Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Things I am grateful for at this precise moment in time...

I now live three minutes from the train station. This is a good thing. This means I can spend longer in bed. I am now useless (again) at getting up in the morning. Maybe this is because I now know it only takes three minutes to reach the train station, as opposed to walking seven minutes and waiting for a bus which is a ten/ fifteen minute journey to the station, which is how long it took at my old flat. And that would be if the buses were running to schedule, more often than not they were not.
By the way, these three minutes can be accomplished walking at top speed, wearing flat boots/shoes. In high heels and by a half asleep Nikki, it takes slightly longer. But three to five minutes aint bad!

The pretty pink rose plant on my window sill, which a drunk man at the train station bought me. I was minding my own business and inspecting the flowers at the flower shop one evening, which is attached to the train station, when I spied the pretty pink rose plant. “How much is that?” I asked. “£2.50,” the flower lady replied. I was then very disappointed to learn I did not have any money in my purse. The drunk man, who was buying his wife lilies and at the same time moaning about her, must have seen my disappointed face as he said to the flower lady (in a drunken slurred kind of manner), “Stick those roses on my bill for the young lady over there!” Thank you drunk man at the train station. I've never been bought a plant by a stranger, even if he was under the influence of, and he probably can't remember a darn thing about it. The roses look fine on my window sill.

My new journey to work from the train station has now halved due to my new location. I have therefore gained two extra hours a day, which is ten hours a week, which is the grand total of forty hours a month. This is a very good thing. Half of this time is spent sleeping, and half of this time is spent participating in constructive things, such as moving my body up and down on my cross trainer, or cooking culinary delights in the kitchen.
Twenty extra hours of sleep is marvelous. I am no longer permanently tired. I was tired for two years. I just didn't realise how lethargic/shattered (it ranged from day to day) I was until rewarded with twenty extra hours of sleep per month. Hmmm, funny how I am now worse at getting out of bed, compared to when I existed on such little sleep.

The canteen at work is still free. There was a huge debate about this. We liked our free canteen, we liked the fact we did not have to bring a packed lunch into the office, or remove ourselves from the building to buy unsatisfactory and expensive sandwiches in the town. Oh how we complained on the staff forum. You have taken away many of our benefits, please don't take away our free food! We need the canteen to socialise in, to familiarise ourselves with colleagues, to eat healthy and varied food, so we can work to the best of our abilities and become recognised professionals for a worthy company! Besides, I've seen the budgets and expenditure and I know (luckily) as an Institution they can afford to feed us jacket potatoes and tuna salads. Of course I realise free food is a rarity these days, so I wanted to add it to my grateful list.

The two holidays I have booked for this year. The first one is with lovely boyfriend and we'll be venturing to Portugal. I've never been to Portugal and I am calorie counting (again, I'm now the fattest I've ever been in my life, it must be love), so I will not moan about the size of my thighs when I am lazing on the beach. I refuse to spoil our holiday because I discovered my love for fat chips from the kebab house near our new flat. (But they are heavenly, especially when dipped in burger sauce. Arrg, must stop fantasising about them...!)
The second holiday is with lovely boyfriend's family. We are renting a cottage in Cornwall, one of the prettiest places in England. And the insurance company will hopefully hurry themselves with my camera claim because I am expecting to take breath taking pictures and post them on my blog. This blog is crying out for pictures again. It's far too text heavy these days and full of my woffling drivel.

And for the record, if boyfriend's family were flowers - maybe flowers at the flower shop attached to the train station, where the drunk man bought me a rose plant, and which is now only three minutes from my new house, which takes me less time to travel to the office for my free food - they would be a sunflowers, pink tiger lillies, and tulips.
These are my favourite chosen flowers and are always the ones which grab my attention and I admire grandly.
In other words, I think his family are great, and I could not have chosen nicer people to spend my time with and have fun with, than if I had personally and carefully handpicked them myself.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Grilling mobile phones

It could have been worse!
Does this sound familiar to you? Do these particular words form a phrase which you find yourself repeating or agreeing to? No matter what story someone is relaying to you, whether their skin turned a frightening shade of green, or perhaps their dream holiday ended when the aeroplane landed in the middle of the ocean, you sympathise but then repeat or agree, “It could have been worse!”
But in reality, what could be worse than your skin resembling the Incredible Green Hulk, or landing on unknown and unexpected water, en route to your destination? Unless of course, your new green coloured skin contained acid which burnt and decayed your flesh, until all your bones were horrifically protruding and your features were completely destroyed. Or the aeroplane which landed on water burst into flames just as you escaped and remembered that you could not swim. So yes, I guess in this case things could be far, far worse.
What defence mechanisms us humans must have. No matter what life or nature throws at us, we count our blessings and declare we could have been faced with our most disturbing nightmare on earth.
I suppose thinking the worse makes us feel better, grateful even, for small mercies sent from heaven above.
But sometimes maybe it’s a teeny bit annoying? What about those of us who want to feel sorry for ourselves regarding the tale we are telling? We want pity and tea and sympathy. We want someone to throw their arms around us and agree, “That’s terrible, you poor thing!” Yes it may not have been a living nightmare, but hey it was bad enough!
I was thinking about this scenario the other day, and how easy it is for us to imagine worse predicaments than the predicament we find ourselves in. That defence mechanism. And to be honest, personally speaking, when I was in the middle of a rather troublesome time, this rather helped me from going mad. Although afterwards, I must confess, I wasn’t adverse to my audience feeling my anguish and feeling a tiny bit sorry for me. (Okay, I admit it, I wanted them to feel my pain whilst they had merrily spent the day in their happy, safe environment.)
I shall start from the beginning, dear readers. I have a little story to tell you regarding myself, a faulty lock, a mobile phone, and a grill. And last but certainly not least, my boyfriend’s father.
It began as a normal Saturday morning. Boyfriend was due to play football for his local team, and I was cooking him a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and tomatoes, to provide him with protein and energy to run around a football pitch. After eating, I grabbed my mobile. Huh, at least I remembered that, the story of my Saturday could have been a lot worse if I had forgotten my mobile!(See what I mean about this could have been worse dilemma.)I placed my keys in my hands, plonked a hat on my unkempt hair, and my coat tried to disguise the tracksuit which boyfriend always mistakes for my pyjamas, and I drove my boyfriend to meet his football friends.
I then drove home, ready for my Saturday to begin. I had tasks to complete. I needed to clean the flat from top to bottom in preparation for our dinner guests, walk to the shops to purchase the food and drink for the evening, pop into the bank to sort a little financial matter, and then make myself look beautiful (ahem) for our guests, and finally, I had candles to light and chilled music to choose for the CD player. And then nothing else to do but await for the fun to begin.
Yeah, right!
I parked the car, ran up the steps to our home, turned the key in the lock, but nothing. The door would not budge. I tried again. And again. I shook the door. I pushed myself against the door. I took the key out of the lock and tried again. And again.
I began to panic.
I rang the doorbell to the landlords flat, the flat above us. I rang it again. But no answer. I tried the key in the lock again.
Nothing. I was panicking big style now. I had no make up on, what may seem to a passer by as pyjamas, no money, a million things to do, and I could not get into the house.
I called boyfriend.
“I’m locked out!” I screamed. And then guess what happened? My battery ran out. So, I now had no make up on, what may seem to a passer by as pyjamas, no money, a million things to do, I could not get into our house, and to top things off, the battery on my mobile was dead.
Despite screaming at my boyfriend I knew he was probably miles away at this point, stuck on a motorway, trying to reach his football match. Even if he did come back, how could we enter the house? I had reached the conclusion the top lock, which the landlord had never given us a key for, must have locked from the inside.
What else could I do but sit on the steps and panic again?
I had landlords number on my mobile, but the battery was dead, the charger was in the flat, and I could not get into our house!
I then realised how stupid it was that I was the only person who had the landlords number. Not that boyfriend could call me with the number, if he did have it, as my battery was dead, and the charger was in the flat, and I could not get into our house!
I was really panicking.
I could not even walk to the shops to buy tonights food and drink, or sit in one of the many coffee houses sipping a cafe latte and reading a book, as I had no money with me (or a book)! Not to mention no make up, what would seem to a passer by as pyjamas, oh and how could I forget the fact that I had not even brushed my hair that morning, just placed a wholly hat on it to disguise the mess.
Things were bad.
I didn’t even know a neighbour, or have a friend around the corner, whose warm house I could sit in and watch television and eat biscuits until boyfriend came home with money and good ideas. Or the landlord returned from wherever he was.
Things were really bad.
Then, like a knight in shining armour, boyfriend's dad arrived in his car, with a can of oil and a big smile.
“Mark called me and told me what happened!” he said, whilst pouring oil into the lock, convinced that was all was needed.
It didn’t work.
Boyfriend called his dads mobile. “Have you got in yet? Is Nikki okay?”
No.
And no.
I needed the landlords number. I needed that key to the top lock. I needed my mobile phone charger but the charger was in the flat, and I could not get into our house!
Boyfriend then suggested something which could be the solution to the problem. Next, I suggested something which could have been viewed as crazy, but anything was worth a shot.
We decided to grill my mobile phone. Not because we were hungry and thought plastic would taste nice on a piece of toast. We needed a power surge, as suggested by boyfriend, we needed the battery to produce enough energy to display landlords number. We needed to grill my phone, as suggested by yours truly.
Off to boyfriends dads house I went. Shaking my head in disbelief in how my Saturday was turning out.
But guess what? It worked. We felt pretty stupid in the process, but we grilled it (not for too long, a melted mobile would have been useless to the plan) but we managed to turn the phone on and display and write landlord AND landladies numbers.
I called the landlord, apologising profusely for disturbing him at work on a Saturday, and explained I needed a key that I had never been given.
He didn’t have the key that I had never been given. And he was out of the area and would not be back until very late. Horrible images flashed through my mind of hosting my dinner party at boyfriends dads with no make up on, what may seem to a passer by as pyjamas, a wholly hat to disguise my hair, owing boyfriends dad money, and a long wait until landlord came home and then decided we would need to take the front door off because he didn’t have a key either!
I was beginning to suspect everything was hopeless.
Until another suggestion was made. The best suggestion of the day. Landlord told me to knock on the door of the guy who lives in the flat downstairs, because he has spare keys, including the key I was never given!
We got back in the car, this time shaking our heads in relief, and knocked on the door of the guy who lives in the flat downstairs.
He had a key! But you will never guess what happened next. I learnt the guy who lives downstairs is a miserable, rude, and very suspicious man.
Despite telling him my misfortune, and that the landlord had informed me he had a key, and despite offering to call the landlord again whilst we stood on his doorstep, to confirm who I was and that I had permission to use the key, the guy downstairs waved the key around and declared with a red face that he was not giving it to a stranger! (We had never met before.)
I was now feeling very desperate.
I called the landlord again, on boyfriend's dad's mobile, thrust the handset into rude neighbours hand, and pleaded with the guy to speak to him to confirm identification and authority.
Reluctantly he took the mobile, spoke to landlord, tried to trick the landlord with trick questions about my name and address, and then reluctantly shoved the key in my hand.
Thank you Lord! At last.
But then guess what happened?
The key did not work.
I tried not to cry.
I decided to call landlady (on boyfriend's dad's mobile) to see if she had an answer to my problem. In other words, the correct key!
Fifteen minutes later she walked up to the house with a big bag of keys.
“Hopefully one of them will fit!” she nervously said.
Boyfriends dad and I watched with baited breath, hardly daring to move or believe that soon I may be able to walk into my own house!
The door opened on the fifth key.
The landlady explained the inside lock must be faulty and she must remove it.
You're telling me!
Four hours later, four hours behind schedule, my Saturday could finally begin.
I’ve never been so happy to enter our house, to charge my mobile, to put my make up on, and to wash and brush my hair. Not to mention the very quick cleaning I had to do, and running to the shops to hastily buy food and drink, so I could return home to light candles and choose music, and entertain our guests with my story.
Oh how they gasped and giggled when I explained my adventure. But I praised boyfriend for calling his dad, for boyfriends dad driving to assist me, and providing his grill to kick start my mobile telephone.
What would I have done without these actions? I would probably have wandered the lonely streets for tweleve hours, after I was physically removed from a shop after being mistaken for a tramp by an erratic sales assistant. The soles of my shoes would have worn out, exposing my bare skin to the dirty streets, where I would have caught a nasty infection from a diseased dog who decafated on the pavement which I had collapsed on due to no food or water for twelve solid, exhausting, awful, hours.
So yes, in theory, now I come to mention it, I guess you could agree, it could have been worse.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Ode to Blaze

I can not remember the first time I saw her. I wish I could.
I wish I could say:
It was an enchanting summer’s evening, the sun was setting the sky on fire, pink blazing colours provided the back drop to her velvety coco eyes and her brindle speckled hair.
But I can not say that, because I would be misleading you, dear readers. And that would not be politically correct. I would like to think that we are friends now, we have known each other for quite a while. And friends should never lie to each other.
So, I have to be truthful, the first time I met her I can not remember. But it probably wasn’t an enchanting evening. In reality it was likely to be as follows:
It was a grey, wet evening, she leapt towards me, damp and smelly, her muddy paws discoloured my attire. And she proceeded to lick me with her death breath.
Yes, that is probably a reasonably accurate encounter of the first time I met her.
Have I mentioned her death breath? Oh no, silly me, I am getting ahead of myself. Of course you are not aware of her hygienically challenged breath. I loved Blaze, I loved her faithful and adoring nature. Alas, with every cloud there is a sliver lining. If I could compare Blaze to a silver lining, her cloud would be her death breath.
I should stop here. I should not make the immediate thing to spring to mind when I mention the name Blaze to be swamp infected breathing.
No, there were so many other wonderful, endearing parts to her nature.
For example, the way she would proudly perch herself on your lap. She would sit, contently panting, absorbing the affection you could not help but feel towards her. Her calming, peaceful aura was guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It did not matter what kind of day you had experienced, whether it was problems at work, despondent relationships, anxiety with financial matters, Blaze would be your guaranteed 'get out' clause. A reason to be cheerful, to feel thankful for small mercies. A friendly lick, a special gaze. One stroke on her prickly perfect hair, and you would know everything would be alright.
There was a time when I thought I had lost her. During one animated evening we were too busy guzzling wine and discussing the meaning of life, that we did not see her slip away.
Panicked, like a crazy woman, I screamed, “Where’s Blaze?!” I ran into the dark night, her name echoing the silent streets, my footsteps pounding on the pavements. My terrified self entered the spooky out of bounds woodlands opposite the house by the pylon. Normally I would never have entered such a place after twilight, I would be too scared of the erie trees and the menacing bushes. But that night I did not care, I had to find Blaze. Had a wicked, monster captured her? Had she fallen, and trapped herself in the evil brambles and the disgusting mud path? I ran, shrieking around the woodland and then back into the house by the pylon, sobbing, desperate, feeling like a mother who had no idea where her child was, or what horrible fate was ahead.
It was okay. One telephone call to our friend Scaggs confirmed she was safe and sound and we had not heard him inform us he would be taking her back to his house.
After that evening I hugged her a little tighter. On top of her head I kissed her in a slightly more passionate fashion. I did not want to ever experience the fear of loosing her again.
However, dearest readers, we all know this is not a perfect world. Loosing loved ones is unfortunately part of life. It’s inevitable. As much as it hurts we must be realistic. Nothing, and nobody, lasts forever.
Not even Blaze.
Sadly she has passed away. To the big doggy heaven in the sky. And heaven is a lucky place to have her.
I can remember the last time I saw her. I'm glad I can.
The last time I saw her may not have been an enchanting summer’s evening, the sun may not have been setting the sky on fire with pink blazing colours. It was new years eve 2010 at my dear friend Sarah's house. I remember her velvety coco eyes and her brindle speckled hair. And I told her I loved her.
And I always will.
This is an ode to Blaze.
And her wonderful death breath.