Yeah," he sighed. "Are you?"

"I suppose so... "

I may also have muttered: "Damn!"

I had hoped he would decide against getting up at six, thus giving both of us "permission" to snooze until at least seven. But, as usual, I hadn't considered, when agreeing on the six o'clock idea, the fact that Big is incapable of snoozing. My complete opposite. Many a Sunday morning I have hoped for hours of happy snuggling together, eating crumpets and reading newspapers (even though neither of us read newspapers), only to be denied by his restlessness once awake. "Sorry, love. I'm going to have to get up." He just can't do lie-ins. Or lies-in. Whichever...

To be fair, he only came up with the six o'clock idea for my benefit. I had claimed, last night, that I was going to go for an early morning run and he knew that if *he* got up, there would be a good chance of my doing the same. He has witnessed my alleged morning runs on too many occasions. They usually involve the alarm going off, some whimpering, a quick fiddle with the alarm clock and a long snooze, kit unsullied and running shoes left neglected on the bedroom floor until next time. He knows, though, that if I do manage to go for that run, I will feel better about myself and the world, and this is something that he tries to nurture at every available opportunity.

I sulkily dragged myself out of bed and started pulling on my kit, while Big smiled and shook his head at my morning glumness before going downstairs for a coffee.

The roads were eerily empty, as they always are at that time of the morning. The only people I came across were a couple of dog-walkers, a few cyclists, one other runner and dribs and drabs of motorists making that gentle, swishing sound on the damp tarmac as they passed me. The birds were just starting to chatter in the surprisingly mild, misty gloom. But most of all, there was peace. Just me, my steady plodding and the autumn air.

He was right to insist. I cannot think of an occasion where going for a run before work has not made me feel better in some way. Of course, not when I first set out, when the breathing's not right and the legs are complaining. And, if I'm being honest, not really en route either. But once I've finished, stretched, got my breath back and sat down with my bowl of muesli and my cup of tea, I always know that it was the right thing to do. I would do it more often, if only that transition from horizontal to vertical wasn't so bloody hard.

As I settled down at the laptop with a cuppa for my morning dose of blogdom, Big left for work, but not before turning to me and smiling:

"Don't forget to go to work, love..."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Burger Queen 

"Who is *that*?"

I wrinkled my nose in disgust at the photo which someone had taken care to enlarge, laminate and stick onto the cupboard in the office. Some colleagues looked on, bewildered. Others sniggered.

The photo depicted a woman with long, brown hair, wearing black, sitting at a desk and stuffing a not-insubstantial burger into her mouth. A paper bag, emblazoned with the livery of "Burger King", hinted at the provenance of the meaty snack she was devouring with gusto.

As I peered at the photo, I noticed a few more details. That spotty mug in the background, the desk bell just behind the monitor stand, the ever present bottle of water - all were strangely familar. Why, this was *my* desk! Albeit, not in its current position - the photo must have been taken some time ago. What on earth was this woman doing sitting at my desk? And why had someone stuck a photo of her in a prominent position in the office?

"You mean, you don't recognise her?" questioned a colleague with a wry smile and a raised eyebrow.

I looked again. Slowly, the realisation began to dawn through the brain fug which tends to accompany my arrival at the office in the mornings. I sighed a long, deep sigh.

"It's *you*!"

I nodded, resignedly. It was indeed, and unfortunately, me.

I remembered the occasion. P and I had decided one day that we had an urge to eat a burger for lunch. Whilst there was a McDonalds close by, we eschewed it in favour of the Burger King located several miles away. If we were going to have a burger, it had to be right. The only time, in more than 18 months, that I have felt the urge to eat a burger for my lunch, rather than the wholemeal rolls and salads which usually provide my office-based nutrition, and my boss decides to capture it (without my knowledge), sit on it for a while and then, one day after I'd handed in my notice, wheel it out to embarrass me.

I honestly didn't recognise myself at first. I don't photograph well. Virtually every photo of me looks different to the last. The only ones which make it on here are the ones which are not utterly hideous (which would explain why there are so few).

I'm not sure I've seen a photo of me eating before. I didn't realise that it made my nose became hooked when I opened my mouth that wide. My posture at the desk was utterly appalling. And, I promise, I was completely unaware that my little fingers were sticking out, as if I were sipping Earl Grey delicately from a dainty, bone china cup.

But, on the bright side, as my colleague pointed out, at least my hair looked nice and shiny.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Oh no.

Yes, I will miss the people, the banter, the camaraderie. I will also miss the fact that I am respected for what I do and I am trusted to do what is required.

But on balance, in terms of the lifestyle to which I aspire, this new job will simply suit me better.

I am not a career woman. Not any more. I am under no illusions - I'm fairly confident that the job itself will be no less soul-destroying than any other job of its kind. If I must work for an employer (for the moment, I must), then I will limit the inconveniences as far as possible. Which is why I have chosen to accept the new job.

Not there yet. But getting closer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Love is the rug and I need to score 

I found it in the second-hand shop at the bottom of my road.

Hardly displayed to its full advantage, it was rolled up rather messily atop a dusty, old, dark wooden display cabinet. But its colour combination drew my eye - pale, natural tones among the array of dark, despondent, unwanted furniture.

I reached up and pulled it down from its perch, careful not to dislodge the large vase displayed on the cabinet on its way down. As I unfolded it, its musty, dusty smell was released into the air. Undeterred, I laid it down on the floor to see it in all its glory. Well, in as much glory as the murky light in the shop afforded me.

It was everything I'd been looking for in a rug.

Oriental in style, symmetrical in pattern, subdued in colour, it was well worn but in a shabby-boho-chic sort of way, heavy with history and surprisingly soft to the touch. Unlike many oriental rugs with their overly rich, regal palette, this one was cool and understated.

I found a sticky label on the back:

"RUG £34"

When I considered that, that very morning, I'd been browsing wistfully in the shop on the corner, staring up with puppy-dog eyes at that rug which cost £595, that rug which didn't even fulfil the strict colour requirements; when I considered that I'd almost spent £30 on a tiny kilim the size of a postage stamp as some kind of consolation prize; when I considered how long I'd been looking for a rug just like that, something unique, something different from the identikit Ikea rugs that everyone had; thirty-four pounds seemed more than reasonable.

I rolled it under my arm and approached the little Chinese man who owned the shop.

"I'm interested in this rug,"
"Ah, yes..."

He took it from me and unravelled it again, searching for the sticker with the price on. It was nowhere to be seen. I looked on, uselessly.

"But..." I furrowed my brow. I nearly told him I'd seen the sticker showing £34. Nearly, you see, but he interrupted.

"It's okay, no problem, I'll look it up in the book."

I followed him to the cash desk.

"It should be £25, but you can have it for £20,"

I hid my glee very well beneath a sneaky, half smile, thanked him and went on my way.

I got the rug home and "tried it out" on the living room floor, admiring it from all angles. I may even have rolled on it, just to test it for... erm... rolling purposes. As I gathered it up again, I couldn't help noticing the little white label, exactly where it had been all along.

"RUG £34"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dangling carrots 

I'm not good with carrots.

Like with beetroots, I am distrustful of their smooth texture and their sweet-but-not-really flavour. I am especially suspicious when they are cut into rounds and boiled, but I will tolerate them in a julienne or ribbon format or in thin shards in a chinese stir fry. As I commit these "rules" to writing, I realise how preposterous they must sound. It was only when I met Big that I realised just how fussy an eater I am.

And so it was, when the nice people brought me bunch after bunch of carrots, my heart sank, just a little. They sat there, resplendent with their green stems still attached, neglected, for a good few days.

"Coleslaw, I'll make coleslaw," I resolved. Carrots are acceptable in coleslaw, according to the rules. I bought the white cabbage. But there is only so much coleslaw two people can eat. I needed another, more permanent, carrot-based solution.

I bemoaned the situation at work. A colleague's eyes lit up:

"You could make c@rrot c@ke*! I love c@rrot c@ke..."

Making the carrots unrecognisable and probably negating any of their benefits by drowning them in butter, sugar, nuts and flour - that was my kind of plan! I couldn't believe the thought hadn't crossed my mind. In my excitement, I texted Big:

"C@rrot c@ke! I'll make c@rrot c@ke!" I exclaimed, as hinted by my punctuation.

"I was going to suggest it myself, but I thought it might contravene the 'rules'..." he replied.

Whenever Big comes out with something like this, I wonder what kind of freak I must be to live with. Countless attempts to incorporate new ingredients into the old standards, consistently thwarted by a mysterious lack of explanation.

"No, they just don't *go*."

I have instincts about food. I am, I'll admit, somewhat of a purist, although this *could* be interpreted as snobbery if you're on the receiving end of it (see post below).

So I made the c@rrot c@ke with all the grated knuckles that entails. It was incredibly moist (I wondered more than once whether it was too moist, but was reassured by Big's groans of enjoyment), gently yet firmly spiced with a cringingly sweet, creamy icing (although I made only half the suggested amount). It was a lot of c@ke for two people, so I took a slab of it into work to share among my colleagues.

It didn't last long. One colleague had two pieces, thus depriving another. One slice had to be shared between three, such was it coveted. My boss declared it to be the best c@ke he'd ever had and decreed that everyone should bring c@kes in whenever possible. In fact, he even offered a "prize" for those who did.

A couple of days later, he presented me with a cardboard box.
"That's for the c@rrot c@ke"

It was a brand new, TFT monitor. Much coveted among the non-Helpdesk staff. The lucky Helpdeskers get them automatically, because they spend all day at their monitors. Like the rest of us don't?

I was taken aback.

Particularly as I now have to break the news to him that I have just been offered another job, which I intend to accept...

* in case a colleague googles c@rrot c@ke, ends up here and makes a disgruntled comment, forcing me to shut yet another blog down. Paranoid? Moi?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Snob or Purist? 

I hate snobbery. Well, let's face it, no-one would really admit to loving it, would they? Unless they were some kind of overly-honest sociopath.

If there's one thing guaranteed to make me very angry, it's wine snobbery. Not so much people getting on and being snobbish about it in private. If they wish to spend their time gushing on about a beverage for which they pay a fortune, only to piss or vomit it back out again shortly afterwards, who am I to stop them? But when they bring their snobbery to bear on others and use it to belittle them, I cannot bear it.

I have a friend who likes drinking a particular type of German wine which has not been fashionable for some time (if it ever was in the first place). He does not try to make other people drink it, he does not spout on about it endlessly, claiming that it is "better" than any other wine, he just goes to the supermarket, buys it, drinks it and enjoys it. How can this be wrong? Yet there are people who purport to be his friend who cannot resist the temptation to bait him about his choice of wine, both in front of him and behind his back. Whereas I am more inclined to admire him for going against the flow of Sunday supplements which try to tell him how to behave.

Something I find to be absolutely rife is music snobbery - particularly in Blogland. Once again, if people wish to spend hours of their life ensuring that any music they mention in their little corner of the internet is of the utmost trendiness or obscurity, that's fine by me. But whenever some poor blogger mentions in a post that they listened to Coldplay or Stereophonics (for example) I just know before opening the comment box that someone will not have been able to resist the urge to pounce on them and and take them to task for their listening choice, albeit in a pseudo-light-hearted way.

Music is a very personal thing. The way we respond to it cannot be dictated by someone else and is often influenced by many factors. It may have a particular association in someone's life and evoke certain special memories or it may have a lyric which is especially resonant with them. If someone enjoys listening to a piece of music in their own home or via their own set of earphones, who on earth am I to argue with that?

It's fine for someone to say: "Hey, here's some new music I've discovered, I think it's really good - see what you think." But to tell someone that they should not listen to a certain band or genre because it has been decreed naff by some self-appointed know-it-all is just unbelievably arrogant.

I can of course recognise my own snobbery in certain areas.

I will not drink instant coffee, for example. For me, it must be freshly ground and preferably so strong that it almost makes you wince. I will politely refuse coffee, or ask for tea, if I am offered it in a situation where I cannot be sure of its *ahem* provenance - and thus my enjoyment of it. But if someone wants to drink instant coffee, I will not stand in their way, nor will I attempt to belittle them for doing so.

Similarly, I will not accept any substitute for butter. Given the choice of "milk which has been swilled about a bit" and "oil which has been through a strange, unnatural, chemical process, the consequences of which are not fully known", I choose the former. Quietly and, I hope, without preaching.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Out of my depth 

"Low impact!" they claimed.
"Effective, all-over exercise!"
"Your knees will thank you!"
"Just think, all you need is cycling and then you could do a triathlon!"

I guess I just expected it to be relatively easy.

I can run six miles, comfortably, on a regular basis. I recover almost immediately and have no aches or pains the following day. If I put my mind to it and build it up steadily, I know I can run over twice that distance.

I discovered this weekend that I can barely swim one length of a not-even-full-size swimming pool without having to stop, gasp awhile and wonder why, yet again, I have stumbled upon something at which I *so* want to be good but am *so* clearly not.

I learned to swim at school. I even got some little ribbons to sew onto my swimsuit. Not many, but some nonetheless. So, I can swim. By that, I mean that I am able to keep afloat in water for a limited period of time with varying levels of forward or backward propulsion, not always under my control. But I never consolidated that learning, I never perfected my technique, I never really felt confident in the water, not least because I never really felt confident enough wearing a swimsuit in public to be able to gain that confidence. And yes, I realise how utterly ridiculous that must seem. But it is, unfortunately, true.

There were attempts to get me into the water, particularly by my French boyfriend who liked nothing better than to dive into the nearest lake for a swim. And, in that region of France, not far from the Alps, there were quite a few lakes to choose from. I succumbed eventually, figuring that I was in France, no-one knew me, no-one would care about my thunder thighs and cellulite, so a quick dip would probably be acceptable. But despite the cool, blue, inviting water tempting me away from the blasting heat, I never got much beyond a panicky splash when out of my depth.

I so desperately want to start swimming regularly. I know it would be a wonderful complement to my running and provide a "backup" if I sustained an injury which meant I couldn't run. So this weekend, on a break with my family at a complex with indoor pool, after many years of not swimming, I set out in my new swimsuit to see what I could do. It has "shorts" style legs, so apart from covering up that hideous upper thigh area, it has the added boon that scrupulous bikini-waxing is not required. The fact that it makes me look a little like a wrestler is something we don't mention.

It was a learning experience.

I learned that breathing is compulsory. I learned that, when nervous, I sometimes forget to breathe. Don't laugh. Being a nervous swimmer is not a good combination. Once I started thinking about breathing and forcing myself to breathe, I improved. A little.

I learned that being able to run 6 miles is completely irrelevant to ability in the swimming pool and that, if I really want to do this, I will have to build it up gradually, exactly as I did with the running. A frustrating realisation.

What I haven't yet learned is to trust myself. I tend to panic - particularly when doing breast stroke: during the "lull" between each stroke, I feel like I'm going to sink, though I'm sure it's more to do with psychology than buoyancy. My main problem is that I never quite feel in control.

Verdict? Much room for improvement.
Likelihood of improvement? Watch this space...