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, February 26, 2007


I feel terrible.

I spoke to the doctor on the phone and he said exactly what I thought he'd say. It's flu. Nothing can be done, treat the symptoms, drink water, take it easy.

When I came off the phone to him, I just cried. I'm so fed up of feeling like this. It's been over a week now and I'm feeling worse. I just want to switch myself off until I'm better.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Winging it 

Much of my walk to and from work is spent on paths alongside the rivers and streams which pass through the town. When I'm not keeping my eyes peeled for inconsiderate cyclists, I like to observe the activities of our feathered friends.

As I go about my daily routine, so they go about theirs. In the morning, the mallards are active, chasing the females both in the water and out. I love the way they land in the water after a labour-intensive flight. They raise their orange feet and splash to a halt in the water. They then glide off, looking graceful and effortless, but a closer look reveals those same orange feet flapping away just beneath the surface. Among the mallards is a single, pure, white duck, who seems to have bagged himself a female. They glide around together, rummaging around at the riverbank and upending themselves regularly.

On my walk home, the mallards are preparing for nightfall, bagging the best spot and settling down, turning their heads, hiding beaks in feathers and standing on one leg.

The blackbirds are active at the moment, chasing their females around and singing their sweet and complex melodies. I often see a songthrush just to the left of the path. I expect him to fly away as I approach, but he freezes and watches me pass, only about a metre away. I always wonder if it's the same one.

One day I saw a heron. More recently, a kingfisher. I recognised his shape first as he sat on a branch. The electric blue flash when he flew off was unmistakeable.

For the past couple of days, there's been a new bird on the block, preening himself and stalking the mallards. A handsome fellow, he looks for all the world like an oversized mallard with a sepia filter applied. He doesn't have the classic green head or yellow beak - his head is blackish brown, his beak greyish green. I texted Big, excitedly:

"I've just seen a big duck - like a mallard but considerably bigger, with a brown head and tan body. What do you think it is?"

"I can't think what it could be. Mallards are pretty much the biggest wild ducks. It must be a goose"

I shook my head at my mobile phone as I read his response. I'm no bird-watcher, but I was sure this wasn't a goose. My mystery duck doesn't have the delicate, pinched beak of a goose and it had the same shape and proportions as a mallard, just bigger. It was surely a duck.

When I got home, I scoured Big's bird books but could find nothing close to what I'd seen. I began to wonder if I'd dreamt the whole thing. But when I saw it again this morning and this evening, always in the same location, I stopped to confirm my observations and took a low quality photograph with my low quality phone-camera-phone, ensuring that there was a male mallard in the shot to demonstrate the size difference.

Despite extensive Googling, I'm no closer to finding out exactly what he is beyond being some sort of hybrid, but I'm quite excited about my mystery duck. I shall look out for him each time I walk past.

I wonder how long he'll stick around...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Last week, I was on a high. I was learning new things, my brain was engaged and challenged and we found out that soon we would be moving back to the closest thing to "home" that I have known in recent times.

I don't know what happened.

Since Friday night, when I returned from the gym, a sense of gloom has descended on me. I feel inexplicably lethargic, weirdly nauseous, pathetically tired. Though I carried on as normal at the weekend - shopping, doing chores, cooking - it was without spark or enthusiasm. I forgot to take my phone alarm off silent on Sunday night and, with Big on half term, I overslept on Monday. Luckily, Big is naturally programmed to wake up at around 7, so prodded me and asked me why I hadn't got up. With hardly the best start to the day, I went to work later than usual, but struggled to stop myself from slumping onto the desk at regular intervals throughout the day. The walk home seemed interminable.

A vague headache; can't tell if I feel hungry or sick; stomach feels empty and fluttery; legs ache; clammy. I just feel all wrong. It's as if my body is fighting something off. Without any proper, meaty symptoms to speak of, I guess that means that my body is winning the fight, but it seems to be at the expense of all my energy and drive.

I've spent today at home, shuffling around, both bored and restless, silently sobbing but not knowing why.

I want to creep away and hide for a while. In a log cabin, watching a lake. On a seaside promenade, buffeted by salty winds, my hair flailing madly, watching the sea.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Full of beans 

My brain is full to bursting with objects, methods, and classes; with variables, constants and primitives; with arrays, collections and iterators. This can only mean one thing. I've gone all modern: I've been on a Java course.

Quite a change from the 40 year-old language I've been using for the past eight years, amusingly described as: "one of the few languages created for punch card machines that is still in common use today". Bless. Although, of course, the language has made considerable advances since then, the mention of it still draws blank looks from many people in the IT industry. Makes me feel great about my "profession", if one can call it that.

Most people in the business have heard of Java, however, and when my boss said there was a space on the upcoming course, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.

It was incredibly draining to be back in a classroom situation for five days. I would arrive home later than usual, like a zombie, unable to summon up the energy to produce my usual culinary delights, contenting myself with hastily prepared, simple snacks rather than the proper meals I pride myself on providing. Luckily Big didn't suffer from my slovenliness, as he had a seemingly endless array of parents' evenings to deal with that week. From which he now has a whole week to recover. Grrrr.

I was bewildered by the behaviour of the colleagues who were on the course with me. Almost as soon as we entered the in-house training room, they were scrabbling to configure Outlook so that they could access their email accounts from there. While the trainer trained, they would be clicking and tappity-tapping, replying to the no-doubt incredibly important, earth-shattering issues which couldn't possibly have waited.

Many of them failed to turn up on time, some even attended meetings during the course. And then, when we got to the practicals, they wondered why they didn't understand what they were supposed to do. There was nothing in those practicals which hadn't been covered by the trainer if you were paying attention. Which, like the teacher's pet I have never grown out, I was. Well, mostly. I must admit that my traditional post-lunch lull almost had me nodding off on a couple of occasions, despite the fact that I was genuinely interested in the course and had deliberately dosed myself up on wincingly strong, double espressos at lunchtime to prevent that eventuality.

Apart from the fact that it is appalling bad manners to sit there emailing people when someone is giving a presentation, it was also extremely offputting for those of us who were paying attention to hear the clattering of keyboards and the clicking of mice. Why do so many people imagine that they are indispensible, particularly in a large, corporate organisation where they are no more than one of many anonymous, faceless drones? I am fully aware of the futility of my workaday existence and that if I were to disappear into a puff of smoke, the business would simply carry on without me, as if nothing had happened. This is not good for the soul, clearly, but it is quite simply the truth.

I was annoyed on behalf of the trainer, who I thought was extremely good. She was lively, animated and totally brought the subject to life, relating some truly abstract concepts to real-world situations with enthusiasm and touches of humour. Her voice projected well and changed tone regularly. "How dare they disrespect her!" I would frown to myself as they tapped away. Yes, I imagine she was being paid handsomely to deliver the training, regardless of whether or not the attendees were paying attention, but still, this just felt downright rude.

I made sure to thank her after the course. There was a lot to take in, but I felt that she had done a brilliant job.

She described me as the "star pupil". I was no star. I just listened and learned. Which seems to be what I do best...

(Yay, something I'm good at!)

I have to wonder if I'll ever get to use my newly-acquired knowledge, though, especially given recent developments...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Four little words 

A quiet, peaceful year.

That was the plan for 2007.

There was one thing wrong with this plan.

As Blackadder might say: "It was bollocks!".

You see, Big went and said those four magic words.

The words that prove his commitment.
The words that prove just how brilliant he is.

The words he said to me last night, on the eve of Valentine's Day 2007, are hidden below. Go on, select them!

"I got the job!"

Made you look, made you stare, made you lose your underwear!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Things I fail to understand #n* 

The sign shown above

You see, it seems to me that rather than putting up a sign to warn the keen handwasher that they face a difficult choice between a potential scalding, or the rather unsatisfactory experience of washing their hands in cold water, the proprietor of the washroom has a couple of more sensible options.

The first option is something to which we Brits seem curiously opposed, particularly in public toilets. I am of course referring to the modern, new-fangled device of a mixer tap. Yes, it's true, you know. There are taps where hot water is mixed with a variable amount of cold (or vice versa), leaving the basin-user with a configurable water-temperature solution which will allow them to wash their hands in the greatest of comfort.

The second option would be to make use of another well-known temperature regulating device: a thermostat. Amazingly, this device allows the proprietor of a hot water supply to set a maximum temperature above and beyond which the water would not be raised.

Am I missing a vital point here? Do we persist in the separate tap régime simply to annoy foreigners or something?

* where n is a positive integer

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I woke up bewildered, at 3.40am. In my dream, I’d been laughing uncontrollably with one of my sisters. We were both standing in the kitchen of the house we grew up in which has not been in our family for nearly eight years, since my mother died. We were by the white, enamelled sink which had been replaced even earlier, bent double and wheezing with laughter – the sort of laughter that hurts your stomach and makes your eyes water. The sort of laughter where you lose sight of what you were originally laughing at. The sort of laughter where the sight of the other person, contorted with that strange mix of glee and discomfort, only serves to fuel the cycle.

Inevitably, I have no idea what we were laughing at in the dream. I just woke up, confused and slightly breathless, my heart beating a little too quickly.

Big was sleeping peacefully at my side.

I snuggled back down, but felt uncomfortably restless. I shut my eyes and was strangely aware of the emptiness of my stomach and the sound of the rain. Yes, rain, not snow, in the South West. I decided to reach for my “little helper” – my Trebor Extra Strong mints. There is something comforting about allowing its strong, minty sugariness to dissolve in my mouth. It’s an addiction I’ve had since my teenage years. I managed to kick the habit once; I switched to sugar free gum for a while, for the sake of my teeth, but it was no substitute, really.

As I fumbled in my bag (always beside my bed for such an eventuality), I felt a warm hand stroking my exposed back. I must have woken Big with my rustling.

“I’m just having a mint,” I explained. His silent response was to lie down on his back and beckon me into his armpit, or his "nook", as we term it. I obliged, resting my head there, the hairs on his chest tickling my face. With his arm, he drew me in close to his warmth, gently stroking my side. Soon, I noticed that he was scratching his neck and face in that determined fashion which indicated to me that he was probably asleep. The gentle snore confirmed this.

I, on the other hand, was now wide awake – I didn’t even feel my eyes trying to drag themselves shut as they often do as soon as I attain a horizontal position. Despite my reluctance to leave the warmth and comfort, I knew I just had to give in and go for a pee. This is usually the solution to unplanned wakefulness for me, and I must have got to sleep eventually, though I still remember being awake far more than is strictly necessary.

This morning – proper, almost civilised morning - Big took an inordinate amount of time to shut up the intolerable blurting of his alarm clock as he woke from a deep sleep, his mind slowly registering what was going on. My alarm is a kinder sound – a gentle crescendo of plinks and plonks which goes off 15 minutes later than Big’s and allows me those cherished extra minutes in bed. I stuck my fingers in my ears and whimpered while his fuggled brain worked out how to make the noise stop. When I eventually came downstairs, I did my glum face: eyes lowered, bottom lip protruding.

"I didn’t sleep very well," I glumbled.

"Oh, I slept right through for a change..." he smiled, rather too smugly for my liking.

"But don’t you remember waking up in the middle of the night? I had a mint and then we had a cuddle!"

He looked at me blankly at first, then apologetically. He’d been asleep all along.

Though I spent most of the day struggling against my body's urge to crumple onto the office floor and sleep, I kept a little smile inside: he loves me, even when he's asleep.

Of course, the photo has nothing to do with the post. But I found it rather freaky that, a few days after writing a post entitled "Duracell gym bunny", what should I find lurking in the back room of my favourite retro junk shop this Saturday?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


No point thinking about it until we know for sure. No point whatsoever.

Besides, this wasn’t supposed to happen right now. Longer term, yes – a couple of years down the line, perhaps. But not right now.

He wasn’t really looking but, you see, it just caught his eye and he wondered when such an opportunity would arise again.

We’d identified it just over three years ago when I still lived down there. One day, we walked past it to have a look. We decided that it was ideal. We enquired to no avail. Determined to leave London, he widened the radius of his search and somehow we ended up here, filled with optimism for our new life in the West Country, with friends and family promising to visit and a glimpse of what we thought we needed.

There is a part of me that craves a cottage in the middle of nowhere, where we would grow our own food and live a life of peace. Ideally, we’d live in a little community with all our friends around us but no-one else. We would bake bread and weave cloth and draw and paint and gather produce. There would be no talk of money or possessions, careers or status. Only simple, natural, beautiful things. We would never need to stray far from our homestead as we would be self-sufficient, so we would not need cars, bicycles, buses or trains.

But there is the small matter, in this so-called civilised world of ours, of needing to work to live. With only one of us able to drive, we cannot live in the middle of nowhere, much as it might appeal when the alternative is a provincial town, the centre of which, like so many places around the country, has become a no-go area if your interests extend beyond getting tanked up and vomiting in the street. Besides, one of us actually has a vocation and enjoys our work (hint: it’s not me). In order for him to get to work, we have to live in an urban area, either close to the school or with a decent public transport system to get him there. So, we necessarily belong in towns or cities.

But here we are just that bit too far away from our friends, from our families. Promises of visits are rarely fulfilled. Driving takes too long, train fares are too expensive (if you don’t book them in advance, as we’ve learned to). It is always us who make the effort to visit others, with only rare reciprocation. It’s a way of finding out who your friends really are, I guess.

So when he saw the job advert for that school back in Hampshire, back where our closest friends are, closer at least to my family if not his, he couldn’t ignore it. Even though I’ve only just started this new job, even though the house is only just getting to where we want it to be, even though we have only just finished unpacking from the last house move and the idea of moving again fills me with horror, I encouraged him to apply for it and he has got himself an interview next week.

No. No point thinking about it until we know for sure. No point whatsoever.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Video blogging? 

Quite literally.