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...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Open letter to estate agents 

Dear Estate Agents

In UK English, that thing which marks the boundary between the pavement and the road; the thing against which we sometimes squidge our tyres when parallel parking; the thing which is sometimes lowered to assist access to a driveway; that thing is called a "kerb", not a "curb".

The thing you plant flowers in in the garden is called a "border". A "boarder" is quite another thing and not usually a selling point when describing a house.

An area is "sought" after, rather than "saught" after.

When you mentioned that the bathroom window was made of "opaque glass", didn't you actually mean that it was made of "obscured glass"?

So, this house offers: "Off road parking for approximately one car", does it? Approximately one car. Well, I should be okay, because I've got three quarters of a car. What about one and a half cars, though, will that work?

Yours, in bewilderment


Once again, I find myself confronted with the combination of shoddy grammar, invented vocabulary, pathetic attempts at spelling and downright nonsense that is the very hallmark of estate agents' language. This time we are buyers rather than sellers, which only serves to increase the amount of verbal diarrhoea on offer.

The latest disease which seems endemic to estate agents in this town is to describe properties as being "all up together". "All up together", eh? As opposed to what, exactly? "Partially down and apart" perhaps?

I'm trying to imagine viewing a "partially down and apart" property:

"Ah yes, Ms Anx, this pile of bricks here is what will be the kitchen. The roof is a couple of miles away and the bathroom, whilst fully assembled, is on the other side of the road."

Are they simply differentiating the house from a building site or a plot of land? Well no, of course they're not. Obviously, what they mean by "all up together" is "in good decorative order". Obviously.

So, um, why not just say that instead?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Taking the plunge 

I'm feeling rather pleased with myself. And if you know me, you'll know that "rather pleased" is quite an achievement when it relates to myself. Not as rare an occurrence as "delighted", but certainly rarer than the default of "vaguely disappointed" (or "meh" for short).

You see, I'm doing a thing that I've been saying I'd do for many years.

It's only a little, insignificant thing, but it's still a thing.

I'm not doing it particularly well, stylishly, quickly or efficiently at the moment, but I'm still doing it.

In fairness, I did attempt to start doing it back in February this year (I'd arranged and paid for lessons, and everything), but the small matter of Acute. Renal. Failure. got in the way, somewhat. I think I'm allowed that as an excuse, on this occasion.

So yes, I have taken the plunge. Quite literally. Well, when I say "plunge", I mean "tentative and rather wobbly descent down a ladder". So not literally at all.

I have started swimming with the specific purpose of establishing it as my exercise régime of choice. You see, I started running again and something happened which had never happened before. I went for my third run/walk (the first two had been successful; encouraging, even) and I had to stop after five minutes. I felt sick. I had to walk home. I got scared. I realised that I am not physically the same person any more. Running is too harsh for me at the moment and I must find an alternative.

So I have joined a gym with a pool.

Of course, there is a whole host of anxieties which comes as part of the gym/pool package.

The "I have to wear a swimsuit sort of in public" anxiety.

I have been surprisingly blasé about this one, actually. I figure that I look so appalling at the moment, a bit of cellulite can't make that much difference.

The "I'm really, really crap at this" anxiety.

I only like doing things that I'm good at. I'm not asking to be at Olympic standard here, I just want to be able to chug up and down, nice and steadily, for fitness. I can't do this yet. I have to stop and recover after each length because I'm so unfit, my technique is probably all wrong and I'm almost certainly not breathing correctly.

The "Why does everyone else make it look so effortless?" anxiety.

Here I go again, comparing myself to others. But it is hard not to when you're in the same pool as them. When they go gliding past you, underwater. When they've done four lengths in the time it's taken you to do one and to stand there gasping for a while.

The "Why don't I appear to be moving forward when I do breaststroke?" anxiety.

Lord only knows what I'm doing wrong. Everything, probably. But no matter how much I flail around, my forward progress when attempting breaststroke is, at best, pitiful. Backstroke is also interesting - I simply splash my face with so much water that I have to stop halfway up the pool. I always end up doing front crawl, which I can sort of do, after a fashion. Fashion, I said, not style.

Swimming, for me, is synonymous with panic. As soon as I push off, my only thought is: "Quick, get to the other end before you drown!" and off I splosh, leaving in my wake a flurry of white water. I forget to breathe in, I forget to breathe out, I just flail around until I reach the other end. I imagine, for a spectator, that it's probably quite amusing to watch.

But I do have something in my favour: I did it with running. I started out not being able to run for more than one minute at a time and ended up being able to run for over two hours.

So maybe, just maybe I can do it with swimming. At least I am trying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I've never met anyone else who called it Pelmonism. People would look at me blankly, or with that worried look, or would edge backwards slowly and imperceptibly if I called it Pelmonism.

"Oh, you mean 'Pairs'!" some would exclaim. Maybe to them it was 'Pairs', but to me and my family, it was always 'Pelmonism'.

A simple game with a high-falutin' name, you might think. I certainly did. Get a pack of cards, shuffle, place all of them face down on the table and swirl them around. Take turns to turn two face up: if they match, you keep them; if they don't, you turn them back over again and try to remember what and where they were for next time. The idea being to collect as many pairs as you can.


I wondered for years whether it was just one of those things that our family had "made up". You know how when you're little, you think that everyone experiences the same thing as you but as you grow up, you start to realise that some things are family foibles?

The "egg man" being one example which springs to mind.

I remember, at school, discussing different community service providers. The milkman, for example, or the postman. Political correctness not having been invented yet.

When asked, by the teacher, to provide an example of another, I suggested "the egg man", to a number of stifled guffaws.

"The egg man?" the teacher enquired kindly, but with a doubtful look.

"Yes, you know, the man who delivers fresh farm eggs every week. He comes in a van. He also does vegetables and other stuff too, but we call him the egg man..." I tailed off when I noticed that everyone was looking at me strangely. Evidently, not everyone had an "egg man". In fact, nobody but me. I kept my head down and didn't mention him or his fresh farm eggs again.

On a more profound level, I remember being surprised to find that most of my friends still had both parents intact.

"You mean, your dad is still... alive? He didn't die when you were little?" I would ask, wide-eyed and fascinated.

With only my own experience of parents (or lack thereof) to go on, how was I to know that my situation was a little unusual? I soon learned to keep that particular conversation-stopper to myself - unless of course the subject came up and couldn't be avoided.

So, I wondered the other day, was Pelmonism yet another example of my projecting my own family experience onto the world at large?

With the magic of Google, I find that it wasn't just my family after all.

I feel somewhat relieved. I can call it Pelmonism with my head held high again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The thing I haven't been telling you... 

I have been living back in Southampton for the past week.

The build-up to the move was hideous. Tears, tantrums and taped-up boxes everywhere. I know, I know, maybe I should have got the removal people to pack after all. I think it's a combination of bemused memories of the last time we had someone else do the packing (a wizened tomato, carefully wrapped in a yard of bubble wrap and placed in the kitchen box, ditto a used teabag on a saucer, large boxes filled entirely with books and thus immovable...) and my need to feel in control: if they had packed, we wouldn't have a spreadsheet listing the exact contents of each (numbered) box, now would we? My so-called profession doesn't include the word "anal" for nothing...

Once, however, everything that could be put into a box was put into a box; once the removal men had successfully managed to park their van right outside the house; once they'd started carefully and efficiently stacking the bulk of our possessions into the large wooden crates which will become their home for the next few months (so efficiently, that they only needed three containers instead of the quoted four), the tension began to ease, the horror began to turn to excitement, the realisation that what we'd been anticipating for the past few months was finally happening brought a smile to our previously grimacing faces.

Six (six!) hours of cleaning and several trips to the dump later and I'm finally waving goodbye to the my nine foot sunflower (pictured) whose flower had resolutely refused to open before our departure, and heading East on the A303 (a road which still makes me shudder), away from the West Country for the last time. Well for the last time as a resident.

At our new home (which is not actually our home but the furnished house of a friend who works away during the week but who offered it to us as a short-term measure until we buy our own place - confused?), Big was waiting. He'd travelled down with the man with the van and Umberto, the oversized umbrella plant who could not be put into storage nor would he fit into my car. Once we'd decided to use a van for this purpose, evidently other things started creeping onto our "Let's-take-that-with-us-rather-than-put-it-into-storage" list and we became a little blasé with our "What-is-the-minimum-that-we-actually-need" list.

Luckily, our host for the next few months has a generous double garage to house the boxes of "stuff" which don't really belong anywhere within an already furnished house.

So, here I am: back where I was when I started writing this; back where I was when I'd only just started seeing Big (our four year anniversary being tomorrow); back where I was when I'd decided that I needed to make some changes in my life - on which front, I certainly delivered...

In that time, I've:
and those are just the things I can think of whilst writing this.

What I haven't yet done is resolve my work situation so that what I do every day does not fill me with either raging despair or lingering disappointment.

But one thing at a time. I am back where my friends are, I am closer to my family, I am in a place which feels more like somewhere approaching home. And that's definitely something to build on.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A girl I know 

There’s this girl; I’ve known her for a very long time.

Things were generally okay between us until we reached our teenage years. I became critical of her – the way she looked: too tall, too pale, too wide; the way she acted: clumsy, nervous, shy. I would try to avoid seeing her if at all possible as it would often end in upset. Sometimes, though, it was unavoidable.

This continued well into our twenties. I would criticise her life choices: letting her heart rule her head, giving up too easily, setting aside her dreams to take the crushingly boring, predictable and not even particularly lucrative route. Everything she did and the way she looked confirmed for me that she was lazy, foolish, unlikely to make anything of her life. I just avoided her, let her get on with it, let her stagnate if that's what she wanted to do.

She started to prove me wrong as we reached our thirties. She finally got off her arse and got herself fit. She looked good, I admitted a little reluctantly, for the first time. She gained in confidence and self-worth and started to work out what she really wanted from life. She found herself a man and started to stir up the stagnant pond her life had become – vowing to change her career, to do something more worthwhile, to live a simpler yet richer life. It became a pleasure to see her blossoming, finally growing up, finally looking as though she’d achieve her potential. Because I knew, deep down, she had potential.

(And hair, she always had damned good hair).

A few years have passed, and I find myself avoiding her again. Disappointingly, she doesn’t seem to have made much progress in life. Career-wise, she is still doing the same old thing for even less money. She has a vague plan which she seems eternally incapable of implementing – always making excuses as to why it can’t start just yet. Her procrastination irritates me.

Okay, she hasn’t been well just lately, which hasn't helped. It has also had a huge impact on her appearance – one which she didn’t expect. The beautiful hair which used to frame and partially conceal her not-so-delicate features is mostly gone, leaving her exposed, vulnerable, her steroid-bloated face revealed with only the wispy remains of her once copious, silky tresses stuck to her scalp or sticking out at odd angles. I find myself looking away, piteous, embarrassed. The fitness she worked so hard to achieve has melted away due to medication and forced inactivity, giving way to the dumpiness and frumpiness of earlier years.

Whilst inside, she is the same person – a fundamentally good person, I think – I can’t bear to look at her any more, that girl I’ve known for such a long time.

My reflection.