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...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Cones? Pah..." 

...shrugged the cat.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Check me out 

I'm not sure why I continue to do it. Each time, I become unspeakably irritated, sometimes verging on violent acts. Yet still I find myself drawn to them. "Them" being the self-service checkouts at the Evil Empire which is Tesco.

I think perhaps it is the fulfilment of my childhood ambition, which was to be a checkout girl. Yes, the pinnacle of achievement when I was a pigtailed youngster was to reach the dizzy heights of a cash register, the future I envisaged for myself was clothed in a polyester tabard and seated on a swivel chair. With such ambition, it's hardly surprising that my adult life has not seen me exactly hammering on the doors of professional success.

Back then, of course, cash tills were far more fun. Fewer digital bleeps, more mechanical clunking and whirring; sounds which could not be accurately emulated at home with a standard calculator blu-tacked onto a bedside cabinet, the top drawer of which would be filled with toy money. A better imitation was provided by the printing calculator mum would sometimes bring home from work if she needed to catch up on some figures. It made pleasingly authentic sound and, of course, produced a receipt - vital if you wanted to be "in character".

At the age of seventeen, I finally got to experience the reality of life as a checkout girl, although only at weekends and not in a supermarket. Over the orange tabard of Sainsbury's, I chose the green dungarees of Homebase, a DIY store. The tills were not, however, the noisy mechanical ones at which I had gazed adoringly as a bright-eyed child. These were electronic, computerised and required the entry not of a price, but of a six-digit POS number (I can still remember the code for Baby Bio plant food which was strategically placed at the checkout and provided many a customer with a last minute, unplanned purchase). The use of barcodes was not yet de rigueur.

Whilst I would have happily remained at that little desk, keying in POS numbers and accepting payments throughout my career at the DIY store, the powers-that-be decided that I was too "good" and "promoted" me to the Information Desk. The fact that I would be allowed to make tannoy announcements went some way toward compensating for being dragged reluctantly away from the checkouts, but I still gazed longingly at those numbered desks, where life was easy, predictable, rhythmic...

And so it is that I always find myself drawn to the self-service checkouts, eagerly proffering barcodes to the mysterious, laser-ridden window, awaiting the confirmatory bleep of acceptance. But what temperamental fellows these things are! If I even dare to place my purse in such a way that one tiny part of it touches the conveyor, I am duly scolded by the faceless, bodyless, digital voice. And woe betide me if I attempt to hang my reusable bag on the hook so that I can easily pack my items as I go: "Unexpected item in the bagging area!" she shrieks.

If I were more assertive, I would shriek back: "It's a bag, in a bagging area. Deal with it, bitch!" But no. I resignedly remove my bag, place my items "naked" in the so-called bagging area and only after finishing my transaction am I free to transfer the items into my bag whilst the next customer looks on, disapprovingly.

The experience is always unsatisfactory and yet, like a moth to a flame, I return. Time and time again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone... 

Despite my inherent, probably genetic, predisposition to bone-idleness, I am surprisingly useless at being a lady of leisure.

Having been a corporate drone for so long, I simply have no idea how to fill my time if I am not working. I need structure in my days, even if that structure is no more than "go to work, stay there awhile, then go home". Work is rather like a tailored suit, providing a neat and definite shape to one's time, but leaving its wearer keen to shrug off its restrictive and unyielding fabric when the day is done. Whereas my life of leisure was more like a pair of trackies and a slobby top - infinitely comfortable in some ways, but liable to reveal a flabby mass of hopelessness and depression, the psychological equivalent of muffin tops and visible panty lines.

Oh reader, of course there were plenty of things I could have done whilst at home. A plethora of domestic chores just waiting to be done, books to be read, craft projects to be undertaken, lunches with friends in town to be had. And, to be fair, I did some of those things for some of the time. But for the most part, I would find myself staring pointlessly at the computer screen (not so different from being at work, admittedly), wandering aimlessly around town buying useless things I could ill afford, contemplating my disappearing hair with the inevitable crying which would ensue and bemoaning my inertia with regard to my thus far mythical translation business whilst doing absolutely nothing to progress it.

Add to this the fact that my last employer made a bit of a boo-boo, paying me full salary while I was off sick (to which I was not entitled) and then demanding I repay the difference and you end up with a bored, miserable and rather financially concerned Anx.

So, I hope you won't think badly of me. I've gone against my word. For the past few weeks, I've been *whispers* working.

Don't shout at me, not just yet. You see, I made sure there were conditions.

I work no more than three days per week. Two of those days, I can work remotely from home if I wish. I do not provide on-call support, I do not travel to or work on production sites. It's work-lite, if you will.

Now, to add confusion to your disappointment, I should point out that I am working not for my last employer, but for the one before that. The one I left in December. As I pointed out here, having only worked in my latest job for two months before falling ill, I had not yet become productive. It takes time, in my line of work, to get to know the systems to the extent that one is truly useful. Furthermore, because they did not yet know what I was capable of, I would not have felt confident making demands with regard to working conditions.

However, I had kept in touch with a close colleague from the old place. I knew they had not directly replaced me with an experienced developer, but were training up an internal member of staff - and not without some difficulty. I remembered how they had begged me to stay, offering an increasingly desperate range of incentives. They liked me. They appreciated me. They needed me. They really, really missed me when I left. I knew that, if I wanted, they would take me back in the blink of an eye.

And so, in an arrangement which is mutually beneficial, until I leave the West Country, I am working part time back at the old place. There is the possibility that I might continue to work part time for them on an entirely remote basis when I move to Hampshire. That's how much they value my contribution and that feels pretty good.

I like being with people, talking nonsense with them and laughing with them - being back at work has reminded me of the importance of human contact which was what I'd been missing when I'd been convalescing at home. I have to wonder, then, how I will adapt to working from home, with only myself for company, once (I almost said if...) I start working as a freelance translator...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Eighteen bastard months

It was the first I'd heard of it. I was sure they'd said three - maybe six. But not eighteen. I may have been ill, but I was never "out of it". I took in all the information I was given, but I swear the words "eighteen" and "months" had never before been juxtaposed when talking about my ongoing drug treatment.

Eighteen bloody months

At the time, in the clinic a couple of weeks ago, when she said it, it didn't seem that big a deal. Yeah, yeah, eighteen months, whatever. But the more I thought about it, the more it angered me. Why hadn't they warned me about this? You see, they hadn't warned me about the hair loss either - I had to discover that for myself. What other surprises might be waiting for me? Limbs falling off, brain turning to jelly? Oh, hang on, here's another one: not only can my new, so-called less evil drug cause hair loss, it is also carcinogenic. Great.

Eighteen poxy months

I feel powerless, out of control of my body, of my health, of my fitness. My sister gets married next year - I'm her bridesmaid. A potentially bald, fat, moon-faced, minging bridesmaid. Sorry about that, sis - doctor's orders.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm quite pissed off. Of course, it's all for my own good. By taking the medication for that long, it decreases my chances of relapse in the future. It would have just been nice to know exactly what to expect.

You see, it's one thing to put up with something when you think it's almost over, quite another to realise that it's only just begun.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Out of the bladders of babes... 

"I done a wee-wee!" proclaimed the shrill voice from the garden.

Big and I looked at each other with furrowed brows as we sat on the sofa. We had just shown the woman around the house and left her to explore again on her own. Although she was not quite on her own. She was accompanied by her two year-old son.

"I done a wee-wee!" he proclaimed again. And again. And again. Like most toddlers, he had clearly not yet grasped the concepts of tedium or appropriate vocal volume, much to the chagrin of anyone who happened to find themselves unexpectedly in his company.

A few moments later, the mother emerged into the dining room, her two year-old slung on her hip. She looked rather sheepish, while he smiled proudly at his most recent achievement.

"I'm afraid he's done a wee on your patio. Say sorry to the lady, Frankie,"

"Frankie" looked at me with a look of gormless fascination perfected by toddlers the world over. Unsurprisingly, no apology was forthcoming.

So, not content with knocking annoyingly on our front door, bleating repeatedly and shrilly at his mother for a jaffa cake while we were attempting to have a conversation, grabbing fridge magnets off the fridge and generally getting in the way both physically and conversationally throughout the farcical "viewing", it now transpired that the child had urinated on our patio.

"I'm sorry, I should have thought to bring his potty,"
"Don't worry, these things happen," I smiled kindly, yet probably rather falsely.

Now, before the parents among you lynch me, it's not that I don't like children (though of course I couldn't eat a whole one... ha bloody ha). Of course, children can only learn how to conduct themselves in society by participating in that society. But is it really appropriate to bring a very young (and, as it turned out, incontinent) child along to view a house? I could tell that the mother wasn't paying attention to her surroundings due to the constant, bleating demands of the child. Every time I attempted to answer her questions, the child would start tugging on her hand or wittering inanely. I can only imagine that her experience of the whole d├ębacle was as frustrating as mine.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to leave the child with a friend or relative for the short period of time required to view the house? This is potentially an important financial decision - isn't it best to be focussed on the task in hand with a clear head, rather than one distracted by talk of jaffa cakes and wee-wees?

As a childless old crone, smug in my world of selfish infertility, I am probably not qualified to comment, but sometimes I really don't understand parents.

Friday, June 01, 2007

If I could just... 

If I could just feel normal again.

When I say normal, I mean of course "how I was before I got sick". Unfortunately, the above *is* my normal now. For at least 18 months while I'm on this hideous medication. Which is all so utterly tedious, for me and those who have to put up with me.

Of course, God knows, things could have been worse. There are people out there who have to put up with a hell of a lot more. But I can't be grown up and philosophical all of the time. Occasionally I go through periods of childish questioning where I think: "Why did this have to happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? What's the point of trying to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle only to get clobbered by a completely random and indiscriminate illness?"

Unfortunately and frustratingly, there are no answers to these questions. Life just sucks sometimes, I guess.

Ah well, at least I have my health... Oh, pants...