Tuesday, 29 December 2009

And so the search begins...

I have done something which could potentially be the best thing I have ever done. On the other hand, it could disastrously be the worst thing I have ever done.
One thing I am sure of, it’s something I thought I would never do. If I recall my reaction to this suggestion last year, I was adamant I would never do such a thing. “It’s just not me,” I remember saying. But, as I’m sure you have heard before, it’s a girl’s prerogative to change her mind!
So I have changed my mind. I am now trying to convince myself, nothing ventured it nothing gained. Therefore, I am venturing into the unknown!
I can honestly say this year for me has been the year of unexpected changes. Including my latest change of heart.
I lost my job.
I found a new job.
I cleared my debts thanks to loosing my job.
I have learnt new skills.
I have made new friends.
I have moved into my old home.
I have embraced independent life again.
And finally...I have joined the world of on-line dating.
Why have I done this? Why have I decided to put myself through such an ordeal? Because I have reached the point in my life where I need to make things happen, rather than sitting back and waiting for them to happen. This includes finding my Mr Right.
I am the grand old age of 36 and I am still single. I have looked around and realised my friends are happily married and raising families and looking forward to their futures. And I am buying a microwave meal for one on Christmas Eve.
I have also reached the point in my life where it’s becoming increasingly harder to find Mr Right. My social life involves meals at friends houses, or nights out with friends where I wouldn’t dare approach a man for fear of them having a girlfriend or wife at home, or even worse, a girlfriend or wife sitting next to them. So where do you find single men? Single men looking for lurve? On-line dating.
It’s a strange environment. Even stranger for someone like me who likes familiarity. I’m not one for falling in love at the drop of a hat, or exposing my inner self to strangers - although strangely I do so on my blog!
But sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. It would be nice to share my life with someone. To not be the only single person at the party, like my office Christmas party where I was mortified to find I was the only person who did not bring a partner. (The symapthy waves were almost too much to bare.) It would be nice to have someone to cuddle up to on these dark and cold winter evenings. Someone to care for and someone to care for me.
My biggest fear is becoming even more cynical in matters of the heart. To feel even more disillusioned by the men I meet. Yet I have taken this opportunity to find Him. The one I have been searching for.
I have my first date tomorrow night with someone I have been messaging for a little while. To say I am nervous would be an understatement. I’m wondering how I will sleep tonight. I’m worrying I’m too fat, too unattractive, too different for what He is looking for. But I’m doing it.
Wish me luck!
I’ll let you know the outcome.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The morning my hair froze

“If you could gain extra time in your life, what would you do with it?” the nice smiley lady at the front of the room asked me.
“Sleep more,” was my immediate answer. My answer which was met with sniggers and raised eyebrows.
Oh, I thought to myself, feeling my cheeks flush a shade of red. Should I have replied with something which had more depth and character? Maybe the answer should have been saving the planet, or helping those less fortunate than myself by raising money climbing mountains and handing them all my worldly possessions?
I was merely being honest. I do need to sleep more. Sleep to me is a blessing. A novelty. A luxury.
We all need sleep, of course I am aware of this. Without sleep one would go insane. But at this present moment in time, I need more sleep. 8 hours would be nice. 8 hours would be heaven!
I have always been the type of person who needs sleep more than the average person. Left to my own devices, I could sleep, and sleep, and then sleep again. That’s once I’ve cleared my mind of all those niggling worries and doubts and stresses and I can actually fall asleep.
I love my (newish, it’s been nine months now) job, but I drink far too much caffeine as a consequence. My alarm bleeps far too early, the journey is long and tiring. But hey it’s a job, it’s a good job and I’m grateful to be employed again after my redundancy episode.
And I can sleep on the trains. I often doze on the trains, my head dangling unattractively in my book or my bag. The other day I awoke with my head in a bouquet of flowers, a beautiful bunch of flowers which my friend generously and kindly sent to my office. That was a little embarrassing, not to mention bewildering, when I awoke staring at sunflower petals.
It was a time and work management course where this gaining time question was raised, and made me ponder over my sleeping pattern. But how do you gain extra time to sleep more? My mind wondered for the remainder of the course.
Right on cue, the very next day my alarm rudely and loudly interrupted my sleep. I slammed the off button on my unpopular alarm clock and promptly fell back to sleep. I stirred again 45 minutes later (unfortunately there is no snooze button on my alarm clock and I lost another mobile phone with the capability to snooze, in my gold bag in a black taxi cab) and I felt sheer panic. I realised I had 15 minutes to wash myself and my hair, feed my stomach, dress myself, and catch my bus to the train station. Higher forces must have been working with me that morning, as somehow I managed it.
But I left my house with wet hair and the atmosphere was so chilly that my hair actually froze. I swear that’s what happened. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It turned into a stiff, uncomfortable layer. Life is just one big adventure in the mornings.
But I was right. My answer to the nice smiley lady was honest and heartfelt. I do need to sleep more.
This was made abundantly clear, it was proved a fact of my life, on the morning my hair froze.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The night I met Santa Claus

It was the indoor shoot at my photography club.

Anyone would think it's Christmas soon.


Festive flower arrangements.


And a very special guest.


Anyone would think he was famous.


Apologies for the delay dear readers, I hope you're all well and I'll pop over and see you soon.
Coming next, the morning my hair froze. It may explain the delay.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Snaps

Okay, it's not quite a photography heaven in blog land, but just a few pictures of what I've been up to recently.

I've started my Christmas shopping. Selfridges was my first stop.


Then admiring the Christmas lights at Oxford Street.


Making cards for the December birthdays.


And meeting my friends daughter. She's adorable.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A little piece of history

I belong to a local photography club. A local photography club which has existed for 75 years.
We meet in a local hall every Monday evening. Sometimes we compete in competitions with each other, sometimes we compete with other photography clubs, and sometimes a visitor will join us to inspire and entertain.
Last Monday I was definitely inspired and entertained by our visitor. Last Monday's visitor was the widow of the club chairman, who sadly passed away earlier this year. She also brought along her grandson, and photographs and slides from the chairman's vast collection.
I did not have the pleasure of meeting the chairman as he was ill for a long time and unable to join the club meetings. But I have now had the pleasure of viewing some of his outstanding and historical photography.
Apparently the couple met at the photography club, many years ago. Their first date was an outing to Southend-On-Sea, where it rained and they took photographs of reflections in puddles. The couple later married, had two children, who later had children of their own. Their story is quite a love story, and I couldn’t help feeling sentimental when I heard the pride in his widows voice whilst she displayed her late husband's work.
It was fascinating pouring over pictures taken of local churches, buildings and streets, some which have changed immensely and some which have not changed at all. There were shots of a building which was then a cinema, and is now a bingo hall. There were shots of a church, before it was vandalised, and shots of old fashioned streets with only a couple of old fashioned cars on the road and pedestrians wearing very dated clothing.
There were also pictures of other club members, dating back to the 1950’s. How smartly dressed they were. The men wore three piece suits and the women wore hats and fur coats. We were also told most of the members smoked back then, and there would be evenings where the photographs would be difficult to see through the haze of cigarette smoke.
How different things are now. I looked around the club at the members jeans and trainers, in a smoke free environment, where most of the members have digital cameras and are experts in digitally enhancing their work. Back in those days, as we were reminded on numerous occasions, everyone used a camera with film and spent hours in a dark room processing their master pieces.
But the one thing which hasn’t changed is the love of photography which the room still holds. I for one went home, buzzing with enthusiasm, and discussing my night, the history and the pictures, with my friend/new flat mate.
“Tomorrow I am going to start taking lots of pictures again,” said I, as I made my way to bed, head swimming with ideas and excitement.
I’m going to create a photography heaven in blog land.
I’m going to be observing, focusing and capturing.
And I thought it was only fair to warn you.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Behind the scenes at the museum

Imagine a world without books.
No paper backs.
No hard backs.
No authors.
No editors.
No publishing houses.
No printers.
(We’ll pretend at this point that magazines and newspapers haven’t been invented either.)
There would be no Borders book shops, isles packed with the top ten best selling fiction, autobiographies of celebrities with too much to say about themselves, and colourful cook books illustrating one hundred things to do with pasta.
There would be no second hand books shops to browse in, hickeldy pickeldy rows of dusty books for antique collectors, Agatha Christie mysteries and Jane Austen novels.
There would be no school libraries and no public libraries. No librarians seated behind stacks of new and old books and no children renting books for school projects or for their own personal reading pleasure. And no book club meetings for keen readers to discuss and dissect their favourite literature.
There would be no children’s books to buy for birthday presents and Christmas presents. No books for children to learn and recite the alphabet, colours, shapes, and farm yard animals. There would be no Beatrice Potter tales to tell at bedtime, tales of hedgehogs and foxes wearing clothes and leading interesting lives. No Winnie The Pooh adventures and a world where a tiger, a donkey and a piglet are friends.
No Famous Five and The Secret Seven detective stories, where girls and boys drink ginger pop and see the world through inquisitive eyes, and solve murders and uncover hidden treasure.
No teen romances featuring a school called Sweet Valley High and teenagers learning about crushes and heart ache through the experiences and knowledge of the author.
There would be no Stephen King dark and sinister thrillers to loose yourself in during long train journeys and aeroplane flights. Resulting in evil thoughts creeping into your peaceful dreams, turning them into weird and warped nightmares.
And there would be no films to interpret the ideas and scenes from the writers imagination. (Two of my favourite films began their journey as a book, Mary Poppins by P. L. Travellers and The Shining by Stephen King.)
And there would be no theatre plays to act out the words from books.
Are you imagining it?
Can you imagine it?
What a gaping black hole a world without books would leave.
Personally I can’t imagine my life without them. No paper backs and hard backs proudly perched on my book shelves in my loft conversion. No stories to escape in during my two hour commute to work. No excited conversations with my friends regarding a vampire named Edward and a werewolf called Jacob.
I thank the lord for allowing us mortals the intelligence and skills to invent books.
I'm glad there are authors to write books.
I'm glad there are editors to edit books.
I'm glad there are publishing houses to publish books.
I'm glad there are printers to print books.
I am also glad there are film studios and theatre companies to tell the stories of books.
And I'm especially glad my local theatre recently directed and presented a play of a book I read a couple of years ago, Behind the scenes at the museum.
It's the story of a family living above a pet shop. It's about relationships and secrets in a changing world.
And it starred one of my best friends, in a northern accent.
And she was brilliant.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Domesticated bliss

I am swimming in a sea of domesticated bliss.
I am floating in a bubble of washing detergents and fabric softeners.
I am clinging to a cloud of air fresheners and Mr polish.
I am drifting along supermarket aisles, lost in the world of calorie counting and price comparing.
I am chopping, I am stirring, I am engulfed in an aroma of herbs and spices.
I am planning, I am organising, I am entertaining.
I am listening to the merry sound of laugher and huge wine glasses clinking.
I am lighting scented candles and creating atmospheres.
I am gazing lovingly at Argos catalogues and Ikea web pages.
I am dreaming of colour schemes and fantasising with fancy fabrics.
I am submerged in happiness, I am covered in a blanket of contentedness.
I am embracing my independence, my freedom, my new life.
I am back in the house by the pylon, and the house by the pylon has welcomed me back.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Because of the wonderful things he does

If I was to mention the words yellow brick road, and if I was to talk about a lion without any courage, and if I was to discuss lollipop kids, would you understand my point?
I would not be remembering a dream, or flipping random words into the air, I would be referring to one of my favourite films in the whole wide world – The Wizard of Oz.
In my eyes, it’s a classic. Hollywood at it’s best. A technicolour fantasy with a nice little moral - there’s no place like home.
I have watched this film about a million times. I’ve lost track of the amount of Christmas days I have sat in the family lounge, wearing new Christmas slippers, surrounded by new Christmas toys, and found myself mesmerised by a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man.
And to my delight one of my Christmas presents one year was The Wizard of Oz on video. My own copy! My own copy to watch whenever I so desired. And believe me, I did. Sprawled out on the sofa, chomping my way through chocolate bars, or lounging on my bed, desperate to escape the real world and visit familiar characters on a mission to ask a wizard to make their dreams come true.
So it would not surprise you to hear when I was offered the opportunity to view this film again, I jumped at the chance. Although this time it was viewing with a difference. The difference being it was shown at an open air cinema. An open air cinema in London, situated next to the River Thames.
Oh what fun we had! My friend (also my new flat mate) and I. Front row seats, with crisps, dips and white wine, and watching my favourite film in the whole wide world. Again.

The open air cinema was situated past Tower Bridge, along The River Thames.


Rain clouds, please go away!


It's nearly time for the film to begin.


I recognise that lion.


The familiar, well loved, film title.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The return of the house by the pylon

If someone had told me last year where I would be living this year, I would have thought they were completely and utterly bonkers. I would have laughed loudly, wiped the tears of amusement from my eyes, and violently shook my head in disbelief.
I would then have politely suggested we continued with a sensible, realistic, conversation.
However, I would have been completely and utterly wrong.
Dear readers, it actually gives me great pleasure to announce I have moved. I have moved out of my parents house, again, and moved into the house by the pylon, again.
That's right, my old flat. The flat I moved out of four years ago. I'm back!
This time I am living with my friend Carley. This time I am living in the loft conversion, with my own lounge, my old furniture, and my new bedroom.
It's the same flat, with a difference. A calmer, cheerful difference.
And guess what? I am loving it, and I am completely and utterly happy about it.
Aint life strange sometimes.

My new/old home.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

Crazy little thing called love

Isn’t it funny how something as innocent as a power cut can drive one's mind to madness, pondering over that crazy little thing called love. Well that’s what happened to me last Tuesday.
It began as a normal day. An average Tuesday morning. I was sitting on the train, during my journey to work, engrossed in my book. My mobile telephone rang in my big brown bag, rudely interrupted me from my far away world.
It was my boss. “There’s been a power cut Nikki. The office will be closed all day.”
An unexpected day off! How nice. However, it would have been nicer if I’d known the night before, or even earlier that morning, so I did not have to stumble out of my bed at an ungodly hour and ride three trains to reach my destination.
The next telephone call I received was from my colleague.“Nikki!” she said. “Have you heard the news? No work today! Where are you? Fancy coming over for coffee, bagels and a DVD?”
What a great idea! I disembarked at the next stop, my final destination, and made my way to my colleague's house. It wasn’t such a wasted journey after all. Luckily there were no magazines due to be sent to press. It was going to be a day of relaxation with my colleague.
“Sex and the City?” my colleague enquired when I reached her house. Another great idea.
I have never been an avid follower of SATC but I’ve seen snippets of the series and I’d have to be living on Mars not to know the character of Carrie Bradshaw and friends. So we sat on the sofa, with coffee and bagels, to indulge in the life of four fictional friends. As the story unravelled we couldn’t help commenting on the ups and downs of four young women searching for love, falling in love, avoiding love and trying to stay in love.
That four lettered word called love.
The power of love.
The thing which apparently makes the world go round.
That crazy little thing called love.
Our conversation moved on to real love, love that we have personally experienced, not the love found on the television screen between four girls from New York. We exchanged stories, we laughed, we sighed. I envied her true love. I despaired of my disastrous attempts of love. We decided to drink wine (it was noon by this time which we thought was an acceptable time to escape in a bottle of wine). We bonded over tales of love and loss of love.
We wore ourselves out talking about love. And then we realised the sun was shining in the real world. We decided to venture outside and stop thinking about love.
Once outside, in the sunshine, we headed to the local pub’s garden. Well it was our day off.
We sat in the beer garden watching the world whizz past. Okay, maybe not the entire world, just a small town called Stevenage where my colleague lives and our office is based.
Our next plan was to stop drinking wine and visit the pictures to watch 500 days of summer. Another story of love!
I began to feel uneasy. Is everyone obsessed with love? Has everyone found love accept me? It was enough to make a girl paranoid.
I sat in the pictures with my nachos and cheese sauce (it’s another habit of mine which is hard to break) and watched a man falling in love with a woman, and a woman resisting falling in love with a man. Was she insane, I couldn’t help thinking, why doesn’t she love him? He’s hopelessly in love with her, he’s honest, he’s cute, he’s faithful. Where do you find a man like him?! Oh that’s right, it’s the movies, it’s not real. Call me cynical dear readers, but at the grand old age of 35 I am very disappointed with love. The film was not helping matters.
After the film I looked at my watch and regrettably thought it was time I began my three train journeys home.
I sat on my first train, and I tried to shake off the memories of the days viewing and conversations, the memories of love. I opened my book to continue my latest novel. Twilight is the title of my present reading material. The story revolves around a vampire called Edward. This vampire called Edward has been searching for his true love for over one hundred years. Arrg, I painfully thought, what hope does a mere mortal like me have, if Edward has been searching for over one hundred years? I very much doubt I shall live for one hundred years, and if I do, I may have forgotten who I am, let alone the meaning of love.
Therefore, I was glad to return to work the next day. I buried my head in PDF problems, paper queries and invoices, glad of the distractions and the work load. I was trying desperately not to think about that crazy little thing called love. I refused to waste any further time or effort thinking about the subject.
(Please, no more power cuts!)
And then something very strange happened.
Stranger than me finding love!
It was an out of the blue, sudden, dramatic change.
Something that I would not have thought ever possible.
Yet it happened.
And it certainly stopped me thinking about love.
But you'll have to read my next post to discover exactly what it was.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Put your posh frock on (and join the party!)

One day I was watching a film with my best friend. I can’t remember the name of the film, but I do recall it starred Anthony Hopkins. We were only halfhearted watching the television screen, until Mr Hopkins uttered the words, “Why don’t you put your posh frock on and join the party?”
This may sound peculiar to you, dear readers, but my friend and I found the above line hilarious. We quoted and re quoted the line, until we were laughing so much that we could no longer quote. It definitely tickled our funny bones. We found this sentence very amusing to say the least.
Over the years, at every opportunity and occasion possible, my friend and I have used this phrase. These words never failed to entertain or bore us.
For example, if one of us was feeling down and in need of cheering up, the other one would repeat, “Why don’t you put your posh frock on and join the party!”
If there was a wedding or a birthday forthcoming, one of us would quote, “Why don’t you put your posh frock on and join the party!”
Or if we spotted a pretty dress in each others company, it would be a race to see who would be the first to say, “Why don’t you put your posh frock on and join the party!”
Therefore, I think you can imagine my squeals of delight, many years later, when I received my bridesmaid gift from my friend. It was during her hen evening, and my friend thought it would be appropriate to present me with a sparkling silver bracelet. A sparkling silver bracelet to wear on her wedding day. And on this silver bracelet the following words were engraved, Put your posh frock on. After these words was the date of her wedding.
It was the perfect, special, gift between two special friends!
I wore my bracelet with pride when I stepped out of a car on the 15th August 2009, in my bridesmaid dress, outside my friend’s wedding venue. I grinned at the flashing cameras, my bracelet shining on my right wrist, as I held my bouquet of flowers and posed for photographs.
Then my bracelet and I glided into the registry office, to await the arrival of the bride and her father.
The moment my best friend entered the ceremony room, on her fathers arm, I fiddled nervously with my bracelet and fought back tears when I saw her radiant and beautiful face, and her stunning posh frock.
The service was an intimate affair with a reading, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, from the groom’s sister. This reading did not pass without a few raised eyebrows and chuckles, especially when the grooms sister misinterpreted a few of the words. I remember looking around the ceremony and watching the tears of tenderness, in the wedding parties eyes, turn into tears of amusement. My friend has some brilliant pictures of this part of the day, where everyone is laughing and happily enjoying a poignant moment in time.
The ceremony flowed into the next part of the day. The reception was held in green and glorious natural surroundings, with a brightly decorated yurt, champagne, canapes, and a delicious hog roast. The sun broke through the clouds, not wishing to miss out on the fun.
It was a fantastic day and evening. A day and evening of celebrating the love and commitment of two fantastic people who'd found each other.
At the end of the night a camp fire was lit and lanterns were released into the sky, much to the spectators delight. And it wouldn’t be a wedding without dancing, would it dear readers.
I don’t think it would surprise you either, if I told you I was one of the last guests to be enthusiastically dancing around the room. I twirled around in my bridesmaid dress showing off my bracelet, jumping in the air in my eagerness.
Then finally, exhausted from laughing and enjoying myself, I collapsed on a sofa in the yurt. In my enjoyment I’d forgotten to erect my tent for the night, so my posh frock and I spent a somewhat uncomfortable and cold night on a sofa. But it was worth it.
And I embraced every single second, of the day I put my posh frock on and joined the party.


Friends.


Cake.


The yurt and my bed for the night.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Garlic sweets and pretend teeth

Have you ever eaten garlic sweets at a picnic? Or worn pretend rotten teeth, just for a laugh? Was that a no? Oh dear readers, you’ve never lived!
Actually, neither have I, but my friend Caron has. Well it was her hen day, it wasn’t any old ordinary day. During one's hen day, one is entitled to eat garlic sweets and wear pretend rotten teeth, it’s all part of the process.
Henfold Lakes was the chosen location. Twelve giggling girls met at the nearest train station, with food and drink, and all intentions to have a ruddy good day.
We arrived at the venue a little apprehensive when we heard the gun shots, noted the muddy pathway, and spied men running around in army type clothing. Arr, we were next to the paint balling, apparently popular with stag days.
We sighed in relief when we were shown our picnic spot, away from the guns and mud, next to the lake, with fields and trees in the background. Picnic blankets were placed on the grass, and cheese and pickle sandwiches, quiches, sausages, crisps, cakes, etc, etc, were placed on the picnic blankets. We definitely had enough food. Pink and black name badges were handed out (as arranged by me, the future bridesmaid) as a little memento and so we were all familiar with each other. Crackers were pulled, with wedding jokes and wedding facts inside, and bottles of wine were opened. All to the merry sound of laughter. It was a lovely start to the day. So lovely that we forgot we were meant to head back to the reception area at a certain time, to begin our treasure hunt. We had to be telephoned and reminded the treasure hunt was over due.
The treasure hunt was part two of the hen day. We spilt into two teams, where maps, clues and compasses were circulated. We had exactly two hours to seek as many letters as possible, from the clues and the maps. Each letter equalled cheese or wine. Personally I think cheese or wine are pretty good treasure!
Before the two hour deadline ended, we had to race back to camp with our letters. If one person (or more) from a team was one minute (or longer) late, their team would be disqualified. The team who’d collected the most letters were the winners. The team who’d collected the least letters were the losers.
The losers had to participate in a bush tucker trial. The trial was titled I’m a hen got me out of here! Don’t worry, the trial did not involve munching on crocodile eye balls, or bathing in a tub of stinking maggots. We were lead to believe it would be something quite horrid, but in reality it wasn’t too bad. The losers had to eat some very strange chocolates, strange chocolates which contained fillings such as curry. Huh, they were lucky there were no eyeballs or maggots inside the chocolates.
It was then back to the picnic spot, with the winning teams cheese and wine (I was on the winning team I hasten to add). We spread out on our blankets, nibbling and sipping, and I asked the bride-to-be to play two little games – What’s the deal with Mr H? Followed by Haven’t I seen this before?
The first game involved asking Caron ten questions regarding her future husband. Each correct answer was awarded with a present, and each incorrect answer resulted in a forfeit. Hence the garlic sweets and the pretend rotten teeth – they were the forfeits! (Plus something else on a stick, but this is a family blog, and I couldn’t possibly talk about it without blushing.)
The second game involved photographs of parts of the body. Caron had to guess which parts of the body were her future husbands. This was called Haven’t I seen this before? But this game had a twist. The twist was, none of the pictures were her husbands body parts, as I couldn’t get his darn photographs to print out. Worryingly, she was convinced a mutual friends husbands bottom was her future husbands rear!
Moving swiftly on, after the games I presented Caron with a photograph album, with contributions from her family and friends, and aptly named Before I was married. There were baby pictures of the bride-to-be and pictures of school trips, friends dressed as a pumpkin and a werewolf, us dancing on tables and posing at weddings and restaurants, etc, etc. Happy memories of many happy times. All in a pink and silver photo album.
And the fun did not finish there. After our cheese and wine and games, we boarded taxis to Caron's house to glam ourselves up for the hen evening.
The evening began with food and drink at a lively Chinese/Indian/Italian restaurant (basically if you didn’t like the food you were quite fussy) with gorgeous party bags expertly made by our friend Helen. Masks and feather boas were worn, more games were played, and chocolates gobbled. It was great.
The evening ended with dancing at a near by bar, followed by karaoke at Caron's house. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the neighbours as we screeched the lyrics to our favourite songs, all eager to grab the microphone and pretend we were pop stars. Until the very small hours of the next morning.
And that dear readers, was the hen do.
I think you'll agree, it's a far happier story compared to The tale of the severed finger.
Coming next, put your posh frock on and join the party! In other words, the wedding.

Our picnic.



This field held the key to our cheese and wine.


Let's have a look at the map.


I've found a letter!


You expect us to eat these?


The masked meal.


Caron and her pole.


You make me feel like dancing, I'm gonna dance the night away.


Tonight everyone, I shall be your DJ.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The tale of the severed finger

This is a true story. It’s the story of how a bingo win full turned into a family tragedy. And a severed finger.
It’s also the story of how I met one of my best friends.
It all began about fifteen years ago. I was dating a lad called Martin at the time. I had an almighty crush on Martin which began at the tender age of fifteen. He lived in the house on the corner and worked in the local greengrocers on a Saturday. And I couldn’t believe my lucky stars when he started paying me attention, just after my nineteenth birthday. My patient four year wait was worth it! Even though he moved to Wales the day after our relationship began! But I’m drifting off the track here. Martin's best friend was called Keith and whilst I was dating Martin, Keith was dating a girl called Caron.
One day Martin and Keith received a wedding invitation. Their old school friend Vincent was marrying his childhood sweetheart, Michelle. The invites extended to Caron and I. The happy couple decided to wed after hitting the jack pot on the bingo. Weddings are pricey occasions, wouldn't you agree. Therefore a bingo win full was able to help them along the marital path.
So, one Friday morning Martin and I drove to the wedding venue. I remember continuously asking Martin questions regarding Caron and her personality, throughout our journey to the venue. I was nervous about spending time with her as we had only briefly met one night in the local pub. I knew we would be left to entertain ourselves later that evening, whilst our boyfriends attended the wedding rehearsals. I was slightly concerned that we would have nothing in common and the evening would be full of awkward silences.
Later that night I learnt there was absolutely no reason for me to be concerned at all. Caron and I hit it off big style. We sat in the hotel bar all night, drinking champagne and wine, talking and laughing non-stop. There were no awkward silences. I knew then that it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
When our other halves returned from their rehearsals (they were given best man and usher responsibilities) they were quite surprised how easy we'd bonded. And how hard we were finding standing straight and walking in a straight line. Oh how Caron and I laughed as we wobbled back to our hotel rooms, linked arms, and chuffed at our new found friendship.
We were not laughing the next day. The next day we did not find our pounding heads and queasy stomachs remotely funny. It felt as if a million angry kangaroos were jumping on our heads. It felt as if we were sitting on the world's fastest magical merry-go-round. I honestly think that was one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. I did not even want to open my sore eyes and see the next day. I did not even want to remove my clammy hands from the hotel duvet. Of course I had to, I had to prise myself out of bed and pretend I felt human. It was Vincent and Michelle's wedding day.
Martin and Keith were not laughing either, when they saw the size and cost of the bar bill. The bar bill definitely cancelled their sense of humour.
Anyway, the wedding day passed with Caron and I constantly moaning about our health and flinching at the sight/smell of any alcohol. We did not receive any sympathy, but I'm not surprised as it was all self inflicted and we had no one to blame but our greedy selves.
There were wedding vows, photographs, speeches, wedding cake and dancing. As soon as it was not considered rude to do so, Caron and I sneaked back to bed to rest our poor dehydrated bodies.
That was when it all began to go horribly wrong.
I am not aggressive when I drink wine or champagne. Far from it. If I was to turn aggressive I know I would stop drinking immediately and ban myself from swallowing any liquids which made me behave in such a manner. Unfortunately some people are aggressive when they consume alcohol and they do not know how to stop and control themselves. This is what happened to certain individuals during the evening of the wedding.
When the bar closed for the night, certain individuals would not accept it was closing time and time to retire to bed. Instead, they helped themselves to the bottles behind the bar. They actually stepped behind the bar and poured their own drinks. This did not bode well with other wedding guests and the hotel staff. Or with Michelle and Vincent.
Arguments began, voices were raised, tempers were lost and alas, punches were thrown. I was told it was not a pretty sight. Certain individuals insulted and punched their way through the wedding guests. Caron and I slept through the whole fiasco.
The next morning everyone (apart from Caron and I) awoke in horror when they remembered the night before. Nobody dared show their face in the hotel breakfast room, everyone left the hotel as quietly as they could, avoiding other guests and the newly married couple.
Apparently Vincent and Michelle did not speak to half the wedding party for a fair few months. As you would expect they were very upset and very angry at the despicable behaviour from some of their friends and family. How sad that what should have been one of the happiest days of their lives turned into fight night.
You may be thinking that things must have improved for the couple. Perhaps they even learnt to laugh at the disastrous wedding night, and the appalling language and fighting that was displayed by the hotel bar?
No, that was not the case.
Vincent then left Michelle for another woman. That was enough to break a girls heart. But it wasn’t any old woman. It was Michelle's mother. His children's nanny. His own mother-in-law.
And the story does not end there.
Michelle's father did not take the news very well. So distraught was he, that his son-in-law had run off with his wife, that he chopped off his wedding finger, still wearing his wedding ring, and posted it to Michelle's mother.
I can imagine opening an envelope and seeing your husbands finger would not have the same affect as opening an envelope and reading your bank statement, or your gas bill. In other words, it would have completely and utterly freaked me out!
And I’m afraid I haven’t finished yet.
Vincents years ahead were somewhat troubled one way or the other. I won't go into too much detail regarding his troubles, but I am very sad to report one dark and tragic day Vincent committed suicide.
It's quite a story, wouldn’t you agree, the wedding that Caron and I bonded at. I wish I could say it had a happier ending, but that would not be true. I hope I have not distressed you too much. It's a story I decided to tell because last week I attended Caron's wedding day.
Caron and I’s friendship has gone from strength to strength. Men and champagne bottles have come and gone, but our friendship is still united. And last week I was honoured to be Caron's bridesmaid.
But before I tell you all about that, the next post is all about the hen do.
I promise you, it's a far happier tale in comparison to the tale of the severed finger.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Has anyone seen my ankles?

I am not a skinny person by any stretch of the wildest imagination. I was bordering on skinny way back in my youth, when I was blessed with a body that could eat food at an alarming rate but not once add any extra pounds to my slender physique.
“You’ll explode one day if you keep eating like that,” I was warned. I didn’t explode, but I did gradually gain weight. Everywhere. Apart from my ankles and my wrists. My ankles and wrists have remained small.
These days I like to call myself curvaceous and pretend that I’m not really bothered about attaining a supermodel figure. Besides, I enjoy eating too much to deprive myself of one of life's pleasures. I’m not saying I’m unhealthy, I regularly eat vegetables and fruit and a balanced diet, but I do eat rather large portions and I refuse to stop eating cheese and chocolate and other such delicacies. So as a result of good food and a slower metabolism, I am not a skinny person, apart from those ankles and wrists.
However, last week was a completely different story. Last week it was impossible to see where my ankles stopped and my legs began. Last week my feet resembled the feet of a morbidly obese elephant. The reason? Pesky pond life at my photography club.
There we were, grey skies above, not ideal photography weather but that didn’t stop us from heading to the local pond searching for the perfect picture. There were ducks and swans and pretty pink flowers. And teenagers on bikes looking at us as if we’d escaped from the local zoo.
I was wearing black leggings underneath my black dress with my brown shoes. Had I realised we would be outside I would have dressed appropriately. I would have worn jeans and socks and covered those (skinny) ankles.
I crouched down to capture the swan and his elegant white neck. There were reeds and pond like things growing by the waters edge. And a rusty coke can added to the scene. Gnats circulated the air above me, and was it my imagination but could I feel the pesky pond life feeding on my ankles and making me itch?
It was not my imagination. The next day my ankles disappeared. My feet and ankles ballooned to very unattractive and startling sizes. My feet were covered in itchy lumps. And the next day after that, the bruises errupted. I looked a sight. It was also very uncomfortable.
I hobbled to the chemist, slightly concerned that my feet were pumped full of deadly poison and I may have to be rushed into hospital for life threatening surgery. (You can’t help worrying sometimes, can you?) The lady at the chemist assured me I would live and it was nothing to fret about. I was given cream and tablets and reassured I would be okay.
You’ll be pleased to know that I have nearly recovered from my ordeal. My feet and ankles are nearly back to normal. My ankles are practically back to their old skinny selves, and thankfully we have been reunited once again.
Dear ankles, it’s good to have you back.

Before I was bitten.


Taken whilst being bitten.


After I was bitten.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Come Dine With Me Part Two

A little while ago, I mentioned the fateful words Come Dine With Me Part Two. I also mentioned that for part two of the Come Dine With Me experience, it would be my turn to cook a fabulous themed mystery feast.
For those of you who have been scratching your head in bewilderment, with a big question mark above your head, with regards to my mystery themed feast, allow me to rescue you from your bewilderment.

Below, dear readers, is my themed menu. Which, in retrospect, is really not that surprising or mysterious!

The George Michael/Greek menu

Club Tropicano

Sip into paradise with a sea breeze cocktail.

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Humus, taramasalata and pita bread to tantalise your taste buds.

Everything She Wants
Everything you could possibly want in stuffed peppers.

A Different Corner
Moussaka with a difference, accompanied with traditional Greek salad.

Edge of Heaven with a Careless Whisper
A trifle of heaven and a chocolate careless whisper.

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Coffee and mints.

I couldn’t resist it. Personally I am a huge fan of Greek food and I’m an even bigger fan of George (who incidentally is Greek/Cypriot origin), so I thought I would tie the two together. Predicable? At the end of the day, I am a faithful creature of habit!
Cocktails were sipped, pita bread was dipped, mushrooms were chopped and trifle was topped. All to the dulcet sound of George’s voice.
It’s rather lucky that my friend is partial to George too and did not mind me taking over their kitchen with George CD’s, cooking ingredients and implements. I even brought Greek flags, Greek wine and sunflowers for the occasion, so we could fantasise that we were sitting in a Greek restaurant, over looking the sparkling Mediterranean sea, with lemon and olive trees for company. A little bit of make believe is healthy for the soul!
After dinner we pretended we were rock stars and attempted to write a number one hit using the word apple.

For your viewing pleasure, a few picture from the night. (In our enjoyment my friend forgot to mark my cooking efforts but has promised my marks on a DVD through my post box very soon...)

Tuck in!


The make believe Greek restaurant.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sainsbury's special offer

I wish that some how, some where, in some place, you could buy extra time.
Could you imagine it? Whilst you were roaming around the supermarket, buying your fruit and veg, you paused at the time counter.
Perhaps the time counter would be next to the cheese counter. If it was me, I would greedily point at the blue cheese and order a hefty portion to feed my cheese obsession. I would then fathom out how much extra time was required for my week ahead (especially essential as I had lots of extra cheese to eat) and place my time order at the time counter.
I predict it would be a popular counter. There would probably be a long queue of impatient customers, tapping their feet and complaining they didn’t have the time to queue for their time!
Time. I’m sure it must be something we are all guilty of complaining about. For example, have you ever repeated one of the following statements:

I wish there were more hours in the day!
I wish there were more days in the week!
I just don’t seem to have the time these days!
Where has the time gone!

Can you see my point? I think we are all victims of time.
Time controls us.
Time lets us down.
Time can be our friend.
Time can be our enemy.
What a powerful thing time is. Needless to say, buying extra time at the supermarket could be the solution we are searching for. Maybe I should ask my local MP for his advice, suggest that local shops stock up on extra time. We would all benefit from this, I have everyones best interests at heart.
Okay, let’s be realistic here and face hard facts. If I was to discuss time counters with my local MP, he would likely suggest I visit my local doctor and stop scaring innocent residents with my wacky ideas. Or he’d accuse me of smoking the wacky backy.
You may well be wondering what’s brought all this time talk on. It’s simple - I wish there were more hours in the day!
I sneakily checked my blog this morning when I arrived at my not so new office, water cup in one hand and coffee cup in the other. I was a little tired from meeting my friend for a quick three drinks in a shabby chic decorated bar last night.
I miss writing my blog every day, I miss reading others blogs every day. I just don’t seem to have the time these days! I am hardly ever at home, and I’m not really suppose to use the internet at work.
Crikey, how come you're never at home, you could ask. Well, recently my time has been spent watching Oasis perform at Wembley (they rocked), participating in an evening of bowling with my not so new colleges, dining out with friends, dining in with friends, dancing to Michael Jackson (RIP Jacko) in a new bar in my local high street, dancing to George at a wedding reception, serenading strangers with Oasis songs at a house party, being stalked by an X factor reject, attending my photography club and photoshop evenings with other club members, travelling up and down the country in search of a new printer for our relaunch magazine, and barbecuing at a friend's house.
So now you know, if you were wondering.
Next, dear readers, it's time for something completely different - I would like to have more time for myself.
I need to sleep more.
I need to relax more.
I need to exercise more and drink less.
I need to stop spending money at an alarming rate.
I need to blog more.
I need more time.
Thanks for baring with me regarding my regular absences, I know you must all have busy lives too and I do appreciate you still stopping by to read and comment.
Crucial fact - it's been two years since I began this blog, and I missed FPE’s second birthday! Sorry for neglecting FPE's. I hope you forgive me and we’re still friends.
So you see my point with this post, I need more time! But I’m working on it. Perhaps I’ll stop by my local MP’s house on the way home from the office, for a friendly chat.
Or maybe I should go straight home, no stopping off at bars or shops, or friends houses. No distractions, no detours. Go to my house, do not go outside my house, eat my shepherds pie, and finally have some time for myself.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Impact for success

Have you ever taken an instant dislike to someone? Perhaps you were introduced to a stranger and you received ‘bad vibes’ from them. Maybe this person came across as arrogant, or dismissive, and so therefore you did not feel comfortable in their presence.
Whatever your reason for a poor first impression, did you know, statistically, it would take a further 21 successful meetings with this person for your first impression to disappear?
And how fast do you think it takes for someone to meet you and create an impression of you, based on your first meeting? It’s three seconds for the 20 – 30 age group, ten seconds for the 30 - 40 age group and fifteen seconds for the 40 – 50 age group.
Intrigued? Impressed? Not bothered at all about my pointless information?! Or perhaps you are questioning the source of my information?
Impact for success was the name of the training course I attended where I learnt about body language, creating my own personal brand, and what colours suit me. I must say, as training courses go, I found this one rather interesting.
There were ten of us sitting around a table in one of the company training rooms, eagerly listening to the trainer and nibbling on the selection of biscuits. The biscuits next to the company branded bottled water. My not so new work place love courses and company branding. I could probably draw the company logo in my sleep and recite the words Collective Inspiration over and over, or at least until my police raid alarm clock disturbed me from my drawing and reciting. And I could possibly attend one of their many training courses every day for the rest of my life.
But hey, let's get back to the impact for success course. What other fascination facts did I learn? Apart from distinguishing the difference in taste between the chocolate fingers and the vanilla swirls – the chocolate ones won, but it was a close call. Well, I learnt I am a dramatic dresser (hence the zebra print dress I was wearing on the day) and warm colours suit my skin tone.

I also learnt:
55 per cent of nonverbal communication relies on body language, while up to 38 per cent is down to vocal cues and the actual words used can in some cases count for only 7 per cent of the impact of the message.

Having a very clear personal brand will:
Positively manage my impact.
Clearly articulate who I am and what I am about.
Connect my abilities to the reputation I have/want.
Identify areas in which I may need to manage myself more effectively.
Identify areas in which I may need to develop.
Differentiate myself from others.

Other stuff I learnt:
Communication research indicates the approximate personal space zones are as follows for the Western world (varying slightly from person to person):
The public zone – 12 feet and over
The social zone – 4 to 12 feet
The personal zone – 1½ to 4 feet
The intimate zone – up to 1½ feet.

I learnt about lies too:
In synergology, studies have detected more than 100 signs possibly expressing an emotion that is masked or a lie, but none of these signals is sufficient in itself for you to be sure that someone is lying or masking the truth. It is necessary to see at least eight signs during a period of 10 seconds in order to be absolutely certain that a lie or an untruth is being told. Signs include:
The person will look at you more with their right eye than with their left eye.
The eyebrows will be raised rather high.
They will stop blinking their eyes with the usual regularity.
The two sides of the face may appear more asymmetrical than usual, particularly in the area of the upper lips.
They may start to cough a bit.
Their voice may become weaker.
If they are seated face to face with you, then they are likely to position themselves leaning more on the left elbow than the right elbow.
The positioning of their legs will be in the direction away from you or toward the door.

My next course is project management, but don’t hold your breathe for any exciting revelations. Unless you want me to discuss schedules and spreadsheets with you? Nah, I didn’t think so.
Expect pictures of food very soon though, Come Dine With Me part two is fast approaching and this time I am cooking up a themed, fabulous, fantastic feast! At least I hope so…

Monday, 29 June 2009

Alfie

On the 16th January 1988, at about 11pm, I was sitting in my cousin Sarah’s bedroom.
Wow, you may be thinking, what an astonishingly acute memory you have. Or, you could be thinking, why the heck do you feel the need to tell me this?
Well, I can definitely confirm my memory is not astonishingly acute. For example, sometimes I can walk up the stairs to fetch something, and completely forget what I am suppose to be fetching. Sometimes I can remember to do something vitally important, but then completely forget what I am suppose to be doing. And I won’t even mention forgetting to collect bags/cameras/purses from taxis/window sills/ cinema seats.
The reason I know this date, and the reason why I am telling you this date, is because that’s the day my cousin Sam was born. My little cousin Sam who is not so little these days. My little cousin Sam who now towers above me. My little cousin Sam who now has a baby of his own.
Three weeks ago I heard the joyful news that Sam had become a father. A father to baby Alfie. It brought the memories flooding back to the night I was at my cousin Sarahs, and we heard the news that baby Sam had entered the world.
Has twenty one years really passed?! Has it really been twenty one years since I held Sam, wrapped in his blanket, when he was two days old? The little boy I watched grow up and grow into a young man. The little boy who is now a father. Where have all the years gone to?!
But one thing I do know for sure, is how much Alfie is loved and cherished. How we have all welcomed him to the family. How proud we all are to hold Sam's son.
And you never know, in another twenty one years maybe Alfie will have reproduced and I will be toasting the health of his son?!
But for now, I'll just say, here's to many happy times ahead, and a big welcome to this mad world, Alfie.

Alfie.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Going...going...gone.

He’s gone.
Mysterious man has not so mysteriously disappeared.
Again.
It’s different this time.
This time I knew it would happen.
I was not surprised or confused.
I was not hurt or bewildered.
I sensed the outcome.
I was ready for the outcome.
I was even relived at the outcome.
You can’t pretend somebody is something they are not.
You can’t pretend a relationship can turn into something it can not.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to see him again, to listen to his explanations, to understand his reasons, to learn more about the man I thought I knew. (Crikey, I sound like an Elaine Paige and Barbra Dickinson song, I know his so well.)
People ask me if I’m okay, if I’ve heard from him. I’m honestly fine, I say. No I haven’t heard from him, I don’t expect to nor do I want to. I sense some peoples sympathy. But I laugh it off. One day I’ll get it right, I’ll meet Mr Right, I say. Until then I am happy to be single.
Again.
It wasn’t the perfect relationship I thought it would be.
He wasn’t the perfect man I thought he would be.
At least I know that now.
I’m not full of what could have been.
I now know it could never have been.
Funny how you can read the signs completely wrong.
Funny how sometimes something you are so sure of can turn into something you are not sure of at all.
Life goes on.
The sky is still blue. (Well, in England it's often more grey than blue.)
I haven’t fallen apart.
I haven’t given up on love or life.
I’m still going out with my friends and enjoying myself. I’m still taking photographs and writing my blog. I’m still enjoying life in the not so new office.
Maybe I’m a little more cautious.
Maybe I don’t want to get my fingers burnt again.
But maybe I know I probably will.
If you don’t take a few risks how will you benefit from a few rewards?
Life isn’t meant to be simple, is it?
Life is far from simple at times.
But who wants a simple life anyway? If everything was simple how would we learn valuable lessons? How would we appreciate the good times from the bad times? I’ll take the rough with the smooth. I’ll carry on realising some things just aren’t meant to be.
It’s nothing personal.
It’s not a tragedy.
It’s not a disaster.
It’s just the way it is sometimes.
And I’m fine with that.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Tigers in the sky

It is not ideal the night before you go on holiday to arrive home at three thirty am, without any shoes on your feet, plastic flowers around your neck, and a red sparkly hat on your head. I would even go as far as to say, it is anything but ideal.
However, there are times when ideal situations fly out of the window and are replaced by inappropriate, and often bizarre, situations.
I think the pre-holiday excitement must have gone to my head. Or maybe it was the fact my printers treated my new boss and I to tapas and wine in a charming, authentic, Spanish restaurant. And then I joined my friend at an 80’s revival bar, to celebrate her birthday. An 80’s revival bar where you can purchase flashing microphones, plastic flowers, red sparkly hats, and over sized glasses (we bought the lot). We enjoyed ourselves immensely, whilst declaring every ten minutes, “We’re going on holiday tomorrow!”
In my defence, I was long over due a holiday with my girlfriends. Therefore, I was ridiculously excited. My last holiday with friends (apart from my 3 day trip to a Cypriot wedding) was six years ago, to the beautiful island of Mauritius. And that particular holiday was shared with boyfriends, so it wasn’t a true girly holiday. A true girly holiday must have been the year before Mauritius, I think, to the pretty Greek island of Crete.
Despite the late night (or early morning, or whatever you wish to call it) before our holiday, my friend and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, ready to meet our other two friends. I’ll be honest, we were a little tired, but what the heck we thought, we can sleep on the aeroplane. Airport shopping added to our moods, gold flip flops, gold bangles, magazines, and a jug of sangria at the airport bar. We were going to Ibiza! Cheers everyone!
Now, if anyone is contemplating visiting this Balearic Island, let me warn you – you will need plenty of money. You may need to remortgage your house or discuss a loan with your bank manager. It is very expensive. There must be the odd cheap restaurant and bar, we managed to find one in Ibiza town, but on the whole it’s very pricey.
17 euros for a red bull and vodka. 35 euros entrance fee to the worlds largest club. 30 euros for a piece of fatty lamb and grains of boiled rice. Do you see what I mean? We were shocked.
After an expensive beach party, expensive boat party, and expensive bar where we danced and spun around on a merry-go-round, we decided to supermarket shop for pasta, salad, fruit, and a bottles of cheap but-surprising–light-and-refreshing plonk. We knew we couldn’t carry on spending the amount of money we had been. (But I still managed to treat myself to a turquoise ring and white cotton dress during a cloudy day, when the beach and swimming pool seemed cold and unattractive.)
I would also like to warn you about the characters in Ibiza. There are many unusual characters walking around the quaint Ibiza town, and drinking on the luminous and loud streets of San Antonio. Drag queens, hippies, people who swear blind there are tigers in the sky, and all sorts of weird and wonderful men and women.
Ibiza is certainly an interesting place to visit. If you have a bank account brimming with cash, cash you are itching to spend, and if you are prone to seeing tigers dancing in the sky, this island could be your ultimate dream come true.

Can you see the tigers?


Ibiza tapas.


Ibiza harbour.


Expensive club.


Expensive meal.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Come Dine With Me

I do not have a lot of spare time to watch television these days, crikey I do not have a lot of spare time full stop. Spare time is definitely an exotic luxury. But the one programme I do like to indulge in, when I have the time, is a show called Come Dine With Me.
The concept is this – four evenings, four strangers, four houses, four meals, four marks out of ten, one winner.
A little while back my friend and I were discussing our mutual appreciation for this particular programme, and we decided to entertain ourselves with our own interpretation of Come Dine With Me - two evenings, two friends, one house, two meals, two marks out of fifty, one winner.
So, dear readers, with photography assistance, Come Dine With Us!





The first evening began at my friends house, and Italian was the theme. Italian music drifted through the speakers, Italian colours dressed the dining room and the dining table, and Italian scents wafted from the kitchen.

Italian colours.


In true CDWM style I grabbed the camcorder and browsed around my friends house, throwing random comments into the air regarding clothes, books, and rubber ducks.
After my filming, and amusing myself, I nibbled on the canapes and read the menu, suitably impressed with how the night had began.

Canapes.


My first course arrived, scallops, cooked to perfection, with runny egg yolk oozing over the dish. We toasted to the starter, and to our evening ahead. The wine complimented the food and our moods deliciously.

The starter.


After a little rest between the starter and the main course, where family trees and other such topics were discussed, the main course was brought to the table. Succulent chicken breast with melted mozzarella, on a bed of rocket salad and vibrant cherry tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Another knock out! A lady could become accustomed to this fine dining, with friend cooking!

The main.


And last but certainly not least, the dessert sparkled away. Gooey and gorgeous hot chocolate sauce filled the moist chocolate pudding, with refreshing strawberry ice-cream. It was the ideal finish to the scrumptious meal.

The dessert.



Without giving the game away, I recorded my verdict on the hosting, the food, and the presentation, whilst the chef hovered in the kitchen. The marking is a secret, it will be revealed after Come Dine With Me evening two. It will be my turn to cook (at my friends house, as I am not in possession of my own kitchen) and I already know my theme and the food which will be incorporated into my theme. I bet you can’t guess what it is! Don't worry, all shall be exposed in a couple of weeks, dear readers.
See how much fun this Come Dine With Me can be? Maybe you should try it with your friends. It's a good excuse to meet, and enjoy cooking and eating yummy food. As far as I'm concerned, that's a great recipe for a great night.
Until the next one...

PS I've been in Ibiza folks, hence the gap between posts. I hope you're all well and I shall be over to your blogs asap. Expect pictures of Ibiza very soon. Oh I'm such a tease.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The house by the pylon

I used to live in a house opposite an electricity pylon. Named the house by the pylon by all who knew her. Later affectionately renamed the flat that time forgot. Renamed as a consequence to the amount of hours lost huddled on the sofas during Greek nights, dancing in the loft on girls nights, and standing in the kitchen with half the customers of the local pub on Friday nights.
It was not a quiet place to live. If you were looking for a quiet life, the house by the pylon/the flat that time forgot was not the place for you.
Quite a few people have lived in the house by the pylon. My ex purchased the top floor of the house from The Neville family. The Neville family who hitch hiked from Greece to England - we think Mr Neville gambled his money away before he could bank it, or he was mugged, we’re not sure which. What I do know for sure is they sold their story to The Sun newspaper, for much needed cash and for their five minutes of fame. My ex and I used the newspaper clipping, which contained a photograph of the family, for a cloak and dagger type adventure along the Greek harbour. We pointed at Mr Nevilles toothless smile and asked, “Have you seen this man?”
Mr Neville had returned to Greece when his finances improved but he‘d failed to sign important documents for my ex. Hence, my ex, myself, and my ex's friend who was wheel chair bound as a result of a nasty motor bike accident (the same friend who insisted on accompanying us on our first date) searched the streets of Greece for Mr N. I needed a holiday and I’d always fancied visiting Athens. Mr Neville’s sister had reported her brother was in Greece once again, and my ex needed him to sign along the dotted line.
Unfortunately we didn’t find Mr Neville in Greece, it was a long shot, but we had a nice holiday. Luckily we bumped into him in the UK, and the top floor of the house by the plyon was legally my ex's home.
When I first moved into the house by the pylon my friend Claire was renting a room, along with our friend Kia. Well, she was our friend at the time. I introduced her to a guy from Brighton and we never saw her again. I think she was looking for any excuse to move out of T.H.B.T.P and that was a good enough one for her.
Scaggs was the next victim of the flat that time forgot. That’s not his real name, his real name doesn’t sound half as bad but he doesn't mind answering to Scaggs. Scaggs also lived with Amber. Amber was a dog, the puppy of Blaze, my ex's pet. Blaze had two very large litters and you can see most of her daughters and sons trotting around the local area.
Darren was another lodger. Darren who had a wooden leg. He fell out of a moving train when he was a youngster, and tragically lost one of his legs. Sadly Darren is no longer with us. He died in his sleep a couple of years ago. R.I.P. Darren.
My ex's daughter also moved in, briefly, to the house by the pylon. That was fun to have another female to share the house with, and we would drink wine and watch programmes on hair dressing and footballers wives. Very girly.
Lenny, who used to draw on toast and had a major operation to cure his epileptic fits, also lived with us. He’s a very talented artist and I recently read a story in OK magazine regarding Lenny and his art. It was accompanied with one of his toast pictures, this particular one was Simon Cowell's face. Apparently Si offered Lenny a very large sum of money, for the picture which bared an uncanny resemblance to him. Perhaps Lenny is living the high life these days? Perhaps he can afford all the toast in the world now?
Heartbreak hotel could also have been another name for the house by the pylon. It was a well known fact that when relationships broke down, the heartbroken partner would move in, to forget their troubles and lick their wounds, until their partner forgave them or they’d grown tired of the flat. Which ever came first.
Sometimes I even struggle to remember the names of some of the lodgers. There was Lesso, the bouncer/courier who all the girls lusted over. Johhny, the one who was convinced strangers stood in the garden watching him. Mad John, who was actually mad. Oh hold on, I don’t think he actually moved in, he was just permanently attached to the sofa for a very long time, with his poetry book and his stories of madness. Sometimes I would return home from work to discover another body in the lounge, with another disaster story, and a musical instrument in their hand.
There would be frequent jamming sessions in my humble home. Guitars, bongos, keyboards, and all sorts. It was lucky for us that the man who lived downstairs was deaf and our joining neighbours only complained once, and that was after I played George Michael at a ridiculously loud volume one night. (I don't think they were George fans.)
The house by the pylon was a very lively and unusual place to live. It was rather like a magnet, a magnet attracting chaos and disrupting any kind of normal life. Of course there were times I loved living there. I would enjoy playing the hostess with the mostess, I liked cooking for ten thousand people, and I was happy arranging Greek nights. I even became accustomed to the crazy people and some very strange senoras.
But sometimes I craved peace. Normality. Dullness even. This was not possible with the house by the pylon. Eventually, like all the others before me, I moved out. When you have a family living in your loft who are being attacked by hammers (incidentally the father is now serving time for murder) and a couple living in the spare room, a man with a glass eye and a woman full of constant tales of death, depression and diabetes, you do question what kind of life you are living.
Leaving the house was compared to saying goodbye to an old friend. But a friend who you know is not healthy for you. A friend you know you can’t be around any longer, for your own sanity. A friend you know you have to leave behind, and you wonder if they were really a friend in the first place?
So I packed my bags, shed a few tears of relief and sadness all mixed into one, and I shut the door behind to my old life and to the house by the pylon.
It was odd at the beginning. The calmness of my parents house was the parallel universe I’d craved for so long but it took a long while to adjust to.
I dreamt about the flat. I thought about the flat. I laughed about the flat. I despaired of the flat. Part of me even missed the flat. Other times I despised the flat and I blamed it for everything that had gone wrong in my life.
Then the funniest thing happened.
Four years later, when the flat was a distant memory in my hazy mind, the magnetic force was up to it's old tricks. The force was too strong to resist. To my astonishment, I found myself walking up the beige carpeted stairs again. Sitting on the brown leather sofa again. Staring out the window and looking at the electricity pylon again. How on earth did that happen?
The house by the pylon was back.
I danced in the flat's loft at the weekend. The familiar loft with the walk in wardrobe that isn’t a walk in wardrobe and the spiral stair case that isn’t a spiral stair case. (I now realise that not everyone who say they are a carpenter are in fact a carpenter.) A few of my friends were in the loft too, and we were all wearing wigs. Marge Simpson type wigs, afro wigs, bright pink wigs, and blond plaited wigs. We screamed with laughter and spun around to the rudeness of Lilly Allen lyrics, and placed balloons under our dresses/tops to impersonate my friend Eve who is 5 months pregnant.
It was as if I’d never been away!
I'd returned to the house. I was in a time warp. The magnet was stronger than ever. I remember shaking my head in bewilderment. Smiling at the newly painted terracotta coloured walls.
I'll be honest, I’d had a few glasses of Pino Gricio, but what happened next seemed real enough whilst I was dancing in the loft at the weekend. Whilst I was spinning around and laughing loudly, I'm sure I saw something out the corner of my Marge Simpson wig. If you promise not to laugh shall I tell you what I saw? I was convinced one of the terracotta walls winked at me. That's right, a big, cheeky, you're back in my life kind of wink. And guess what I did?
I winked right back.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Who am I?

I was born in England in 1809. Twas the era of widespread invention and discovery. Significant developments in the understanding and manipulation of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, electricity, and metallurgy. Arr, what an exciting century to be born into!
My father and his father before him were greatly respected physicians, and my mothers side of the family built a respectable estate on the basis of Josiah Wedgwood’s successful pottery business. A mere two centuries since my passing, I have drifted along many antique shops and gazed at many Wedgewood products. Products which have left me flabbergasted to their retail price. But it seems the keen collectors think nothing of parting with their hard earned cash for such beauties of the past.
I was a natural thinker and explorer. I traveled the fearious and the calm seas, I studied at Edinburgh University and I published books on my discoveries.
In my life time I presented the world with compelling evidence of evolution. My passion was natural science and my five year voyage on HMS Beagle established me as an eminent geologist, my observations and theories supporting Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas.
I packed as much as I could into my life, hungry for knowledge and explanations, intrigued and fascinated to what this world had to offer me and those who would live after me.
Oh and how the world is constantly changing! Technology has succumbed any expectations that I could have possibly imagined during my studies, home and away.
My family home, the place of many of my discoveries, still stands proudly in the rambling Kent countryside. It is open to anyone who wishes to observe and absorb the atmosphere and information. It brings me remarkable joy to look around and see the enthusiasm of the young and the old who visit my dear and beloved home.

Have you guessed who I am yet?

My house.


My garden.


Inside my house.


My family tree.

Monday, 4 May 2009

My day trip to Belfast

Over the years I’ve experienced my fair share of day trips. Journeys have been meticulously planned via train/car, maps have been studied, places of interest have been thoroughly researched, and brightly coloured sweets, packed full of e numbers, have been bought.
I’ve traveled to different villages, towns, cities and counties for the day. But I must be honest, I have never visited a different country for the day – until last weekend!
Last weekend I took a mini adventure to Belfast, for the day. Mysterious man and I booked our plane tickets a few days beforehand, decided our agenda, and looked forward to our day trip.
On the day of our mini adventure we traveled by taxi to the airport, and chatted away merrily to the cab driver regarding his famous passengers, such as Steve Davis the snooker player, and we discussed his unfortunate and painful gout problem. (Not Steve Davis's gout problem, the taxi drivers. Although Steve Davis could have a gout problem for all I know?) And then we boarded our aeroplane to Ireland.
Once in Belfast we wondered around a farmers market, a shopping centre, admired the city hall and the architecture, and visited the famous murals. We dined in a nice restaurant, drank alcohol in a lively bar, and danced in a local night club, and then boarded our plane back to England. Oh and m.m. had his hair cut in an Irish barbers.
Phew, we packed a lot into one day, wouldn't you agree?

Belfast City.


Belfast architecture.


Belfast City Hall.


Belfast mural.


Belfast mural.