Friday, 30 May 2008

The magical merry-go-round

I feel like a new woman today. The reason for this new zest of life? I’ve had my hair cut and coloured. My hair is blonder and shorter (but not too short) and I challenge anyone who tries to dampen my spirits today.
It aint gonna happen! It’s Friday and I have a new hair-do, thanks to the nice hairdresser who came to my parents house last night.
The nice hairdresser who spent eight hours in my parents kitchen. Yep, that is correct – eight hours. Wow, that’s a long hair cut, you may be thinking. Let me explain. The hairdresser is a family friend. She arrived at my parents house in the afternoon to cut and colour my mothers hair. Then I arrived home from work, we all ate dinner together, and I swapped chairs with my mother so the hairdresser could concentrate on me.
Not surprisingly, hair styles were discussed in the kitchen last night, and I was reminded of the time I was fourteen.
At the age of fourteen I had long, permed (it was the 80’s - the decade that fashion forgot), naturally light brown hair. One night I stayed at my friends house and I reached the (stupid) conclusion that a bottle of ‘sun-in’ would turn me into a blond bombshell. I washed my hair and started spraying the lethal liquid. Needless to say, I got carried away. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed, and then I blow-dried. And then I screamed when I realised my hair had turned the colour of bright orange and was the texture of burnt wool.
“My mum is gong to kill me!” I remember saying.
She didn’t kill me (I'm still alive and writing a blog!) but she also screamed when she saw my hair and booked me a hairdressers appointment immediately. I had it all chopped off. It was a very severe style, even the hairdresser looked uncertain about the outcome.
I remember going to school with my new severe style and feeling like a freak show. Teenagers can be very cruel. I was pointed at and whispered at, and believe it or not it was such a drastic transformation that I was the hot topic for days. At least until someone else done something news worthy.
I grew my hair after that catastrophe, and I never used ‘sun-in’ again.
Other styles entered my life - bobs, fringes, layers, more perms, and I even had it cut short again. This time I wanted to look like Demi Moore, after watching her enviously in the film Ghost. I looked absolutely nothing like her, after another visit to the hairdressers, but it was a vast improvement from the first time my hair was short.
I think you could say I have been on the magical merry-go-round when it comes to hair styles. Some fashions and styles have made me feel rather sick and panicky, whilst others have made me giddy with happiness. Well, kind of.

Picture of the day:

My next hair design?

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Who is Grigory Panin?

I don’t know about you, but I find it virtually impossible to walk past a book shop without taking a snoop inside. Particularly second hand book shops. So many bargains and treasures can be found amongst the shelves! And charity shops. Charity shops are the ideal place to purchase books at a snippet of the recommended retail price, and all for a good cause.
Books are definitely one of my passions in life. If you were to rummage inside my big white bag, you will always find a book buried inside its contents. If you were to make your way into my bedroom, you will see my shelves are forever over-flowing with books. On the last count, I had 23 books for my future reading material, as I simply can’t resist a book shop.
Maybe one day my reading will over take my obsession of collecting books. But until then, I shall carry on with my latest escape ‘The way I found her’ by Rose Tremain, which is today's tag subject. (For anyone who is remotely interested, the book is set in Paris and narrated through the eyes of a precocious thirteen year old, whose mother is a translator for a Russian novelist.)
Today's tag is from my friend
and the rules are below:

1. Pick up the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

These are my three sentences:

Alice was about to get up. She was going to put the music on again, but I stopped her. Then I said: ‘I think Grigory Panin captured her and made her go back to Russia with him.’

These sentences probably mean as little to you as they do to me. I have not yet reached P.123, so I do not have the faintest idea who Gregory Panin is. I am slightly curious though. Hence the title of the post - Who is Gregory Panin?
Is he a goody or is he a baddy? Will he bring mystery and excitement into my life? Or horror and disillusion? Oh I must remember it's only a book!

What's on P.123 of your nearest book?

Picture of the day:

Books, glorious books.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Watching the world go past

I took a step outside of my busy-at-the-moment life to watch the world go past. And so the nice mechanic man (also known as friend's hubby) could MOT my car and and solve the mystery of the peculiar noise.
To watch the world go past, I went to a French cafe for food and drink. I suddenly felt very hungry as my greedy eyes spied the freshly baked rolls, and the delicately decorated cakes. There was even a little house made of cakes! And my nose inhaled the pleasant aroma of the freshly ground coffee.
After changing my mind half a dozen times (too much choice!), I ordered an egg baguette, a cappuccino and a strawberry mousse, and chose one of the pavement tables to eat, drink, and watch.
Couples walking hand in hand, mothers with push chairs, and elderly ladies laden with shopping bags all walked past, lost in their own lives and completely oblivious of me.
I sipped my cappuccino and munched on my baguette, enjoying my time-out and relishing in the luxury of watching other peoples busy Saturday afternoon. I finished my French cafe date with the delicious strawberry mousse. It looked almost too good to eat. Almost, but not quite.
Then I noticed the time. Oh dear, I thought to myself, I must have been relaxing for far too long! I have birthday presents, wrapping paper, card-making material, and toiletries to buy. Plus a trip to the bank for the dreaded car bill, and then I have to walk back to the garage to collect my vehicle before the nice mechanic man wants to go home.
It was time to leave, allowing other people to sit at my table. Allowing other people to watch me walk past numerous times, lost in my own life, completely oblivious of them, on my busy Saturday afternoon.
But the good news is - my car is legal to drive, and it sounds like a normal car again. Not a single peculiar noise can be heard.
It's all fixed thanks to the nice mechanic man. Thanks friends hubby, I am very grateful. Even if it has left a rather large dent in my bank balance.

Pictures of the day:

The cake house.

Almost too good to eat.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The exploding head and other dilemmas

Do you ever feel as if your head is going to explode? Are you eagerly nodding your about-to-explode head in agreement? Or have you never experienced before-the-explosion feelings?
Whoa, let’s just pause for a moment shall we. Imagine if that could really happen. The moment your head felt over loaded with details / problems / stress – BANG! There flies particles of your head. It would be messy. Maybe it would be cartoon style, with jagged words spilling out into the atmosphere. Words such as MONEY! WORK! HEALTH! LOVE! And if we’re talking cartoon style, I think it would be nice to imagine a new head growing in place of the old stressed out head. A new happy head with fluffy captions such as PEACE! CALM! HAPPINESS! LOVE! (Note how that old devil called love can be a good thing and a bad thing!)
Okay, back to reality. My head hasn’t really exploded, but I do have far too many dates and things to do whirling around in that brain of mine. There’s the work stuff with all the magazines - copy dates, print dates, mailing dates, shipping dates, over lapping dates but all very important dates, and my calendar and schedules are chocker block and full of reminders.
Then there’s the fact it’s pay day today. Pay day should be a joyous occasion but alas the majority of my money will not be hanging around very long in my bank account. I need to work out minimum payments to certain debts and see how little I have to last me until next pay day. A task which always makes me feel slightly anxious.
Plus my car is making a peculiar noise and the MOT is due. I’m not a car mechanic but even I know cars should not be making peculiar noises, and driving ones car with an out of date MOT certificate is illegal. Please, please don’t let there be anything major wrong with my car as I do not have major money to pay for it, and it will have to sit on my parents drive feeling sorry for itself and I shall be car-less until I win that lottery.
Then there’s the stack of birthdays coming up. I mustn’t forget who was born on what day and who to post birthday cards to, and I mustn’t forget to buy suitable presents before I see various people.
And it seems everyone I have ever met in my entire life has telephoned me / emailed me / texted me and invited me for dinner or out for a drink. (Not that I’m moaning about this, I would be moaning if I didn’t have friends telephoning / texting / emailing.)
I am slightly exaggerating (again) by the way. It isn’t really everyone I have ever met in my entire life, but I do have many invitations and nights to arrange, and things to do, and people to see, and plans to make, and birthdays to attend to, and magazines to publish, and things to pay out for, etc, etc, etc….
If you hear a very loud bang, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Picture of the day:

I may look like this soon. I wonder what’s in my basket?

Friday, 16 May 2008

Flying pink blossom

The blossom has fallen from the trees, the season of spring is fazing out. Patiently waiting around the corner are the long days of summer. Impatiently waiting in my bedroom is my summer wardrobe.
Last night, after watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ on television, I sorted out my summer wardrobe. I love that television programme by the way. For four consecutive nights, four strangers invite their fellow contestants and a camera crew into their homes. The contestants and viewers are allowed a nose around each home, and the host cooks a three course meal, which is marked out of 10 at the end of the evening. After the fourth night, the person with the highest mark receives a cash prize of one thousand pounds. I love looking around the homes, and watching the recipes and seeing how four strangers interact with each other, sometimes with hilarious consequences.
So, after watching this programme last night, I had a spare couple of hours before bed time. I decided it was that time of the year again, when my wardrobe prepares itself for summer. Actually it would be correct to say my two tiny wardrobes prepare themselves for summer.
When I win the lottery and can afford my own property, a walk-in-wardrobe will be one of the top items on my ‘yes please, that will do nicely’ list. Until then, I have two tiny wardrobes which have to be emptied and re filled, depending on the season, and how many clothes I can swap with my drawers and the cupboard on the landing. Last night my white linen trousers, stripy dress, pretty, flimsy tops etc were displayed around my bedroom walls. And my mood for the evening resembled a gigantic, spinning yo-yo - it was up, it was down, it was up again.
One moment I was feeling delighted with the discovery of forgotten clothes for sunny weather, and then I realised that certain items were far too tight for comfort, or even a little loose these days. Some items actually fitted perfectly, and these are the ones which are now waiting impatiently, in my two tiny wardrobes, for the long days of summer.
In the meantime, it’s Friday afternoon in London town and life is good. I’m back at my normal desk, my Mac has been fixed and my files, and photographs, have been retrieved.
Sorry about the negativity in the last post folks, but thanks for your re assuring words. In the last post my mood was flat and grey, now it’s shiny and yellow.
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you are shiny and yellow too.

Pictures of the day:

Flying pink blossom.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Life at the spare desk

I’m having ‘one of those days’. You know the sort, the kind of day where you wonder why you bothered to get out of bed. The kind of day when you question what it’s all about.
Maybe I’m slightly exaggerating my frame of mind, but it’s seldom I have an uncharitable day, and it’s with deep regret that I have to inform you, today is definitely one of those days.
“Why the long face and the sour tone?” I hear you ask. Well, I have an ulcer in my mouth and a blister on my toe. I was embarrassingly late for work due to the joys of the underground. “The next district line will be here when it gets here,” the wise man announced through the speakers. Thanks for clearing that up! And my Apple Mac has decided to impersonate the sound of an aeroplane taking off (with engine trouble) and refusing to allow me access to my files.
I’m sitting at the spare desk, using the spare Mac. I hate the spare desk! It’s not often you will hear me using the word hate. Such a harsh word, but it sums up life at the spare desk. I hate the position of the desk, the fact it’s not by the window or by my shelves. I hate the layout of the desk, the monitor, hard drive and telephone are all in the wrong place. I keep bashing my chair into the man behind me (whose idea was it to place the desks so close to each other at this side of the office) and I’m trying not to stress about my files which may be lost forever in the nasty black hole of nothingness.
My photographs of Singapore and The Orient Express are on those files. You can’t replace photographs can you. I’ve given myself a stern ticking off for not transferring the pictures onto a CD. You would have thought that I’d learnt by now – always have back up!
Arrgg. That was the sound of my annoyance. I need to keep pestering the nice man in IT. Please fix my G5, nice man in IT.
Anyway, enough about me! How’s your day going?

Picture of the day:

Flowers by the window.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Home alone (with the childhood monster)

The alarming scream abruptly woke me from my slumber.
"What the heck was that?" I thought to myself, trying not to let the panic rise in my anxious body.
There it went again, the piercing, high-pitched wailing noise. It sounded as if a lost, helpless soul was in grave danger outside my bedroom window. I cautiously moved out of my bed and to the window, and peered through my curtains into the outside world. A flash of orange raced away from the house and into the darkness.
I sighed in relief. A fox. Why do they have to make such an awful noise, especially when I'm in this house all by myself. Up until last night I'd surprised myself with how brave I'd been, home alone.
My parents went away for the weekend for a much needed break, leaving me to guard the house. I was almost tempted to invite a couple of friends over on Friday night, but my mind cast back to the broken chair, the burnt kitchen table and the broken Christmas decorations. I decided it would be far more relaxing, and respectful, to enjoy the tranquillity of an empty house and spare my parents the effects of alcohol clumsiness.
Saturday night I ventured out and remembered my door key, thanks to my mums helpful note on the front door, saying 'KEY!' My friend Helen drove to my friend Annies house for birthday celebrations. Thanks for the lift Helen! Happy Birthday Annie!
We celebrated my friends birthday at the same venue as the year before, except this year the venue has had a complete face lift. This year it's all bright colours, velvety textures and a huge cocktail bar. Champagne was generously ordered by the birthday girl and the bubbles, atmosphere and quality time with friends was the recipe for a great night out.
I arrived home in the small hours, and I even managed to walk slowly up the stairs to my bed. I refused to think of the childhood monster chasing me up the stairs, until I was safely hiding under my duvet. He wasn't allowed in my bedroom, although that didn't stop him trying to sneak into my dreams and trick me into waking up and staring at him. But Saturday night I was far too tired and full of champagne to let the monster bother me.
I awoke on Sunday morning to the sun streaming through my curtains. Oh goody, the perfect weather to sit in the garden reading and eating. Although I had to chase the sun around, as my parents garden is crammed full of trees and bushes. I lost myself in 'stranger on the train' which the poltergeist kindly returned to the bathroom (behind the washing basket, would you believe it) and I helped myself to the cheese supply in the fridge. Cheese and pickle on crackers, cheese on toast with lashings of pepper and tomato ketchup, and cheese and tomato sandwiches. It was a very cheesy day.
As the sun set in the sky, signalling the end of another day, and the gnats started circulating the air above my head, I vacated to the kitchen. My big box was brought down from my bedroom and I made a couple of cards for more birthdays fast approaching, happily humming away to myself and thinking there was nothing to this living alone lark. There were no monsters or burglars, just a quiet, empty house.
After my soak in the bubble bath, and pink pyjamas and pink piggy slippers on, I had to go and ruin everything, didn't I.
The house began to mysteriously creak, and there suddenly seemed far too many windows for scary faces to peer in. I walked exceedingly fast up the stairs and practically slammed my bedroom door shut. The silence was deafening. Apart from the creaks.
"I'll put the telly on for background noise, until I fall asleep," I thought to myself. First channel I tuned into looked suspiciously like a horror film. Not the best choice of viewing, for it was those films which contributed to making me like this in the first place. I hastily turned over to something light hearted, and tried to think of nice things, such as butterflies and sunflowers.
Eventually my eyes felt heavy, the off button on the remote control button was pushed, and I drifted off into sleep.
Unfortunately it wasn't a very long sleep. I awoke countless times throughout the night, convinced there were burglars down stairs, convinced the childhood monster had sneaked from my dream into my bedroom, and convinced there was a murder scene outside my bedroom window.
My parents are back tonight. Thank goodness for that. I'm optimistic that tonight I'll be able to sleep soundly.
Bye, bye childhood monster!

Pictures of the day.

Saturday night. Out with friends.

What am I pointing at? Surely the monster hasn't followed me out?!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Deep dark secrets

“I know all your deepest darkest secrets now,” said my friend Laura.
“Oh I’m sure you knew them already,” I casually replied.
(Except the one about the sheep, wellington boots and picnic basket. Ha, ha, I’m only joking!)
We were referring to blogging. I've introduced my dear friend Laura to the wonderful world of blogging. She now has Internet connection and lap top at home, so I sent her the address for Flying Pink Elephants, stating that she might be bored one day and fancy something to read. The boredom must have set in, as she has been reading and apparently chuckling to herself with regards to the George Michael links.
And here is another George Michael link (was that a groan I heard?!) – last night I dreamt we launched a new magazine in the office and guess who the special guest star was at the launch party? Yep, it was him! George immediately marched over to me, shook my hand, and said he’d heard all about me and it was a pleasure to meet me. I nearly fainted on the spot, and an unknown face had to steady my nerves. Then I spent the remainder of the dream on the verge of tears as I realised I’d forgotten my camera and wouldn’t be able to post a picture of him on FPE. Typical hey, it would be just my luck to meet him on the day I was camera free.
Before this dream, Laura and I went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. The restaurant used to be a rather old fashioned pub, which I spent one news years eve at many moons ago, and my family held a surprise party in the function room for my nans 70th birthday. Happy memories there, well for the surprise party anyway. I can’t remember too many details about the new years eve party, I suspect I lost one of my possessions and I lost myself in a white wine bubble.
Garlic bread and a very tasty pasta dish were consumed in this Italian restaurant that used to be a pub, and blogging and Laura's adorable two children were discussed. Lovely to see her again. At the end of the evening I popped into her house to see her two little angels sleeping and say hi to her hubby. (By the way, I have two friends called Laura, this Laura I attended the same school as, and another Laura is the one I met at the airport.)
Welcome to the blog Laura, your picture is below, posted with kind permission.
More deep dark secrets to follow. I’m sure I can rustle up a few for my next posts, you lucky readers.

Picture of the day:

The fire-place table for two, in the restaurant which used to be a pub.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Another one bites the dust

Since I’ve worked at my present place of employment, 54 people have left the department. Can you believe that I’ve sat and worked that out? You’d think I would have far more important things to do with my time. (Obviously I haven't!)
I think 54 is the correct figure anyway. I’ve tried to remember everyone who arrived, conquered, and then became bored or was made redundant. My memory isn’t what it once was, so please forgive me if I have mis-calculated.
During my time at my present place of employment, I've met some brilliant people and some not so brilliant people. I won’t mention the not so brilliant names, that’s not my style. Let’s just say stinky feet and spitting into a dustbin are not ideal in the work place.
The night before last, the 54th person left, and the customary 'leaving do’ email was circulated. He’s a lovely chap and one of the originals from ‘the old days’ which you may hear my friend and work colleague, and I, harping on about.
Now there are only 4 who have survived ‘the old days' - myself, my friend and work colleague, my not-so-new boss, and the editor.
The good old days where champagne was once sipped in the sales room, and I had to employ an assistant to help me with the mountains of magazines we had to publish. And The Publisher was so delighted with the annual profit that a weekend away, on the company expenses, was suggested to us. We all had to choose 3 places of final destination for our weekend away, and the most popular answer would be the winning destination. My choices were New York, Lapland, and I think the third choice was Prague, which I eventually visited for a friends 30th birthday weekend.
But alas I wasn't able to visit New York or Lapland, or anywhere on the company expenses for the weekend away, as the industry took a nose-dive and the first batch of redundancies were announced.
Still, I shouldn't complain, they haven't made me redundant, and courtesy of the company I’ve been able to travel to Cannes, Singapore and Barcelona. (Pity I had to work whilst I visited these places.)
So, the 54th persons leaving party was at a pub, situated around the corner to the office. It’s been ages since we’ve all been out together and we were a little rusty at first but we soon got into the swing if it.
After drinks and conversations, and good luck wishes, my friend and work colleague, and I, decided burgers at a near by restaurant were a compulsory finish to the evening. They were delicious.

The restaurant is well known for it's chicken dishes.

But we had beef burgers.

And wine.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

My bank holiday weekend

Essex is the name of the sometimes misunderstood county that I live in. Have you ever heard of the Essex girl jokes? If not, I would rather not repeat one, as they do not paint a pretty picture or display us in a flattering light.
If I ever have to say where I live to a non Essex person, my answer is often met with a snigger and conclusions are immediately jumped to. It can be increasingly frustrating, and I find myself saying, “But have you ever been there?” Normally they haven’t, they are stereotyping me thanks to the Essex girl jokes, and it can drive me nuts.
(By the way, my friend Annie and I once appeared in a local newspaper, defending our county. There was a picture of us grinning at the camera, but the reporter got our ages and occupations mixed up. And they mis-quoted me so I sounded rather daft.)
Fighting back from these Essex misconceptions, there are some very desirable parts, and a couple of these parts I visited over the bank holiday weekend. I took a drive out with a friend to two villages, Thaxted and Fitchingfield, and we had a a very pleasant weekend, snapping away on our cameras, and absorbing the atmosphere and history.

See, we’re not all beer guzzling, bimbo loud mouths. Please take my (Essex girl) word for it.
And would my white stilettos and gold fake designer handbag ever lie to you?

Thaxted street.

The 200 year old tea room. Two cream teas please.

Can you guess which highwayman (he died in 1739) lived here?

Here’s a clue.

The Guildhall, built by the Guild of Cutlers six hundred years ago, and still in active use.

The parish church of St John the Baptist, Our Lady and St Laurence. First built in 1340.

John Webb's windmill. Built in 1804 by John Webb, a local farmer and landowner.

The pretty village of Fitchingfield.

Makes a change from swimming around all day.

Postcard picture houses.

Can you see me, toasting your good health and the Essex life?

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The day I went to the mailing house

On average, I would say I speak to / email the mailing house four times a week whilst in the office. I have met my two contacts on several occasions – at meetings in the big city and at the boat party last summer.
Yesterday, for the first time in nine years (that's how long I have been speaking to them) I visited their premises. I decided a visit was long over due, and a day out of the office would be a pleasant change of scenery.
I dressed myself in the smartest outfit I own, and set off with my production book packed with lots of important pieces of paper. A few delayed train journeys later (clever me allowed plenty of time for these circumstances) I was met at the train station by the managing director. The M.D. led the way to their offices and to the boardroom. Coffee and a presentation were the first items on the list. I was blasted with various facts and figures, and speeches on integrity and reliability. Next came the grand tour. I shook hands with many people and nodded politely at introductions, and then immediately forgot their names and roles in the company. (Luckily I was not tested on who is who and who does what, so I got away with this.)
I witnessed carrier sheets printing, poly wrap wrapping and lots of complicated data being sorted and routed. That's how a mailing house works. I had a rough idea, but now I have seen it with my own eyes.
One small black mark against them though, my name was boldly displayed on the board welcoming me (nice touch) but where was my lunch at a fancy restaurant? I do not possess a company credit card, and I am the customer after all, so I didn’t suggest buying them lunch once I realised my visit was coming to an abrupt end.
Instead I dawdled around St Pancras train station (it rather resembles an international airport) with a sandwich and a bottle of water, browsing in book shops, gift shops and a toy shop. I never realised a train station could be so much fun!
It was freezing cold, pouring with rain, and full of scaffolding and cranes in the outside world, and that was my excuse for not leaving the station. I was in no hurry to head home either, although I made it my priority to avoid the rush hour.
I could become accustomed to these visits. I wonder when I could do it again? But a friendly word of advice to whom it may concern on my next visit - lunch in a fancy restaurant would be appreciated. I promise not to choose anything too expensive. Honest!

Picture of the day:

Going anywhere nice?