Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Eating words

I've had to eat my words. What a peculiar expression, I've had to eat my words. I am picturing myself sitting at the dinner table, with a plateful of brightly coloured words. And what would these words spell? My fork would be prodding the word, "Facebook" and my knife would be slicing the words, "I don't use." That's right, "I don't use Facebook."
Except I do now!
When I first heard about Facebook, I questioned why I would want people I hadn't seen for years poking me or buying me virtual drinks. Who wants to be poked by ex boyfriends or someone you have never liked anyway? Not me thanks! I thought I was far too superior for Facebook and pokes and virtual drinks. I had friends who I saw on a regular basis, I had my beloved blog and my dear blog readers. That was enough for me.
But I became curious. Friends would inform me that photographs from nights out were uploaded on their Facebook wall. Friends would fill me in with tales of correspondence from so-and-so, who they once brushed past in the street in 1999, or so-and-so who they'd sat next to on a bus to Romford Market. Curiously, I found myself wanting to look at photographs on walls. I even found myself enquiring after so-and-so, a random and amusing blast from the past.
Next I found myself setting up an account, so I could have a nose and see what all the fuss was about in Facebook world. Suddenly Facebook fever entered my body and I was messaging all sorts of people and uploading my own photographs on my own wall. I couldn't stop myself! I had the Facebook bug!
This bug was lodged in my brain and in my laptop. Soon I was wondering if anyone had commented on my Facebook status, replying to comments I'd made regarding yogurt lids and other useless topics. Soon I was switching my laptop on and heading straight to Facebook world.
And guess what? Next I was thanking this social network for reuniting me with my own blast from the past. This new world had put me in touch with an old friend.
In my past life, in the flat that time forgot, also known as the house by the pylon, I was very good friends with a girl named Sarah. Sarah and I's partners knew each other and it wasn't long until Sarah I and were enjoying each others company at dinner parties, barbecues, and any old excuse to get together to swap books and drink wine. We certainly had some fun.
One night I dined at her house and decided to dress as a man and pretend I was a man. I even drew hair on my face and legs. I'm not sure why I did this, I just did. One evening, at a wedding reception, I slid across the entire length of the kitchen floor, landed in an undignified heap, had to go to the hospital, and was told I'd sprained my ankle and would be on pain killers and crutches for weeks. We laughed at the time, through my intense pain. But I wasn't laughing when I was stuck in the flat with a foot the size of an obese elephant, and empty food cupboards. Sarah brought me food and cheered me up. Another evening a hair cut went horribly wrong and ended in a bloody mess, I won't go into the details but again it was funny at the time. And how could I forget the trip to the race horses where we spent most of the day in a limousine, drinking champagne darling, and I accidentally dropped my money down the toilet. Oh there were so many happy, silly times. But the silliest thing was not keeping in contact after we both split from our partners and our lives branched out in different directions. Until Facebook brought us back together again.
I saw Sarah the other evening. It was brilliant to see her again. We didn't stop talking and laughing all night. And we boxed and played bowls on Wii. And we swapped books and chatted excitedly about our reading material. And we drank wine and ate pasta and reminisced. I realised how much I'd missed our friendship.
So you see, I've had to eat my words. I do use Facebook now. And do you know what? It's been great.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The interview

News flash! Yesterday, Nikki, otherwise known as The World According To Me, otherwise known as Flying Pink Elephants (that's me by the way, he, he), was interviewed for the first time in nearly 10 years.
You may think I have mis-typed the number of years, I haven't. Nearly 10 years is the correct amount of years. That's a long time to be interview free, would you agree? Therefore, maybe you could forgive me for being a little rusty. However, I honestly thought I was well prepared.
I researched the company, I thought of intelligent questions to ask regarding the company. I wrote key words on a piece of paper, from the job description, to throw into the conversation. I investigated the top interview questions and interview advise, which were displayed on various web sites.
I even sat in a coffee shop before hand, staring at my list of interview questions and answers, and I walked around Regents Park with pretend interview situations rattling around in my head. I then popped into the recruitment agencies office and listened to and noted their wise words and handy tips. And I brought a portfolio to the interview, containing the magazines I produced in my last place of employment, and copies of advertorials which I'd laid out with the assistance of InDesign. So you see, I honestly thought I was well prepared.
I arrived at the publishing house fifteen minutes prior to the interview. I sat on the huge black sofa in the reception area and stared at the polished floor boards and the abstract art hanging from the walls. I tried not to stare at the women who walked past and looked as if they had stepped out the fashion pages of Vogue. It was a very trendy company! My scary suit jacket trembled. This time I was not scared of my jacket, it was my jackets turn to be scared. It was scared of its environment and the unknown. I heard a little voice in my head which said, "Can I have my old job back please? With people I know and like. A job I knew and liked." Arrgg. Of all the times for the little voice to appear! I ordered it to go away and strained my ears to hear another voice saying,"New Challenges! New people! I thought you were ready to conquer the world!"
I finished battling with my inner voices, and my two interviewers arrived. I gulped, shook their hands firmly, smiled, made eye contact, and I was led into the lion's den.
It wasn't really a lion's den. It was the boardroom, with the huge brown table.
Dear FPE readers, I have replayed the situation in the boardroom in my head a thousand times, and I'm still confused! I regret to inform you that I left the room feeling deflated. I feared nerves had not allowed me to portray my personality and experience to the highest standard. Now I'm questioning if they'd already seen their ideal employee and I was dismissed before the interview began? Because I did not receive good vibes from them, almost from the beginning. (This added to my nerves!)
Was the person they interviewed before my time slot perfect for the position?
Was I the weakest link?
Did they not like the colour of my eyes?
Perhaps they were sick of the interview process and it had been a long day? The role is for a six months maternity cover, which may lead to a permanent position. The recruitment agency explained to me that the vacancy was filled a month ago. A month later the chosen one found a permanent position, and handed in their notice. The agency warned me the publishing house were not happy about the outcome and feared this may happen again. The agency was right, the publishing house did not seem happy to me.
Or perhaps I just didn't sell myself enough?
Was I too nervous?
Why didn't they ask me more question?
I'll let you know when I've worked it out, or when I receive my rejection letter. Which ever comes first.
It's a cruel, confusing world.
Or is it?!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The day I went to Syan House

I owe you an apology dear readers. I do hope you haven't been too distressed regarding my well being in the snow. Don't worry, I haven't ran away with a snowman, or had a nasty accident with a super sized, super speeding snowball. And I haven't slipped on the ice, smashed my head, suffered from amnesia and not known who I am or what I'm doing, but as a consequence I will only answer to the name Betty.
Nope, none of these things have happened.
My lack of posts has been due to my Internet connection. It stopped working! I had to re-join my local library so I could continue my employment search via the web. Unfortunately I didn't stay at the library for too long as the gentleman next to me kept passing wind.
My modem is now restored, thank goodness.
Since I have been away from FPE the temperature has risen, the sun has shone, and the snow has melted. Can you guess what occurred next? Rain. Huge dollops of liquid fell from the sky. This meant rivers burst and floods followed. If we are not moaning about the recession in the UK, we are moaning about the weather. (In my next post I shall probably complain that it's too hot, and all the roads and houses have melted into one massive, gooey, grotesque mess.)
The night before my photography course (there is a point to all of this, not just an elaborate weather forecast) I was awake most of the night and morning, listening to the rain pelting against my window pane, dreading walking around the grounds of Syan House in the rain and the mud. I think I must have fallen asleep for the grand total of one hour and thirty seven minutes. I was excruciatingly tired the next day. I left my house, in a sleep deprived daze, fantasising about mugs of steaming hot and extremely strong coffee.
I arrived at Syan House wet and cold and tired, but looking forward to my photography course. I helped myself to cups of coffee, once I was inside the rather grand building, built by Edward Seymour, Lord Protector, between 1547 and 1550. Today it is the London home of the Duke of Northumberland. I perched on a chair, around the enormous polished table, and wrote my name on my name tag. Introductions were made amongst myself and the other 18 attendees, and the slide show began.
Photography is all about creating an image! This is achieved by a number of choices made by the photographer, such as: lens, camera setting, subject and lighting. ISO, white balance, file formats and exposure controls were discussed.
We then had a coffee break and made polite conversation. And moaned about the weather. It's how us Brits bond!
After more slides and more discussions we ate sandwiches and drank coffee. Satisfied with food, drink and information, we walked around the magnificent grounds and the conservatory. This was my favourite part of the day. Despite slipping in the mud, and ducking under trees trying to avoid the rain drops, it was brilliant fun. I was in my element. I could have stayed there forever, adjusting my controls, looking as if I knew what I was doing, snapping away at mould on trees, a smoking tree bark, a pretend squirrel, and other such delightful subjects.
Would you care to look at a selection of my pictures from the day? Here they are below.

Syan House.

The fountain.

The conservatory.

Through the logs.

The statue.

Musa Basjoo.

Pretty scene.

The smoking tree.

Mouldy bark.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Three days and three nights

I have not left my house for three days and three nights.
I have never stayed indoors for three days and three nights, other than the time I was bedridden with severe flu.
You may well be asking the reason I have not ventured into the outside world for three whole days and three whole nights. The reason is simple - the snow.
In the UK we've experienced the worst snow fall for 18 years. Oh hang on, I told you a little white snow coloured lie, I've trekked around the garden taking photographs, so I have kind of left the house. You know how I like the look of snow! (See Blanket of snow post.) But it's too cold and too deep and too slippery to go elsewhere. Call me boring but I don't really fancy hanging around the park, falling over, freezing cold snow splattered in my face. And I am certainly not risking driving in these conditions.
Unfortunately we are not well equipped in the UK for heavy snow.
The roads resemble an ice rink. Many roads are closed.
A high percentage of schools have not opened, I can hear the kids still cheering!
Many offices closed for business.
On Monday zero buses ran in London, and the majority of the underground and overground trains were cancelled.
Tuesday was not much better.
Today life is nearly back to normal. But not quite.
On the news the reporters complain the weather has cost the economy billions, and the UK is a laughing stock around the world for not being able to cope with the conditions. We need snow ploughs. We need more grit on the roads. We need a reliable tube system. What we don't need is for the country to come to a stand still when white stuff falls from the sky!
The temperature is dangerously low. I can't bear the cold. I am always cold, apart from when there is a heat wave, which is quite unusual in this country. As I type these words I am wearing two jumpers, jeans and thermal socks, sitting next to the heater, sipping a hot drink and thinking about my hot water bottle. This is a big reason why I have not left my house. It's too darn cold!
Plus I am terrible clumsy. I know I shall fall over and break or twist something. As it is my poor uncle has broken his arm and my cousin's husband has twisted his ankle. So what chance does an accident prone klutz like me have? In the three days I've been house bound I have walked into a drawer and bruised my leg, trod on a pair of scissors and hurt my foot, smashed a bowl in the kitchen, and broken my mothers brush. See what I mean? No wonder I am scared to walk along the snowy, icy streets.
The boredom has not set in though. I am never bored. I am full of ideas and thoughts and things to do. Or books to read and programmes to watch. And things to make.
Over the past three days I have made cards for friends and cards to sell at a car boot sale.
I have nearly finished reading We Need To Talk About Kevin. This book could make you completely rethink motherhood, a real harrowing read.
I have written extracts for my book blog. I'm waiting for it to be approved to make money!
I have watched Ghost Town on DVD, which is an amusing comedy. I have watched Children of Men on DVD, which is very serious drama.
I have looked up friends on facebook, sent emails to friends and spoken to friends via the telephone.
I have watched Agatha Christie mysteries and cookery programmes.
I have read bloggers blogs.
I have found a solicitor and made an appointment for next week, so the solicitor can read and sign my official redundancy letter.
I have surfed the Internet for directions for my photography course next week and surfed the Internet for details of a physic night.
I have also registered my details to attend a publishing seminar.
Oh and I've been actively looking for a job!

I'm actually leaving the house tomorrow. I have to go back to the office for my official redundancy letter. It's been a long drawn out process. Then I'm meeting a friend in the pub. I guess I have to join civilisation at some point. At least I hope it's civilised out there?
I must remember to wrap myself in many layers.
Wish me luck with the roads, pavements, trains and non accidents! I'll let you know how it goes.

Snow in my garden.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The return of the scary suit jacket

I delved deep into the darkest depths of my wardrobe. I rummaged around, feeling fabrics, shifting shoes and banishing bags. Finally, I found it. It had been a while, but it was back. My scary suit jacket.
I named it the scary suit jacket not because it's possessed by a poltergeist but because once I was too scared to try it on. I knew I'd added a few extra pounds to my figure and I was scared to try it on in case it no longer fitted me. Alas I was too broke to buy another one for the forthcoming important conference in Barcelona. (It did fit me in the end, hurray!)
It's a well travelled jacket. It has travelled to Cannes, Barcelona and Singapore. It's knocked up a few air miles and witnessed a few sights. It's partied on a yacht in Cannes, listened to my cheering at a football match in Barcelona, and it's visited a safari park in Singapore. It's not led a bad life. And miraculously it still fits me, albeit a little tight.
I wore it to London the other day for my recruitment agency appointments. I wanted to inject the impression that I was smart and business like, by wearing my scary suit jacket.
I met my first recruitment contact in a coffee shop and we discussed my CV, the recession (apparently unemployment figures in the UK are the worst for 30 years, which is not very encouraging), and blogging and photography. Incidentally he is a blogger and a photographer, so as well as giving him the task of helping me find a job we had lots of common interests to discuss. We were in the coffee shop for a long while.
The next agency I liaised with actually had a position for me. So after roaming around taking photographs of London, I wrote my covering letter and applied for the vacancy. I even wrote in my letter that I would be an asset to their company. I think the scary suit jacket affected my confidence levels! Hmmm. Maybe it's not such a scary jacket after all. And I liked the sound of the job and the company. I googled them and they are a successful engineering publishing company.
Okay, okay, maybe it's just a normal 97% polyester and 3% spandex, black jacket. A black jacket which has been sitting in the back of my wardrobe for far too long.
But now it's back. And there is absolutely no reason for me to be scared of it any longer.
Unless of course, it decides to fly around my bedroom of its own accord, chanting evil curses in the process. Now that would be scary....

Scenes from Covent Garden