Thursday, 29 January 2009

Let's go mad in the aisles. (Catch phrase from Supermarket Sweep - A game.)

Hands up if you like to play games. Are you waving your hands furiously into cyber space? Or are they firmly placed on your lap, the thought of games are making your hands shake and your bottom lip quiver?
I am partial to a game or two, and I participated in a couple last Sunday. Last Sunday a friend and I cooked an enormous and spectacular (if I do say so myself) Sunday roast. Roast chicken, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, yorkshire puddings, sausages, and mushroom stuffing.We did not go to bed hungry!
After dinner the games began!I brought a box to my friends house which I purchased the other morning. The other morning my mother and I visited a local department store for breakfast and for a snoop at the sales. Crafty bits were selling for a fraction of their original prices, and I snapped up various crafts for my card making - car boot sale in a few weeks and I'm planning on selling my cards for extra cash. Then I spied the games in the toy department.
Memories came flooding back to me. Memories of my grandma and I sitting around the kitchen table for hours at a time, playing Donkey, Beat Your Neighbours, Whot, Othello and Dominoes. There was a time in my life, before George Michael and wine, when my world revolved around games. How simple life was back then. Redundancy was merely a word in a dictionary and not something I had ever experienced. A Broken Heart and Debts were words I'd heard, but their true meaning meant nothing to me. Life was one long and fun game. If I was wasn't playing Donkey with my grandma, I was indulging in Ghost Castle, Cludeo and Monopoly with my friend Tracey and her brother Kevin.
But back to last Sunday. Last Sunday's game involved creating objects out of play dough, drawing items, acting out scenes and word association. Oh how we laughed. Have you ever tried making a snorkel out of play dough? It's tricky!
Then we decided to invent our own game. We were discussing acting and wondering how hard it could really be, pretending to be someone else, travelling to glamorous locations, meeting Brad Pitt, and being paid for your trouble!
Please note I am moulding myself into every job available at present, convincing myself that I can do anything. "How hard can this acting lark be,"I heard myself saying to my friend.
So, we both wrote five personality traits on five pieces of paper and placed them in a bowl. Next we wrote 5 situations and placed in another bowl. We took it in turns to close our eyes and choose a personality and a situation. The chosen person and chosen scene was to be acted out for one minute only. At the end of that minute the other person had to take an intelligent guess as to who you were and what you were doing.
Have you ever tried pretending to be John Travolta searching for frozen peas in a supermarket? Without using the word peas or John Travolta? Have you ever tried to be a supermodel with OCD ordering a bed? No, neither had I until Sunday.
And let me tell you this acting lark is not as easy as it looks. Congratulations Brad Pitt and Robert De Niro, you make it look so simple. It's not.
I think I shall stick to playing dominoes in the future.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

My security blanket and the contents of my wardrobe

My security blanket was rudely ripped from my grasp.
One moment I was wrapped in a cocoon of security, and the next moment I felt naked and abandoned. I was tossed into the chasm of unemployment, unready to embrace the world of statistics.
I didn't realise I was such a creature of habit until I was forced to change my routine, my life, my universe.
Of course I am aware the sun has not stopped shining, the birds have not stopped singing, and the earth has not stopped revolving, but for a short space of time everything seemed dark and uncertain.
Now I can see the light.
I can see windows of opportunity.
I can see new adventures over the rainbow.
I have bounced back with vengeance!
I'm still unemployed. I'm just looking at things through a different perspective.
I returned to the office last week, to empty the contents of my drawers, wondering how I managed to accumulate so many piles of books, videos, magazines, food, stationery, etc, etc. I cleared the files on my Apple Mac and deleted my trash, it was as if I'd never existed!
But it was okay, I'd accepted my fate. It was time to conquer new challenges and move on. I said my goodbyes and walked out the door, carrier bags bulging with the drawer contents.
Maybe I needed a shove in the right direction. Maybe my security blanket needed to be unravelled and disregarded.
You've heard the expression as one door closes, another one opens. Well, I'm peering through this open door with my CV in one hand, and a list of recruitment agencies in the other, with a hopeful smile and a brand spanking new attitude.
I've applied for two other jobs since I left the office, loving the sound of both of them, and I have other money making ideas rattling around in that head of mine.
Huh, who needs security blankets.
It's a big world out there and I'm ready to face it.

Monday, 19 January 2009

A professional birthday celebrator

I like to help my friends celebrate their birthdays. Maybe that could be my next career - a professional birthday celebrator. It might be the job for me. I could be the one who lifts spirits and plays tunes, dances around tables and supplies everyone with pink champagne. I can think of worse things to do!
It was my friends birthday at the weekend, my friend who's moved many miles away to greener countryside and bluer skies, and to be close to the sea.
I travelled by train to join her on Saturday. A chicken roll and Heat magazine accompanied me on my journey, and when I arrived at the train station there were hugs and big smiles all round. And then we began the task at hand - celebrating my friends birthday!

Here's my top tips to guarantee a top birthday night out.

1. Always eat before drinking. Stomachs should never be empty before alcohol. Empty stomachs could potentially cause all sorts of problems emotionally and physically, and turn ones behaviour erratic and unacceptable. We tucked into McDonalds, and then opened the pink champagne. McDonalds and champagne, classy!
2. Getting ready should be part of the night out. We swapped make-up and jewellery and praised each others choice of outfits. Whilst listening to loud dance music, to create the correct atmosphere.
3.Take photographs before leaving the house and while everyone is still looking fresh. Photographs are the best memories for a birthday night out. And nobody wants to see a picture of themselves when their hair resembles an untidy birds nest, make-up is smeared all over their face and their eyes are blood shot and blurry.
4. Book your taxi/taxis to your destination in advance, so you arrive at your venue on time and not flustered.
5. Circulate, drink, dance and have fun!
6. Dance on tables, wear lampshades on your head and kick your boots off if your feet are hurting.
7. Try not to loose your bracelet/purse/bag/camera/money/contact lens/mind. Loosing things could spoil your night.
8. Do not bring unbalanced people out who could ruin part of the evening, by abusing cab drivers and kicking friends in the shin. (That wasn't me by the way, it was a girl I have never met before, but we won't dwell on that.)

I hope you had a pleasant weekend, dearest FPE readers.
Did you celebrate any birthdays?
Do you care to share your top tips for a successful night out?

Making the final arrangements.

Praising outfits.

Photo opportunity.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Eric The Banana Man, and friends

Do you remember Eric The Banana Man? Bettlejuice? Adam Ant? Can you see the connection I am making? It's the 80's! The decade of bright colours, leg warmers and shoulder pads. And a man dressed as a banana. Or as I have often said, the decade that fashion forgot.
I literally cringe when I think of the fashion disasters I used to wear in the 1980's. Clashing psychedelic colours, blue mascara and a perm which looked as if I had placed my finger in a light socket. How could I have left the house looking like that? How could I have let myself be seen in public wearing red suede pixie boots, pink lacy tights, a blue knitted skirt, and a green silk blouse? All in one day?! Did I not possess a mirror? Had the chemicals in the perm played tricks with the logical part of my brain? The logical part which should have screamed, "No! Don't do it! Go back to your wardrobe and change immediately. Otherwise you will regret this in the future!"
Maybe that's why I stuck to a simple black dress on Friday night. Then again, it was a last minute invitation so I didn't have long to think about my outfit.
My friend's friend held an 80's house party, and I was impressed with the effort everyone made, apart from my friend and I. Our forfeit for not dressing up was to start the karaoke. We didn't really mind after a glass of wine, yelling the lyrics to wake me up before you go-go. Well, did you expect me to sing anything other than Wham!?
We were surrounded by Jessica Rabbit, Madonna, and Eric The Banana Man, to name just a few of the guests. A sliver glittery ball dominated the dance floor and 80's music blasted out of the speakers. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Modern Romance and Wham! I didn't think much of the 80's fashion but it was responsible for some good, happy tunes.
"I love this one!" followed by, "I remember this one!" could be heard above the racket and in between party goers waving their yellow bangles and fingerless gloves. Next to the karaoke machine the table was smothered with flying saucers, cheese and pineapple, sweets long forgotten, and a chocolate fountain. Yum, yum!
It was the ideal place to loose myself in tasteless clothes, cheesy music and unhealthy food.
Just what a girl needs to forget all her troubles! Hmmm. Maybe the 80's weren't so bad after all.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Be careful what you wish for

Please note, when I referred to The wind of change, I also distinctly remember stating that I did not wish for any uncomfortable out of the blue changes.
No thank you! Out of the blue uncomfortable changes were not welcome. They were the least welcome changes of all. In fact, it would be correct to say, they were as welcome as a highly infectious and disastrously deadly disease.
Unfortunately, I regret to inform FPE, out of the blue uncomfortable changes are exactly what happened to me at 3pm on Tuesday 6th January 2009.
It started off as a normal working day. I was sitting at my desk, in the office, doing production things.
The telephone rang.
I answered it.
It was the publisher calling from the meeting room.
He wanted to see me.
"The publisher wants to see me," I nervously informed my boss. I recognised the seriousness in his voice, and alarm bells were eerily ringing in the back of my (often as messy as spaghetti) head.
"I'm sorry," was my bosses reply.
My heart sank to the carpeted floor.
My legs started to shake with uncertainty.
I walked the walk of doom, down three flights of stairs, to the meeting room. I opened the door and the publisher met me with an apologetic look, and the HR manager was sitting next to him with an envelope in front of her. My time was up!
I sat down and the publisher began to talk. Words were coming out of his mouth, and they must have made sense to him, they must have formed perfectly acceptable sentences. But all I could do was sit and stare at him, and muster all the will power I had, so that I wouldn't violently shake or burst into an embarrassing flood of tears.
The HR manager passed me the envelope and said I was not expected to stay in the office after the shock, I was to go home and come back at ten thirty the next day to discuss matters further.
I walked out of the meeting room. I wanted to wake up and discover it was all a bad dream. It wasn't. I was wide awake and it was as real as my appreciation for George Michael - now that's what I call real!
I walked into the toilets and burst into tears.

So that was my last day in the office. After nine years it all ended with a conversation I can't remember and an A4 envelope.
In the envelope were internal vanacies, but nothing suitable for me. There were also details of my redundancy pay out. Well, all I can say is, at least I was employed for nine years and I wasn't a newbie. The payout will certainly help clear my debts, which was my biggest worry when I sat in that meeting room.
Now it's just the small matter of finding another job in the current, on the verge of a recession, climate.
I went back to the office the next day for my meeting, and then for lunch with my boss and my work colleague and friend. How very apt that our last supper was in a bar/restaurant where we have enjoyed many office lunches and parties. And the menu only had about 3 choices and the heating was not turned on, because the waiter explained it was their last day of trading. The solemn lunch and venue perfectly matched our moods.
Apparently the atmosphere in the office now resembles a grave yard. A guy working for editorial has also been made redundant. My boss is wondering how the heck she is suppose to cope without me, and the editorial director is wondering how he is suppose to survive without his side kick. We heavily suspect the whole department is heading for closure.
After the meeting and lunch with my boss and colleague, I walked around pondering what to do with the rest of my life. I took photographs and almost forgot my predicament.

I might not be around for a while, I have a CV to type, agencies to visit, websites to scan, and a new career to find.
Then again, I might have heaps of time on my hands. I may be writing constantly about my jobless life.
You have been warned.


Regent Street.

The Tower of London, near the underground.

My kind of libray.

The red London telephone box which is now black.

Monday, 5 January 2009

A blanket of snow

Isn’t it funny how a little thing called snow can change ones mood quite drastically?
I opened my front door this morning, trying to shake off the Monday/January/back to work blues, when Wham! Bam! Thank you Mam! I noticed snow flakes had fallen to the ground and painted a blanket of snow onto the outside world.
I know I can be prone to exaggerate, but I can truthfully say I was not exaggerating the temperature yesterday. Hence the snow today.
I grinned when I saw the white pavements and the white roof tops. Mother nature strikes again. This time in a fluffy white snow cloud.
So guess what I did next? I raced upstairs for my camera! I had to capture the scene. Everything looked so pretty, as if I had stepped inside the delicate pages of a fairy tale. I’m not sure which fairy tale, maybe Snow White and the streets of Essex? Or Alice in Snowland?
Yep, snow is a funny thing. It completely transformed my mood. I found myself smiling at strangers, admiring footprints, and taking pictures of brick walls.
I think they should bottle snow flakes and sell it as happy potion. Banish Prozac, cancel the expensive therapy, purchase a bottle of white stuff instead. Then you can gaze at it, and sprinkle it on the world when you feel your mood sinking and your smile slipping.
It took me a very long time to walk to the train station this morning.
I was late for work.

The snow scene.

The snow house.

A blanket of snow.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

My day in pictures

I literally groaned. And then I shivered. It was far too early and cold to roll out of bed. But I had to, today was the day for the photography club walk in the nature reserve.
My friend Eve texted me, "It's freezing! I can't believe we are doing this!"
"It's too early!" was my reply.
My friend Eve came to the walk too, and she dressed herself in nearly as many layers as I.
We all met in the car park of the nature reserve, hardly recognisable in our hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and any other items of clothing we could lay our hands on. And we all complained about the temperature.
Off we strolled, rubbing our hands together, stamping our feet, and telling each other how cold we were. Oh, have I mentioned it was freezing today?!
Apparently over 250 species of birds have been recorded on the reserve, up to 100 of which may be seen on a single day in Spring. Over 500 species of invertebrates have been noted, including carder bumblebees and the scarce emerald damselfly. There are also over 200 flower and plant species, including golden dock, marsh dock and divided sedge.
I must admit, it's not the prettiest place I have ever been to, and I think the birds must have fled to warmer climates. Or perhaps they were still asleep in their nests, snuggling up to their hot water bottles? At least we saw a few boats, scattered along the horizon.
Crikey, it must have been cold on those boats.

The moody sky at the nature reserve.

The river.

A boat.

Eryngium thistles (I think).

After the walk I went home to thaw myself in front of the fire.
My hands and face had turned an alarming shade of pink.
My fingers were in danger of loosing all sense of sensitivity.
I could no longer feel my ears. They were numb. I had to find a mirror to check they were still attached to my head, and hadn't dropped off and landed amongst the bull rushes. Phew, one look in the mirror confirmed I still had ears.
Once I'd defrosted and read the Sunday newspapers cover to cover, I set off to meet my friend Chamelle for lunch. A quaint countryside pub, with a few ducks outside, was our chosen meeting place.
We laughed and ate and drank. And it was lovely and warm inside the pub.

Quack, quack.

Pub lunch finished, appetites satisfied, and laughter shared with my friend Chamelle, I visited my friend Eve's 10 week old puppy, Bovril.
I got mighty attached to him. He was pretty attached to his toy. Isn't he cute!


Thursday, 1 January 2009

There is always tomorrow

On the first day of 2009 I jumped out of bed. (Actually that's a big fat lie, I never jump out of bed. It's more of a reluctant, zombified stumble into the unknown.) I then yanked back my curtains to inspect the atmosphere.
Were the bare trees and the semi bare trees shaking? Was the man in the duffel coat suffering from severe difficulties trying to walk in a straight line? Nope, this did not appear to be the case.
Strange. Everything seemed to be exactly the same. The outside world looked still and normal to me. Maybe I was half asleep. I rubbed my eyes and shook my head. I peered through the window pane again.
The leaves on the ground were not whirling around at a million miles an hour, and the children walking hand in hand did not look as if an invisible force was pushing them along the road. Hmmm.
Next I gazed at my reflection in the mirror. Perhaps the changes had already taken place whilst I was peacefully sleeping? Was my skin clear and olive coloured, with a healthy, shiny, glow? Erm, no. I could safely say it was not. Not after the new years eve wine.
Did my eyes sparkle youth and vitality? Sadly the answer again was no. Not without my contact lenses they didn't.
Had my hair turned a shade of sage green?
Was my room a dazzling buttercup colour?
Could it be possible that I had grown five inches and outgrown my spotty pyjamas?
I was getting desperate now!
Myself and the outside world had not changed at all. Not one single change had taken place. This wind of change had not visited me in the night, it was not outside my bedroom window. And it was certainly not inside my bedroom now.
Where was it? I could have sworn it was heading my way? Sigh. How wrong could a girl be?
So I decided to go back to bed. Wrap my duvet around me and safely re visit dream land.
Maybe the wind of change is coming tomorrow?
Yes, there is always tomorrow.