Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Magic mushrooms

We are launching a new magazine in the office. I have repeated this sentence to various contacts and friends, and the reaction has been more or less the same. People seem to become quite excited and express great enthusiasm towards launching a new magazine. “Sounds exciting,” a friend said only yesterday.
Allow me to let you into a little secret - it is not very exciting. Of course I realise it’s extra business and revenue, and this in itself is a good thing, and it’s keeping my mind occupied, which is another good thing. But exciting is not the first word that springs to my mind when I think of this new magazine.
If we are talking exciting, personally I think the following would be rather thrilling – winning an all expenses paid, luxury holiday, in a far away exotic location, or finally meeting my favourite singer and songwriter, George Michael. As both of these dreams seem highly unlikely at this present moment in time, I shall carry on regardless with my specification sheet, flat plan, print order, mailing order and colour proofs, for the new magazine.
As well as the new publication, we are are using a new printing company for the finished product. They seem professional and reliable to me, with an impressive clientele and the all important, competitive rates. A couple of months ago myself, my new boss, and the extremely tall publisher, visited their premises, and we got completely lost in the process. Maybe it’s my influence? It’s not the first time someone has lost their way in my presence.
Anyway, today the new printers were due to visit our neck of the woods, and take the production department (all 2 of us) for lunch at a near by smart but cosy restaurant. Due to illness this lunch date had to be cancelled, as the account handler from the printers can not stop being sick.
So, without further ado, I’m off to buy some magic mushrooms for my lunch. No need to fret, in the middle of the new printers and new magazine drama, I have not turned to recreational drugs to ease the pressure. I am merely referring to the label on the Sainsbury’s lunch box containing organic mushrooms, egg noodles, smoked tofu, ho-sin sauce, broccoli and sesame seeds. Nice.

Picture of the day:

Pretty in pink.

Monday, 24 September 2007

All the pebbles on the beach

It goes by the name of Bluetongue and it’s an agricultural disease that has just been discovered on a Suffolk farm in Great Britain.
Incidentally, I visited Suffolk at the weekend with my parents. But do not fear, I am not a cow or a sheep, so I can not catch and spread this unfortunate disease which mainly affects small blood vessels and can lead to reddening and swelling of the lips, mouth, nasal linings and eyelids. Sounds very unpleasant, and can be a farmers living nightmare, if discovered on their livestock.

Our visit to Suffolk consisted of walking aimlessly along the pebbled beach, with the screeching seagulls and gentle waves for our soundtrack. Browsing in antique and gift shops, which were decorated with unusual ideas and ornate treasures.
My first Christmas present was bought in one of the many curiosity shops. As well as the 13 birthday presents looming, I have to purchase 20 Christmas presents, so I thought it best to keep my eyes open for suitable gifts.
This suitable gift was a jazz book for my father, bought without his knowledge so it will remain a surprise, and will join one of the many presents for him to open on Christmas Day.
I decided to treat myself to a new book which caught my eye and imagination. ‘I capture the castle’ is the title and Dodie Smith is the author. The same author who wrote '101 Dalmatians'. Cruella De Vill, Cruella De Vill, if she doesn’t do it, nobody will... Sorry, I got side tracked with one of the characters then. Remember Cruella De Vill, from 101 Dalmations, and her unhealthy obsession with fur coats?
Lunch was crusty baguettes and refreshing beverages, overlooking the blue sea and underneath the blue sky. It was almost a shame to leave our idyllic setting and return to our home county. But all too soon it was time to face the traffic and leave.
And there was also the small matter of the Agatha Christie's ‘Miss Marple’ on the telly, which we had all expressed our enthusiasm in watching. So home we trekked.

Pictures of the day:

The perfect stop.


When the boat comes in.


All the pebbles on the beach.


Time to go home.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

All aboard!

Ahoy there captain and shiver me timbers! Yesterday was ‘International talk like a pirate day’. Honestly, I am not pulling your (wooden) leg with this one.
Held annually on one of the founders ex-wife’s birthday, the event began in 1995. Apparently, two guys, John Baur and Mark Summers, began talking like a pirate on this day and thanks to email and a local newspaper, the word got out and September 19th has been officially named ‘International talk like a pirate day’.
Here’s the link if you are still shaking your head in disbelief: http://www.talklikeapirate.com/
By a wave of coincidence (wave, sea, pirate, geddit?!) it was also the same day as the river cruise, courtesy of the mailing house which mails the magazines that my publishing house produces.
And in case you were wondering, I wore neither my red shoes nor my gold shoes. I purchased new black shoes for the occasion. To justify my actions, black goes with everything, the style can be worn with trousers or a dress/skirt, and the heel is not too high, so I am hoping I will not be in agony each time I wear them.
I also wore my black and white jacket for extra comfort as the weather was grey, wet and windy. Well, what did you expect for a September day and evening in England? Sunshine and warmth?!
Sophie, my work colleague and friend, and I, happily left the office earlier than usual and made our way to the Festival Pier on the River Thames. The M.V. Elizabethan, replica of an 1890’s Mississippi Stern-wheeled Paddle Steamer awaited us, with champagne!
What a lovely welcome, a glass of bubbly champagne and two representatives from the mailing house. Other than them, we only knew one other person at the event. This was another production extraordinaire, whose job I replaced eight years ago (that’s how long I have worked in my office) and then she came back to the office, to be employed in a different department, once she had tired of the travelling lifestyle.
An Irish folk band sang and played musical instruments while waitresses circulated sliver trays filled with interesting looking canapes. Sophie and I sat at the stern of the boat absorbing the scenery as we floated down the river, sipping our wine and beer.
And the best bit was - my new black shoes did not cause me any discomfort. I took a gamble wearing them for the first time at such an event, and for once it seemed I had won.
Even though it was ‘International talk like a pirate day’ we decided not to talk pirate language throughout the evening, and we disembarked the boat satisfied with our outing and ready to face the London Underground.
I stayed the night at Sophie's house, so that two ‘young girls' were not riding the trains and walking the streets alone.
At Sophie's house, off to her spare room I went, this time remembering the black panther in the corner, while at the same time noticing the grey shark and the sinister looking snake. Welcome to the animal kingdom in the spare room.
I took my new shoes off, ready to fall into bed, and then on closer inspection, I discovered a red mark on my toe and the familiar beginnings of a blister. I spoke too soon. I did not win the gamble.
I just knew it was too good to be true.

Picture of the day:

Big Ben on a typical grey London day.


Big Ben by night

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Masks, fairies and high heel shoes

Phew. It has been action stations this evening.
Once my dinner had safely digested, my first mission was the gym. Tread mill, exercise bike and the machine which moves your arms and legs and has it’s own television screen, but I’m still not quite sure of it’s correct terminology. They were the three machines I used tonight, in an effort to make my wobbly bits less wobbly.
I have to admit, I usually arrive at the gym in a reluctant frame of mind, but once I have stretched, jumped and jogged, I leave the gym feeling as if I could conquer the world. (Sort of.)
And tonight was no exception. Tracksuit and trainers on, I tore myself away from the television screen in my house and drove the short distance to the sports centre, with George Michael's dulcet tones to perk me up. After my hour work out, I arrived home revitalised and ready to jump into the bath.
A hot, relaxing bubble bath was enjoyed, with a hydrating face mask smothered into my pores. I love the feel of my skin after the hydrating mask, although the smell of the ingredients does tend to make me feel a little queasy at first. They do say, no pain, no gain, so I have learnt to live with the smell.
Fresh from the bath, with pink fluffy dressing gown on, I opened a newly delivered catalogue to hunt for presents for the forthcoming 13 birthdays. Quite a good selection of kid’s toys filled the back section of the catalogue and I have ordered fairy dolls to make, board games to play and china mugs to be personalised and painted. It’s a good start for the 13 birthday presents.
E bay was the next item on my list of things to do, as I thought I should check how the bidding war with my clothes was evolving. Oh, erm, just the one bid for 99p then! Not quite how I had visualised it. Still, there are three whole days to go. And as you know, anything can happen in three days. So I’ll try not to be too disheartened.
And that reminds me, while we are on the subject of clothes, I need to plan my outfit for the river cruise tomorrow night. Myself, and my work colleague and friend Sophie, have been invited to join the festivities on board, for a night hosted by our mailing house.
Now, do I wear my glamorous gold shoes which made my feet bleed the last time I wore them? Or do I wear my comfortable, but a little scruffy, red high heeled shoes? Shall I wear my cream sixties style top or my smart black crotchet top, with my faithful black trousers? What about a jacket? It’s been a bit nippy today, so I imagine the weather top deck on a boat would be even nippier. But what jacket goes best with my cream sixties style top or my smart black crotchet top?
What a dilemma. I might have to sleep on my clothing decision, for the time is ticking away and I need my beauty sleep. I’m also looking forward to reading a few pages of my new book, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. I have finished ‘The Bonesetter’s Daughter’ by Amy Tan and I loved every single word of it. Such a talented writer and an intriguing book full of secrets, superstitions and love.

Well, it’s good night from me. No doubt I will be seeing you soon to update you with all the gory details from the river cruise, and what I decided to wear.
I’m sure you will be waiting with bated breath.

Picture of the day:

She’s a waterfall.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

How much is that doggie in the window?

Stop the press! Hang the flags out. Play a fanfare of trumpets. For I have items in my wardrobe which now can be described as ‘loose.’ Or, I could even go as far as to say “they are too big for me.”
Since writing this blog, I have taken a new approach to my life and my eating habits. I no longer over indulge daily on cheese, chocolate and Indian takeaways. Of course I still enjoy these food items and I do not deprive myself
completely of them. But I’ve learnt to control and monitor my calorie intake, before I resembled a Sumo Wrestler on a bad day. Therefore, I am a healthier, happier, slimmer person. And I no longer have energy slumps in the afternoon and/or extreme cravings for sugar and cheese.
At the end of the day, whatever size and shape you are, you have to feel good about yourself, and not avoiding mirrors and not falling asleep at my desk has definitely made me feel better about myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not obsessed about my weight (believe it or not!) and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that the figure I had in my teens and twenties has gone. But by eating healthy and watching my calorie and fat intake, I do feel comfortable with my reflection again, and my energy levels have risen from the ashes.
Plus, I can clear various ‘loose’ clothing from my wardrobe to make space and extra cash.
E bay is calling me! Last night my bedroom looked rather like a ladies fashion department. I hung clothes on my light fittings, with the white painted walls as the backdrop, and photographed clothing with my digital camera. After the photography session, I wrote descriptions and noted material and washing instructions. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will appreciate my garments and all proceeds gratefully received thank you!
Alas I have a very expensive time ahead of me, with one thing or another. Car tax needs renewing (welcome back to the world of owning your own vehicle), I have a hen night and a wedding to attend, and a baby is being born (not mine, my cousins). Last but not least, I have, wait for it, 13 - unlucky for some - birthdays. Unlucky for my bank account, as I’ll be buying presents for all 13 and no doubt joining a few of the celebrations in restaurants, bars, etc, etc. Practically everyone I know was born in the latter part of the year, and now some of these mentioned people have children born around the same time! How about that for planning?!
Another little money spinning idea, to help me cope with the outgoings and birthdays (don’t even get me started on Christmas!) is to become a mystery shopper. A mystery shopper, incase you weren’t quite sure, is employed part time by a company to help businesses who are struggling with their profits. You receive travelling expenses and are asked to complete various assignments. This means you do not reveal your identity but visit shops, restaurants, bars etc, to observe the environment and write reports to help people improve and develop their business. Sounds right up my street!

Okay then, now I have written today's post, I have to dash. I have clothes to check on e bay and a mystery shopper handbook to work my way through. Until the next one, dear Flying Pink Elephants readers.

Picture of the day:

The pathway

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Oxo Tower

It was that time of the month again, when my friend Helen and I met for our monthly meal and reunion. This time we decided to broaden our horizons and our choice of venue was The Oxo Tower, situated along the south bank of the River Thames.
The Oxo Tower is a huge land mark along the river. It was built at the turn of the nineteenth century and used as a power station. In the late 1920's the site was purchased by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, makers of Oxo. Nowadays it's an attractive eight floor building full of shops, restaurants and bars.Being a huge land mark, and apparently near the station Helen and I travelled to, we thought we would find it relatively easy. But then again, we are talking about two people who could get lost walking down a ladder. We got lost. Even with a map in my hand and signs for 'The Oxo Tower' everywhere we looked.
Half an hour later and two painful blisters forming on my feet (surprise, surprise) we found ourselves looking up in awe at The Oxo Tower, which should have taken us a mere five minutes to find.
We took the lift to the eighth floor where our dinner reservation had been made. You could not fault the view, it was stunning. We made our way to our table where wine and beer were ordered. As I looked around the restaurant I couldn't help feeling like Patsy or Eddy from the sit com Absolutely Fabulous. It was what you would describe as contemporary design, with champagne bottles strategically placed on numerous shelves.
We both opted for the porcini and ricotta tortelloni, with mushroom cream, fried artichoke, goats curd and toasted hazelnuts. It was very tasty although a little rich towards the end. A saxophonist serenaded us throughout our meal, a beautiful instrument to listen to and the music was very much appreciated.
My father plays the saxophone, and the night before our meal he was asked to join a band at The Ritz hotel. The Ritz is a prestigious London hotel and my father was honoured to be invited to play there. This was discussed with Helen and we decided our next meeting could be afternoon tea at The Ritz. How posh! And somewhere I have yet to visit.
After our meal we were itching to take our drinks outside, to admire the view and take photographs. So we walked along the balcony, sipping our beverages and enjoying the spectacular view of London by night light.
For your viewing, a couple of pictures are attached.

Pictures of the day:

Friend


View

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Strikes, make up and French homework

As if travelling to and from London in mid rush hour is not soul destroying enough, maintenance workers on the London Underground have decided to strike, due to a row over pensions and jobs. The result? The closure of nine tube networks, and chaos and disruption for the three million commuters who use the tube every day. And little old me is included in one of those three million commuters.
Thanking the Lord for small mercies, three out of the twelve tube lines are in full working order, so I was able to make my way to and from the office yesterday and today, albeit the long, drawn out, over crowded way. Trains, station platforms, buses and streets were full to bursting with stressed and frustrated people. Anxious vibes were bouncing off fellow passengers, as we squashed ourselves into confined spaces, rather like Harry Houdini performing a ‘fit into the tiny space’ magical trick.
One small consolation – the kids are back at school. Imagine a tube strike and the summer holidays.
Yesterday lunchtime I was able to walk the streets of London without the presence of the excited children in their summer holidays. No disrespect to them, of course they are entitled to travel to London and entertain themselves during their holidays. But now they are back safely in their school buildings, there are slightly less pedestrians on the pavements to worry about, and slightly less shoppers to bump into inside the shops.
I needed to visit the slightly less crowded shops to replace a few essential items. Is it my imagination or does everything seem to run out at the same time? This week I need to replace my deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, mascara and eyeliner.
So, a toiletry expedition to Boots the chemist was completed, and my next stop was House of Fraser. House of Fraser is my favourite department store, a large part of this could be due to the fact that I am an owner of one of their store cards. The store card that comes in rather handy if you are short of cash until pay day, or there is an unexpected birthday present to buy. Yesterday lunchtime I decided to treat myself to some fancy make up, hence the reason I found myself in House of Fraser. Not only do I hold one of their store cards in my (returned to owner) purse, it has a vast amount of make up to choose from.
A make up brand that I had not used before flashed before my eyes – Yves Saint Laurent. Or VSL for abbreviation purposes. Okay, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, the sales assistant tempted me with the words:
“Would you like some chocolate?”
“Oh yes please,” was my reply. And then she had me. Seduced into a free VSL make over and make up advice, with the allure of chocolate minstrels.
I have to admit to being impressed with her sales technique and make over. All sorts of brushes and tubes of liquid were applied to my face, while I sat on a stool munching her minstrels. The end product was a noticeably less tired and less prominently lined face.
“Wow,” said I, as I gazed into the mirror, feeling the old sparkle returning to my life.
And then the nice lady wrote on a piece of paper all the cosmetics she had used on my face, with prices. It took all the will power and concentration I could muster, not to let out a gasp as I read the list and noticed the final cost.
“Thanks for the chocolate and make over, but for now I'll just be purchasing the volume affect mascara and the black eye liner. I will have a think about the others.”
The famous "I will think about it." But she didn’t seem too disappointed, let’s face it the VSL mascara and eyeliner could hardly be classed as cheap.
Wearing my new eyeliner and mascara, I visited my friend Ann after my chaotic and disruptive journey home from the office. I have known Ann since I was eight years old. When I first met her I was two years younger than her oldest child is now. Her oldest child who started senior school yesterday. I remember when he was a mere twinkle in her eye.
Last night he looked suddenly all grown up, showing me his timetable and French homework.
“French homework? On your first day?!”
The outrage. I didn’t begin French lessons until I was at least in the second year of my senior school, and promptly dropped them in my third year. I calmed down when he explained the homework entailed writing his name in large French capital letters, and colouring the letters in, ready to display on his desk for the next lesson.
After examining his timetable and browsing through his French book, I watched him text his new friend their meeting arrangements for the following day. It’s all texts and French homework on first days at senior school these days. My, how things have changed and progressed.
Ann and I then trailed through 'e bay' searching for bargains while discussing George Michael, she shares my undying passion for him.
Next I said my goodbyes to her and her family, so I could have an early night, in preparation for the London Underground fiasco.
Let the battle commence.

Picture of the day:

Flowers

Monday, 3 September 2007

The Bat and the Owl party

It's Monday again, and I have actually got to work a full, complete, working week. That’s five days, and seven and a half hours per day. I always take an hour for my lunch break, to write my blog and/or other riveting stuff.
There are no longer any bank holidays, or any Friday half days in August (goodbye August, hello September) and I can’t take any annual leave this week as the editor and I are holding the fort in our department.
The rest of the gang are in Dubai, buzzing around at a telecoms conference. Unfortunately the ed and I have been left out of this trip. And today he is working from home, as his shower has been on since Friday. It refuses to switch off, therefore someone is taking a look at it today before he wastes even more water. I'm sure you will agree that a 3 day shower is wasting an awful lot of water.
I was sad to see the back of the August Friday half days. So last Friday, in an attempt to make the most of my early finish, I left the office at 1pm and took a stroll to Regents Park. Here I wondered around, admiring the scenery, the colourful flower displays and the relaxing water features. I then decided to have a rest on one of the benches, read the ‘Bonesetter’s Daughter’ and watch the Squirrels scurrying around and the Pigeons pecking for food.
I had no plans or enthusiasm to venture out Friday evening, instead I enjoyed a Chinese take away with my parents. Ko-pung chicken and Singapore noodles are my favourite. Mother ordered the lemon chicken, but I am not a fan of lemon chicken. To me it tastes like chicken sprayed with lemon air fresher. Not very appetising in my humble opinion.
The Diana, Princess of Wales, memorial was discussed at the dinner table. I did not see it as I was in the office, working hard naturally, but my mother informed me of the details. The memorial marked the ten year anniversary since she died in the car crash. And still people speculate whether it was an accident or not.
“Let it end here, " the Bishop of London apparently said. "Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace and dwell on her memory with thanksgiving and compassion.”
500 people attended, including The Queen, the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, and the pop singer, Elton John. Prince Harry made a heartfelt speech: “She was our guardian, friend and protector. To us, just two loving children, she was simply the best mother in the world.”
Those words touched me. It’s incredibly sad to loose your mother at such a young age and in such tragic circumstances. It made me feel even luckier and grateful that my mum and I have a healthy relationship and she’s still here to guide me and reassure me. Even though I like to think I no longer need guidance and reassurance!
After the Chinese we watched the Big Brother final. I can’t believe that I avoided it and slated it all summer, and then watched the final. But I couldn’t help watching it, my mother has been hooked on it, so it was blasting out of the television screen. Plus, I wanted to see if the person who bet £50,000 on the twins winning, would be £50,000 down or £10,000 richer. He was £50,000 down - Brian won! Brian, the 20 year old Essex boy, who from what I can gather, is not the sharpest tool in the box.
Why do they always do this?! Where do they find these Essex boys/girls on these reality television shows?! It’s becoming increasingly harder to convince people that us Essex folk have not all got the brain cell of a peanut. Although in his defence, my mother says he is “very funny and sweet."
Anyway, as I live in the sometimes mis understood place called Essex, my mother and I attended the Essex Wine Festival this weekend. There was an art exhibition, craft stalls, belly dancers, a live band, food stalls, and of course, wine tasting. We sampled various locally produced wine, with cheese and biscuits to compliment.
I bought myself a Jade stone from one of the stalls. Jade is known as the "dream stone" and a "stone of fidelity". Jade brings realization to ones potential and devotion to ones purpose. It is the symbol of tranquility and wisdom. It's very pretty and bought with intentions of making it into a necklace.
I also visited the stall representing the Essex Wildlife Trust. I am now a member. The link is here if anyone out there is interested: http://www.essexwt.org.uk/main/welcome.htm
Each month I will make a small donation which will go towards preserving the wildlife in the local nature reserves. I will also receive regular wildlife magazines, packed with information and news on the local wildlife, including invitations to Bat and Owl parties.
I must admit, I have never attended a Bat or an Owl party and I’m not quite sure what this involves?! But don’t worry, if I do decide to join one, I will fill you in with all the juicy details.

Picture of the day

A bear on the edge