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...

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Simple arithmetic 

Continuing (and worsening) plumbing problems
+ new job starting Tuesday
+ exam in two weeks
+ thinking about sale of car
+ catching up on housework
+ recovering from travels

= no time for blog

Happy new year, my lovelies.

Not sure when I'll be back. It might be never. Yes, the old "returning from holiday and claiming that she won't blog again" gambit, we've heard that one before, haven't we?

Well, I'm not claiming anything for now. I just need some time and space.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Plumbing the depths 

It all started with the best intentions.

For several months, the tediously slow draining of the bath and sink had been irritating me. Not for us the pleasing spiral swirl of water down plughole. Instead, when in the shower, we would slosh around in a stagnant pond of our own waste water, even when we'd taken care not to switch the shower on full power. Only later, when returning to the bathroom to fetch a comb, say, would the so-called waste system have deigned to empty the bath and despatch it to... wherever it is despatched to.

Numerous scrubbed tidemarks later, I finally decided to take arms against our sea of grimy bathwater and, by opposing, end it.

First, an old trick I'd learned from my mother. She had discovered that a plastic-coated hook-ended net curtain wire, thrust into a plughole as far as it could go, would often return with a bounty of hair-based detritus, freeing up the pipes for their more usual, liquid purpose. Not in this case. The hook would return clean, the wire strangely kinked.

Bottles of dangerous chemicals, against my initial wishes, were duly despatched into the hole. Whilst doing a sterling job of cleaning the metal plughole surround, they did nothing to speed up the draining process.

I removed the end panel from the bath and peered at the trap. It looked pretty simple to disconnect. Armed with a tray to catch the detritus, I removed it and inspected it, fully anticipating finding a clod of slime or a large hairball. It was as clean as a whistle. I replaced the trap sullenly, and realised that I'd have to think of a plan b.

I decided to undo the plughole to see if there was a blockage there. There wasn't. But in replacing it, I'd introduced a leak into the bath waste system under the plughole. I unscrewed and rescrewed the plughole several times to no avail. I tried tightening the screw but, to my frustration, ended up cracking the stainless steel plate. Luckily, a hardware shop within walking distance was able to provide a replacement, but still, it continued to leak from the underside.

By this time, I had shed tears and sent a number of texts to Big, who was travelling on the train at the time, headed up with one which simply said: "I HATE THIS HOUSE". And yes, the "shouting" was deliberate.

So, I'd gone from having a slow-draining bath to a leaking, slow-draining bath. Not good.

I managed to engage a plumber for the next day, making do with a basin wash in the morning, afraid of the puddle which might ensue from a shower. The plumber arrived and duly dissed whoever had installed such a shoddy arrangement of pipes. "Not enough fall", "can't get to the pipework, it's all tiled in", "probably hair" were some of the phrases muttered between the heavy-breathing of a very unfit man.

He tried plunging, but only succeeded in filling the bath with unspeakable matter and compacting the pipe-based detritus into an impenetrable blockage.

So, I'd gone from a leaking, slow-draining bath to a not-leaking-anymore but not-draining-at-all bath, filled with watery sludge. "Never seen anything like it..." he muttered.

He returned the following day with a long, flexible rod and some acid. Aside from filling the room with the smell of rotton eggs and managing to dislodge one impressively large hairball, there was no discernible effect of this latest strategy.

And so, for now, we are without shower, bath or basin. By sheer coincidence, last night was spent in a hotel for my old company's Christmas do, so we were able to revel in the spirally swirliness of plumbing which works as it should. Tomorrow, we shall be leaving to spend the next ten days on holiday in Northern Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the plumber will return whilst we are away, supervised by our neighbours, with the appropriate tools to unveil the hidden pipework, which he will meticulously take apart until the blockage can be eliminated.

Hopefully, we shall return to a bath which drains. Slowly. It seems that, given the plumbing we have, it's about the best we can hope for.

I, meanwhile, promise never to tamper with plumbing again.

I doubt you will hear from me for a while, so I wish you all a Merry Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. May all your plugholes convey waste water to the appropriate place in a timely manner.

Peace out.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A blast from the past and an unfortunate incident 

"He's the one I told you about. The one from Lyon," Big whispered as we took our seats.
"Ah, yes, I remember."

We were at a local restaurant for Big's Christmas do. We had been placed at the very end of a long, rectangular table, opposite each other. My name tag said "Mrs" Big (their inverted commas). On Big's right was the Spanish teacher, on my left, the French assistant. In an Italian restaurant. We were discussing what we had ordered. The French assistant noted my careful Italian pronunciation of some of the menu items.

"Do you speak Italian?"
"Oh, just a bit."
"What's "spinaci?"
He looked blank. I was feeling generous.
He looked at me with a gleeful expression.
"You speak French?"
"Um yes..."

Big cut in at this point:

"She lived in Lyon," he nodded at him, knowingly.
I confirmed that this was true.
"I did what you're doing now. I was the English assistant in a school in Lyon, back in... 1993," I told him, amazed that it was really that long ago.

And so the reminiscing began.

I learned that "La fête des lumières" now extends over three four days, rather than just the one "in my day". We talked about how the airport had changed its name from "Satolas" to "St Exupéry", yet the shuttle bus was still known as the "Satobus". We concluded that it was a very small world indeed when we discovered that my boyfriend and I had, on numerous occasions, driven through his small town and past his house on our way to a beauty spot to the West of Lyon.

That year I spent in Lyon was a year of firsts. First time on an aeroplane, first time on a motorbike, first time camping, first time I'd spent more than a week in a foreign country, first time in a canoe, first time I'd pursued a man rather than waiting to be seduced. In that one year, I learned more about the French people and their language than in the ten previous years at school and university. A truly amazing year in my life which I won't forget. It was such a pleasure to stir up those memories again, even if some of them were bittersweet.

Big and I walked home through the park in a light-hearted mood. I needed a wee, but the public toilets were closed to deter unsavoury types from gathering there. I would be okay - home was only a few minutes away.

As we walked up the avenue towards the main road, I suddenly felt myself sliding forward in an uncontrolled fashion. I gasped, but managed to stay upright.

"What happened?" he asked, holding onto my arm.

I peered on the ground for a sign of what had caused me to slip. I was concerned that it was dog shit, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was a bona fide banana skin. That cliché of slapstick comedy. But what was worse was that, during the shock of it, given the toilet predicament, a little bit of wee came out.

When I told him, Big was beside himself. Between guffaws, he said:

"You've *got* to blog about that!"

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An interesting offer 

The message in my Inbox, lurking among the usual Haloscan comment notifications, piqued my attention immediately, its subject line being:

"[Well known women's glossy monthly magazine] article"

I was intrigued and, admittedly, a little excited. Had it been a traditional envelope, I would have taken a deep breath, hesitated a while and dramatically torn it open with shaking hands like they do on television. It being electronic, I took a deep breath, hesitated a while and dramatically double-clicked on it, eyes wide.

My excitement was justified. The correspondent, a writer and editor, wanted Big and me both to write a short article for the magazine on a particular aspect of our relationship - a small window into our coupledom. The article would be accompanied by a portrait photo and any appropriate links. I had to restrain myself from immediately replying "Yes please, when should I start?" and contented myself with a message along the lines of: "I'll discuss this with my partner and get back to you". Keen, but not desperate.

True to my word, I discussed it with Big. There were concerns. Not about the content - we both had ample material to meet the brief - but about privacy. With the accompanying photo, both of us could have been identified by those who know us. If I'd written the article using my real name, I wouldn't have wanted to put a link to the blog. However, this would have seemed like a missed opportunity to increase my readership, knowing that blog friends mentioned in the mainstream media have often seen significant increases in blog traffic.

Of more concern, though, was Big. Initially excited by the idea, I asked him how he would feel about his teenage students reading various details of his relationship. His face dropped and his enthusiasm soon dwindled.

We agreed between ourselves that we would only do it if names and locations could be changed and photos could be "vague". Unfortunately, though, the editor was not prepared to make these concessions.

And so it was that someone wanted me to write a proper article for a proper magazine and I said no. A curious situation indeed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Maid up 

"I won't have to organise a drunk and debauched hen night though, will I?"

She reassured me. She knows me too well to ask me to do such a thing. She is, after all, my closest sister; both in age and in attitude. We have had spooky, twin-like experiences in the past: independently buying Bath buns on the same day (Bath buns not being an everyday sort of purchase); dying our hair red on the same weekend whilst in different countries and then there was that occasion where we were "taping the charts" on a Sunday night (that's growing up in the eighties for ya) in separate rooms. We started taping the new single by Sting but, halfway through, we both decided independently that we didn't like it, stopped and rewound our tapes in readiness to tape over it.

It both was and wasn't a surprise when, last week, she tentatively asked me to be her bridesmaid. I had already congratulated her on her engagement with the comment that, despite being an old cynic about weddings, I had become a little teary on reading her news. And no, they weren't tears of laughter at the fact that her partner proposed via a note attached to their dog's collar. On the contrary, I was delighted by the originality.

She was concerned that my cynicism would prevent me from accepting her offer. Having discussed with her on numerous occasions those wedding elements which make us both froth at the mouth and having received her assurance that there would be no wedding list (for example), I reassured her that I wouldn't be cynical about *her* wedding.

I think perhaps that being a bridesmaid will actually be preferable to being a bride in my case. I get to wear a posh frock, but without having to be the centre of attention.

And so, in a year-or-so's time, I will be a bridesmaid for the first time at the tender age of 35.

That should give me just enough time to decide what to wear...

Bootee watch - Day Six 

Oh well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bootee call 

Readers of Salvadore Vincent's blog will be aware of his recent series of posts devoted to the trials and tribulations of a discarded "bathmat" near to his home in North West London. I place the word in quotes because it looks to me, and evidently to other readers of his blog, more like a carpet sample. The sort of thing that my mum would buy for fifty pence from a carpet shop and use around the house and in the car when I were a nipper. But don't tell him that - he is quite adamant that it is a bathmat, so best to just smile and nod.

So intrigued and enamoured was I by the whole idea of Bathmatwatch™, that I decided to submit a photo of my very own bathmat to Salvadore's gallery of bathmattery.

On a seemingly unrelated matter, as I strolled into town today, settling nicely into my role as "Lady of (temporary) leisure", I noted an anomaly in the park. An alien object dazzled me by its out-of-place-ness amongst the mud and autumn leaves. A tiny, perfectly formed, almost new, sheepskin style baby bootee.

I felt saddened by the thought of a baby going around town with only one bootee, but what could I, a mere passer-by, do? Other than take a poor quality photograph of the item and walk on by, which is the option I chose.

Later that afternoon, as I ambled back home after a refreshingly leisurely Christmas shopping session, the bootee was still in evidence. But hang on, it had moved!

Someone had taken the time and trouble to "rescue" the bootee from its ground-level resting place and hook it somewhat jauntily on a wizened looking shrub.

I thought of Salvadore's bathmat, smiled and took out my phone-camera-phone.

And so begins "Bootee watch™"*

* though its continuation depends on my going to the park on a daily basis to note its position. An unlikely scenario.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Look, no wires! 

After this, I got one of these and here I sit, on the sofa, blogging like butter wouldn't melt. I know, I know, it's still early days, but I haven't had to reboot the router yet and it's retained its connection for over 36 hours. That's an improvement on both of the routers I'd tried before.

This latest attempt was prompted by my having to return the wired router from whence it came (i.e. work - they'd loaned it to me so that I could dial into work on my broadband connection) on account of my leaving. Since I seem to have mislaid our original ADSL modem, the thought of losing our home broadband connection was really too much, so off to PC World I went. If I'm going to get a router, thought I, it may as well be wireless. So far so good.

Yesterday was my last day at [insert company name]. Never have I been so consistently and desperately begged to stay in a job. Since the day I handed in my resignation nearly two months ago, my manager and senior colleague have, on an almost daily basis, suggested ways in which I might like to stay , including the offer of more money (the obvious one), taxis to and from work to save me driving (I kid you not) and working from home a couple of days a week (funny how they go all flexible when you're about to walk out of the door - remember this?).

I resisted all such offers, of course. My suggestion was that if they moved the office to [the town where I live], I would reconsider. I was quite flattered to note that even those who live deep into Devon (i.e. in the opposite direction to where I live) said that, if it meant I could stay, they would consider working from an office in [the town where I live]. I felt all appreciated. And, do you know, I *will* miss them. Over the two year period I've worked there, I have felt able to be myself at work. I have felt trusted and appreciated and if it weren't for the chance of ditching the commute, I would have stayed a while.

We spent a long lunch "hour" in the pub, where a buffet had been provided in my honour. I received a card and gifts (vouchers for a silver jewellery shop in my town, a DIY book and, inevitably, a cup of Woolworth's candy mice which my colleague had to drive a long way to obtain, seeing as I had exhausted the local supply) and I made a wobbly speech, followed up by a more eloquent email.

And with that ended my fifth job since starting blogging.

Two weeks off, a holiday and Christmas in Northern Cyprus and a new job in the new year.

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