Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Independence Day

I have lots of news since I last wrote. Firstly, thanks to all of those who helped out with ideas for my books - much appreciated! Of course, I’m going to need ongoing help throughout the year… I think I’ll wing it so I’ll know the books for about a month in advance. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my blog fixed too so it looks prettier! (Miss S, if you’re reading… J )
I might even be able to do something fun like get a bit of a book theme going on. Book wallpaper to make it look like a library. Hmm. Hints and tips on how to store and organise books.
Someone suggested I read the Bible, which is a great idea apart from the dubious authorage… It might take me more than a week to read as well!
I am being decidedly rubbish at the moment with books. I’ve been reading “The Lollipop Shoes” for about six weeks. Well, I’ve probably read for about six hours in all of that time. I’ve read about a million magazines and blogs inbetween too, but it’s still taken an inordinately long time for me to read a medium length book. It doesn’t bode well. I have three other books from the library I want to finish before the end of the year, too – Hallam Foe, a Sherlock Holmes one and another I’ve forgotten. Lots of reading for me over the next fortnight!

My first book, the ‘A’ is going to be “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. I urge anyone who hasn’t read it, to read it. I don’t know anyone who has read it who has disliked it. I know a couple of people who have managed the first chapter and no more, but they’re quitters. Quitters! The plot sounds a bit schmaltzy but basically it’s a love story between Henry and Clare, where Henry is a time traveller. One of the things I love about it is how brutal and physical his time travelling is – it hurts, it uses up a lot of energy so he’s perpetually hungry and it’s nearly always inconvenient. A bit like having an unusual form of epilepsy.

I had a half day off work yesterday to sit my driving test and I passed! I have to admit, it was the second time. It was different this time – I was nervous but not terrified, like I was the first time around. It helped that some plonker decided to walk out in front of me and wave through the window, and I dealt with it like a pro. As in professional, not prostitute. Still, I suppose that’s what happens when you sit your test in Lowestoft.
I still can’t believe that I’ll never have a driving lesson again. It’s been over a year of a two hour lesson every Saturday, which has been nice but I’m very glad to have my Saturdays back. Mrs Mum Charming has offered to teach me how to knit and other crafty stuff, so I probably will go over on Saturdays anyway – just not every Saturday and I can drive myself! I haven’t driven by myself yet – boring insurance type stuff. I’m a bit nervous to, to be honest. It’ll be fine once I’m in though. I’m very pleased that I’ll be able to help out Mr Charming with the drive down to the West Country at Christmas, though. The last time we went the car had four people in it and only Mr Charming could drive – now if we went there’d only be one person who couldn’t! Still, that was about four years ago now so it was about time.

Last weekend I hopped on a plane to Edinburgh to see my sister and my nephews. As I’m not spending three hours a day travelling and I’m in Norwich all week, it seemed crazy that my sister lives an hour away (by plane) and I haven’t seen her since my brother’s wedding 18 months ago. It was a whirlwind visit but definitely worth it - it’s made me determined to go and visit more often. I also saw my Dad and my wee brother for lunch on Sunday, which was nice too. Not to sound like an old lady, but it’s amazing what we can do now. My family are scattered far and wide but technological advances like the internet means we can keep in touch as if we were round the corner. Of course, nothing’s as good as a face to face chat and a good hug.

Mr Charming and I watched “Elf” while we hoisted the Christmas decorations last week. Very festive, I think the next Christmas film we watch will be “Love Actually” on Saturday while we wrap all of our presents in preparation for the West Country exodus. Yes, you may congratulate me on my organisational skills. *Smug* However, it’s down to necessity more than anything else – Saturday’s the last day we have to wrap!

I am most looking forward to Sunday. A big group of us are visitng the region’s premier independent cinema to see the best Christmas film in the whole world. In fact, it’s a serious contender for best film in the whole world. “It’s a Wonderful Life” and by Jove, it is. That’s another reason I love “The Time Traveler’s Wife” – there’s a big section where Henry and Clare watch it and describe what’s happening interspersed with conversation. The first time I read it I hadn’t seen the film, so I had to question if there really was a swimming pool under the gym floor and a moon on a stick and a violent Old Man…
That’s not all we’re doing on Sunday. Those who can/wish will be dining at a pub along the road from us and exchanging Secret Santa presents, huzzah. We decided to do that this year instead of worrying about who to buy for, and what to buy for them.
Basically, “It’s a Wonderful Life” makes me cry from the very beginning. You know, that bit where all the people are praying for George Bailey as he’s a good man, fallen on hard times? I’m welling up just writing this, big sap that I am. No doubt I will win the contest over who cries first, this year at least!

So what’s on you Christmas wishlist, dear readers? I will be sending out Christmas parcels asap (darn those of you who live far away!) so hopefully Royal Mail will deliver. Ha.
Apparently I want quite a lot of stuff. It’s all bits and pieces though – Mamma Mia DVD, Vampire Weekend CD, a year’s worth of books...

I hope Santa brings you what your heart desires.
Merry Christmas lovelies, and a Happy New Year for 2009!

xx

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

On your marks

A new year’s looming ahead – 2009.

With a new year comes a new challenge. While drunkenly contemplating the decade that some people wish never was (the 90s, for all you wonderers) my friend set me a challenge for the 365 days in 2009.

It began as reading a book a day and reviewing it on the blog. When I reminded him I actually have a full-time job, we agreed it was something I could only achieve if I split my time between working and reading – none of that pesky life stuff. That was then amended to a book a week. Easily do-able. I thought there should be an element of measure in it too – something to mark off every week as a little victory against the long haul. Happily, there are fifty two weeks in a year – and twenty-six letters of the alphabet.

With this in mind, I decided to read a book according to author first names and surnames. I will attempt to cycle the alphabet twice – once according to first names and once according to surnames – in order. This means, dear readers, that I need some help from you. Suggestions for any of the alphabet would be much appreciated – especially the tricky ones like X and Z. Zadie Smith, will do for one, obviously.

I'd also love recommendations from your own favourite books.

Apart from that, the rules are simple – read one book between Monday and Sunday each week and post a review within a decent timescale. They can be fiction or non-fiction and much-loved, well-worn copies or never read before.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Voila!

Not a great photo, but you get the idea!

What's the verdict? 

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes


After the snow fall that Norwich had this weekend, I’m suddenly feeling a lot more Christmassy than I was. Let’s face it, I wasn’t exactly scrooge-like before, so I’m basically an elf now!

The snow even inspired me to buy some Christmas presents, huzzah. My spreadsheet’s coming along nicely, especially since I employed the traffic light system… I still have no idea what to buy some people, though. I find it pretty hard to buy presents for other people that aren’t secretly (or not so secretly, in some cases) for myself. In fact, I am one of those people that has to buy themselves presents when Christmas shopping so they don’t get jealous. Sad, I know. Maybe I didn’t get enough love in my childhood or something! I’m kidding, of course. I definitely didn’t! (boom boom)

Of course, I’m not going to tell you who I’ve bought for and who is causing problems. Suffice it to say, I should have managed everything by mid-December, which’ll be nice. I like being super organised for Christmas – and we need to be this year as we’re leaving for Plymouth early on the 23rd, so we need to have finished everything by the weekend before. That’s because we’re off to the
cinema that weekend and then my work Christmas do is on the Monday.

Well, I say work Christmas do. What I actually mean is ‘one of the work Christmas dos’. At the last count, we’ve got four. Four! One huge, department event at
Carrow Road, a smaller team one at a pub in Norwich, a small team one somewhere else and another one which I’ve forgotten the reason for and no doubt will be in a pub in Norwich. Phew! This does mean that I need a new drrrrresssss. I want a strapless, electric blue prom dress, perhaps with a bow at the back. I also want a tux jacket to go over the top. Any ideas? I’m going shopping with Miss S this week so hopefully it’ll all be sorted out in plenty of time. To be honest, I could scrape by with what’s in the wardrobe, but where’s the fun in that?

Aside from the numerous, multiple work dos, I have a hugely busy week this week. Not that I’m complaining, but here’s how my week looks: Monday: Tim Minchin, Tuesday: hair makeover/football match, Wednesday:dress shopping, Thursday: The Vagina Monologues and Friday: The Waterfront for 90s night. Sheesh. It’s only Monday and I’m shattered already. Oh. Dear.
Still, I do enjoy being busy. I also have a driving lesson at 09.30am on Saturday, so I’d better make sure I only have one or two pints – there’s nothing worse than learning to drive with a hangover! The last time I did that we went to the beer festival, which was really good fun but drinking different, very high percentage ciders for 6 hours and then getting up at 7.15am to drive was not the best morning of my life.

O, we found out last night that the showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is being shown in the technicolour version. Boo. We were all set to haul fifteen of us to go and see it, exchange secret santa gifts and enjoy a roast dinner the Sunday before Christmas. If anyone has seen it in colour and black and white, I’d love to know what you thought. The stills I’ve seen in colour just look horrible – uber bright and basically, just plain wrong. So, we need a change of plan. Personally I think a pot luck at someone’s house (the one with the biggest living room) would be pretty cool – we could borrow a projector from somewhere and camp out on the floor. Pot luck would be cool too – it would mean the host(s) wouldn’t have to worry about feeding fifteen people and everyone could pitch in. I’m singing “Buffalo Girls” just thinking about it. Yay.

I spent six hours last Saturday reading “Breaking Dawn”. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the fourth in the Stephenie Meyer series about the love story of Bella and Edward. They’re ace. They make me feel like I should be sixteen again in order to read them and appreciate them properly, but in a way they make me feel like I am sixteen again. They’re well written and well thought out – it doesn’t try to hard to be clever and the most important thing – they’re funny. Bella spends the series trying to convince Edward to turn her into a vampire to stop her getting wrinkly (and so they can be together forever, blah blah blah) and Edward spends the series tying to get her to marry him before she’s a vampire, so she can have the human experience he never had. There’s more to it than that, of course, but it’s pretty funny. I recommend them to anyone who enjoys Buffy, Angel – any Joss Whedon stuff, mixed with a bit of Gossip Girl.
The other great thing about Stephenie Meyer is that (apart from having FOUR Es in her name) she lists her music playlist in all of her books, the bands that inspire her to write. I think this is great as I believe that music is extremely inspiring and can alter our mood in an instant. Just think about when you’re walking down the street listening to your i-pod and something with a fantastic beat comes on – The Clash’s Should I stay or Should I go, Kaiser Chief’s “Yours Truly, Angry Mob”, anything by Soulwax etc etc. I don’t know about anyone else, but my pace automatically speeds up, my head raises, I stand straighter and it makes me nearly dance. Anyway, the point is, Meyer’s inspirations appear to be taken directly from my CD collection – Arcade Fire, Muse and Interpol to name a few.

There are four books in the Bella/Edward saga. I enjoyed every one of them. If you’re stuck for a Christmas present, I recommend them. For you or someone else. Thanks to my good friend Miss B for introducing me to them and for having such good taste in books (and music and film!)

Say goodbye to my brown hair, friends. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will be getting my old colour stripped and a brand new colour laid on. I’m jonesing for a white blonde. I’ve wanted to be white blonde since I crushed on Dash-X from Eerie, Indiana.
The downside is that the only person I can think of with the right kind of blonde is this guy:




Although the suit is amazing, I am worried about his expression and the fact that it may rub off on me if I dye my hair his colour. I don’t think that will happen, though. It’s more likely that the hairdresser will refuse to make it that colour. Never fear, bleach savvy friends – it’s organic colour so it will be much better for my hair. I’m quite excited, though.

Wish me luck! I may post a photo on Wednesday…. Happy week, dear readers.



Monday, 3 November 2008

Walking in a winter wonderland

Firstly, my apologies to you. I’ve been meaning to write again for weeks but seem to run out of time.
I’m in the third week of my job and I really enjoy it. It feels like I’ve been here for about three days in terms of time passing – the weeks fly by as there’s so much to do. Everyone’s really nice – I’m sure that’ll change as I settle in more with the team, but so far it’s all been a smooth transition. As a whole, the team are really busy which means that I haven’t really had a chance to get to know everyone yet. As usual, smoking helps with that as you get to recognise people and have chats with them outside of work. The hierarchy disappears when you’re a smoker – if you (on the bottom rung) and the Director-General-President smoke, you’ll find yourself swapping nieces and nephews stories in no time, bumming fags from each other and co-ordinating breaks. In terms of the other people, we have a few Christmas lunches coming up so that’ll be a chance to get to know them properly.
I love working in Norwich. I’ve met a few friends for lunch already, which is great. I also get home in time for Neighbours, which I haven’t done for at least a year. Luckily, I have great friends who update me on what’s happening to who. It definitely looks different on Channel 5, though. Still, it’s nice to have the option of watching it if I want. Hollyoaks is on so late! When I used to work away it’d be a bit of a rush to get home in time for the E4 ep, nevermind the Channel 4 one. Now I have a clear hour to toddle about before the early episode comes on. Simple pleasures, eh?
There are only a few cons, neither of which go anywhere near outweighing the benefits. The first is that I don’t have time to read anymore. I used to spend nearly three hours a day reading when I was on the train, and now I spend an extra hour in bed and an extra hour watching the telly or doing something a little more productive. I know what you’re saying – I could easily set aside an hour or two at night to read. I’m just too lazy to. I am reading eclipse at the moment though, which is the third book in the Edward/Bella vampire saga. It’s pretty ace. Definitely a specific audience, but still ace.
The other con is that I’m spending far too much money! Popping out for lunch leads me into Topshop, where I buy things like this :
Shiny hat of joy
Or I go to somewhere expensive for lunch and end up paying a tenner a day. Not to mention the damage done to my waistline… Still, it’s all worth it. I just need to exercise my willpower a little bit more in the monetary and subsistence ways.

I have a bit of an axe to grind this week. How much does it cost for an overdue book? My library is upwards of £1 per book, per week. That means that I’ve regularly paid £8 for four overdue books, late by ten days. Please, tell me if it’s an over-reaction from me but I resent paying a new book for a couple of overdue books. I think my problem was that I was under the impression that you could get books out for six weeks, when it’s actually three.
That is an oversight on my part. However, I still think that the charges are pretty steep. That means that people who check out the maximum allowance of fifteen books end up paying £15 a week – more, if I’ve calculated incorrectly.
That’s another thing that’s irritating me. The fees and charges aren’t clear at all. On the website, in the library – ask a member of staff and nine times out of ten they give you a different/vague answer.
I wouldn’t grudge it so much if 1) the library was not equipped with dozens of computers complete with scanners, printers etc, none of which I use on a regular basis (ie more than once a year) 2) if the charges were clearer 3)if the library was not already funded with council money, paid for by council tax payers.
When you can get a book from HMV for £3, it seems pointless to waste money on the library.
Don’t get me wrong – the responsibility lies with me. I’m not moaning about the charges themselves – just the sheer expense of them. I’d like to complain but can’t think of a way to do it without sounding like a whiny teenager.
What do you reckon?

Anyway, on to nicer things. Christmas is just around the corner! YAY! I’m always excited about Christmas. I think, if it’s possible, I get more excited every year. We watch Christmas films, eat lots of yummy Christmas stuff (although I don’t like Christmases Cake, Pudding or mince Pies) and generally have lots of fun. I wrote a present list today. In fact, please don’t laugh or disown me due to excessive geekery, but I wrote a spreadsheet. It has people, shops, budget, items and status on it. There’s also a things to do list and a deadline. I might even incorporate some formatting so it can be pretty, shiny colours. Oh. Dear.
I’m also seeing The Black Keys in the next fortnight, in London. I saw them at UEA a couple of years ago and they were amazing. This is going to be cool. Another benefit to working in Norwich – when we got the tickets I was in Cambridge and was going to have to battle through rush hour on the train to get to London and then somehow meet Mr Charming and friends at the venue. This way we can all go together and it’ll be much more relaxed.

Speaking of relaxed – our new bed is amazing. I love it so. The top of the mattress is two feet off the ground, which is amazing when you’ve been sleeping about six inches off the ground for three years. It’s so big as well – I can stretch out and not worry about my feet sticking out the bottom. The duvet’s lush too – we got a Silentnight all seasons tog, which is basically a 9 tog and a 4.5tog duvet which you can stick together with heavy duty Velcro. It’s lovely. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to get another bed. Of course, now we’ve done that we need to get bedside tables and a couple of tall bookcases as the rest of the house looks out of place… It also took us three hours to get the old bed dismantled and drag the new one upstairs. We live in a cosy mid-terraced house – fairly standard in Norwich. The less than average thing about it, the feature which made us plump for that house in the first place, is the unconventional staircase. It runs parallel with the outside alleyway and is hidden by a door which looks like it should belong to a cupboard. This is great, and it looks lovely, until you try to get something slightly bigger than a lunchbox up the stairs. They take a sharp turn after the door, which led to a pretty stressful forty five minutes. Still, it was all worth it in the end. Suffice it to say: we’re not going to be moving soon.

Friday, 17 October 2008

And now, the end is near...

This is definitely not a complaint. First class is really quiet. It’s what libraries used to be, before turning into emo youth hangouts they are today. People in first class whisper – they even cough quietly.

Which means that when people are loud, it’s really annoying. It doesn’t help that it’s an enclosed part of the carriage either, so the noise goes nowhere. The other day I was ensconced in my book when I became aware of a hideous, grinding noise. I looked up and the gentleman beside me had decided to eschew his fruit salad to chew his spork instead. Personally, I would have plumped for the fruit.

The train was really, really full in the middle of the week because, basically, there’s never enough room for the amount of people who want to get on. Loads of people commute to Cambridge from Ely, which is only fifteen minutes away and has a really pretty cathedral. It looks like quite a nice place, but the scallies to normal people ratio is a bit high for my liking. I suppose the same could be said for Norwich, though.

Just before the train pulled off on the way home, a woman popped through the first class doors. These doors are motion sensitive on the inside but they have to be button operated from the outside. Which is cool, as then there are no pesky draughts/standard class people to bother us… So, the woman darted through and sat in a seat. At this point there were only two people in first class including me, so that was fine. Plus, my lefty guilt was seeping through as I watched the rest of the passengers struggling to stand in the crowded carriage. The conductor came round almost straightaway – pretty unusual for such a packed train. The woman immediately said “I don’t have a first class ticket, there wasn’t room to stand and no seats left”. The conductor asked where she was getting off, which was Ely. He said it was fine and then extended the question to myself and my first class companion, asking if we’d mind if some other people were to come in – just until Ely. Naturally I said yes, that’s fine. Until Ely.

In the end, only one other woman came in, who joined myself and the other woman at the table. They immediately struck up a conversation about how incompetent the train company was and how annoying it is to have bought a first class ticket and have standard class people sit there. I had to gawk at the clanger one woman came out with.

“We were de-classified once on a train from Twickenham – the train was so full that anyone was allowed to sit anywhere. Of course, it meant we had people coming in and talking loudly when we’d wanted peace and quiet”

Some people are so unaware of themselves, it’s astounding.

The other thing (this is definitely not a problem, not in the slightest) is that you’re unavoidably drawn into other peoples’ conversations. You know that Steven is going to be late home and Martin is on the 17.12 train (thanks Martin, I knew that already) and that he’s having stew for tea. I was privy to a conversation about a young lady who gets on at Thetford, the other day. Two middle aged men were talking about work – one of them called the other a muppet as a joke and his companion said” Easy, I am two grades above you”. What a horrible man! Anyway, he followed this gem up by commenting on the girl that got on – “She’s pretty”. The unspoken comments hung in the air. In fact, his eyes said more than his mouth. The disappointment was tangible that she wasn’t in a sheer negligee. Ick.

I discovered that first class does not have mere strip lighting like standard, oh no. Most of the time there is a funky Orient Express lamp and a spotlight! I have not yet used either as it has not been dark enough. I may use he spotlight today, though. Or I might try out the lamp.

I am leaving work early today. In fact, I am leaving work today. This morning was the last time I had to get up at 06:25am unless it’s Christmas. Rather fittingly, this morning was the first time I’d gotten up with the moon. I honestly thought that next door had left their security light on again (seriously, brighter than the sun and able to shine through no less than three walls into our bedroom) but on closer inspection, the moon was out. I had to check three clocks to make sure I hadn’t gotten up an hour early. Unfortunately, I hadn’t. Walking to work with the glimmers of the moon and the sun is weird. Walking home at 6.30pm in the pitch black is weird too. I won’t be doing it for much longer, though!

Honestly, it’s a bit sad that I’m not going to be here longer. At the end of the day, though, I had to do what was right for my own career rather than try not to offend some people by daring to hand my resignation in. Oh well.

I’m reading new moon at the moment, which is quite a hefty tome. A full 500 odd pages, although there’s a bit of a cheat as the first chapter of the next book is nestled at the back. Darn their tricksy ‘buy the next book’ moves. I have to go to the library anyway so I’ll have a look for Eclipse then.

I haven’t finished yet, but I’ve only got a chapter to go. Here’s what I think: not half as good as twilight. This is more forced, rushed, less sure of itself. There are some horribly glaring grammatical errors that make me wince, which could easily have been avoided by a careful proof reader or editor. Books with typos, spelling errors and grammatical errors annoy me as to me, it shows disrespect to the reader. If ‘they’ can’t even be bothered to make sure everything is spelled properly and the reader does not have to do extra work to understand the novel, why did I bother spending x hours reading it or spend my hard-earned cash on it?

In terms of the plot, though, it’s fun. Predictable and it could definitely have been 200 pages shorter, but still enjoyable. There are two more books to read after this one, and the film comes out soon! The writing is a bit laboured in this one but there are flashes of twilight’s ease and natural conversation that peek out every now and then.

I will watch the film and probably love it, although I feel that I am betraying myself by watching a film with a Harry Potter actor in it…

I’m definitely Team Edward though!

Who’s been watching Hollyoaks?

The last week or so has been brilliant . I’m not even being ironic – it’s the climax to a slow build-up which has seen a villain torment the McQueens under his own irrational sense of injustice. They’ve been unaware of this conductor of their poor fortunes. Until now. Exploding churches, dead people, people who are meant to be dead but aren’t, people who are meant to be schizophrenic but aren’t (for those episodes, anyway), family betrayal, secrets… How will they recover from their physical and mental wounds? Will anything be the same again?

See what I mean? It’s brilliant.

I’m off paintballing this weekend so I may not be with you again… If I succumb to the enemy, remember this. Be good to yourself, and each other.




Monday, 13 October 2008

Operation Neon

“We flying the first class
Up in the sky
Poppin' champagne
Livin' the life
In the fast lane
And I won’t change
By the Glamorous, oh the flossy flossy”

This has been in my head for a couple of weeks. All blame lies on Gossip Girl… In some episodes there’s a slightly camp madrigal type choir who seem to always sing slightly inappropriate ditties. A case in point – Fergie’s masterpiece. The excerpt begs the question: what the hell is ‘flossy, flossy’? If anyone knows and would like to explain, I’d be most grateful. Don’t even get me started on the atrocious grammar… Young people these days.

To be honest, there haven’t been any stand out characters on the train recently. Perhaps I’ve stopped noticing because it’s been a while now, or perhaps I’ve stopped noticing because I’ve become one of Them . It’s a good thing this is my last week, if that is the case.
I bit the bullet and bought a first class season ticket. (I wanted to keep the accidental alliteration going there but couldn’t think of a b for ticket, besides billet, that would make sense…) It was extremely expensive but I was determined to treat myself. I was even more determined when the woman who sold me the ticket confirmed twice with me that I wanted the first class (oh the flossy, flossy) season ticket and explained that sometimes trains don’t have them and I wouldn’t be able to sit in first class if it wasn’t there. I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted on being spoken to like a five year old. Oh well, the upside is I spent over one hundred pounds before 7.30am today. That must be a record.

Speaking of spending money, as an FYI, I logged onto Amazon today and my beautifully spangly converse have doubled in price, from £25 to £50! Boy, do I feel smug now.

Anyway, back to first class. It was like heaven. Slightly worn out heaven, but still, I recognised the signs of Elysium right away. First – the seats were larger, more cushioned and shaped to hold you lightly in their palms. Second – the space to chair ration was vastly different to that of the normal carriage. There are ten first class seats in the space of about a third of the carriage, which probably holds about twenty seats. Third and definitely, absolutely, the most important – there was no-one else in there. For the entire journey. Well, the conductor came to check my ticket and occasionally sauntered through to get to the little room tacked onto the end of the train, but apart from that – pas des personnes. I highly recommend it. The only thing that would make it better is to have the complimentary drinks trolley. I actually got off the train in a good mood! Un-jostled by fellow commuters and not tutted at for getting up to put my coat on and stretch. In fact, I could have done calisthenetics in the space quite comfortably, if I’d wanted.

Mr Charming and I finally got round to ordering our new bed! The last one has been good to us but it’s time to part company. We’ve had it for about 4 years and it was from the medium priced range at Argos, so it’s amazing that it’s lasted so long, I guess. We went window shopping (bed shopping?) for the bed about a month ago, and saw one we liked. It’s pretty big and about three feet off the floor, which means that you have to step up to get into it. Also, there’s loads of storage underneath, which is good news for us as we need somewhere to put our spare bedding, towels etc. The perils of renting… It’s black framed with gold knobby bits on the headboard and the foot(board?) thing. Apparently we should expect it within a fortnight or so. I’m not holding my breath – we bought it from Harveys and I had the misfortune of stumbling across customer reviews online while I was looking for a picture. There are definitely some positive reviews in there, but they’re dwarfed by the sheer volume of negative ones. Furniture takes months to arrive and when it does it’s damaged and/or the wrong thing. Eep. Still, it’s a bed frame and a mattress – how wrong could they get it?
Of course, getting a new bed means that we also need to get new duvet, pillows and duvet cover set(s). Darn. The only issue about that is that I fancy something other than plain colours and feel like it’s time we got into patterns. Of course, I’m veering towards floral and Mr Charming errs towards geometric. If only we could get geometrically floral, or florally geometric. Update soon…

I’m off to paintball next Saturday. I’ve never been paintballing so my knowledge comes from Ant being blinded by those girls and Spaced. I’m also reliably informed by friends who’ve gone that it is fun because you get to shoot people. Now, I play computer games. However, I tend to gravitate the ones with the puzzle element or the scrolling platformers like Mario and Sonic. I have no wish, no desire, to shoot people – real or otherwise. I think I’ll enjoy it but I also feel like I’m lacking the mandatory killer instinct to get the most out of it. I’m also a bit scared of the bruises. It’s my first day at work next Monday and I don’t think it’ll be a good idea if I turn up battered and bloodied. Oh well – you never know – I might discover my true calling!
Black Ops going deep – will report back when out of enemy lines. Or something like that.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Who am I?

Hello dear reader (s),

This week is my last full week working in Cambridge. My last day is actually Friday the 17th, but I’m using my half day holiday on that day. It’s Tuesday already! I thought it might be fun/scary to work out how much time I’ve spent on the train from the time I started in July until the time I’ll finish in October.

Here goes…

A grand total of 72 days, which works out at 144 journeys at approximately 1 hour and 18 minutes each way which means I will have spent 187.2 hours on the train. Eep. That doesn’t count the time taken to get to the station and back, which would add another 72 hours on to the total figure. If I assume that it cost me £65 for five days’ travel, altogether I’ve spent (or will have spent) £936. That’s a lot of shoes.

Assuming I have read three books each week, I have read 43 books since July 2nd.

Enough numbers, it’s starting to creep me out.

Actually, one last number –I asked how much a first class weekly season ticket would be. £104. Ouch. I expected it to be about £90, but to have a two third increase is a bit steep. No wonder they’re always empty. Still, it would probably mean I’d break the £1000 barrier!

My long weekend was lovely – I firmly believe that everyone would be more productive with a three day weekend. In fact, I wouldn’t mind working ten hours a day for the rest of the week if it meant I could have Fridays off all of the time. On the other hand, it may mean that Thursdays become the new Fridays and it’s even harder to come in to work on Mondays. Still, a girl can dream, can’t she?

We definitely didn’t look like this playing badminton on Sunday, but I rediscovered the simple joys of running around a court after a bit of plastic. It was fun and got us out of our pyjamas on a Sunday afternoon, which was nice. The only downside is that I worked some muscles in my bum and upper arms that had forgotten why they were created. Cue lots of stiffness and feeling like an old lady – even now!

We continued our energetic streak to bop down to The Waterfront to see Roots Manuva. Nice juxtaposition. The Waterfront must have been nearly sold out – I haven’t seen it that full for an awfully long time. Still, Rodney was good and I enjoyed the change in pace from normal Sunday evening.

I’m attempting to get a ticket for Noah and the Whale in November – if anyone has a spare or knows where there are some left for sale, feel free to let me know!

I was a model Jane Asher last night. Somehow baking soothes me from whatever mood I’m in – maybe it just re-focuses my attention onto something else, or something. Like when you stub a toe and someone offers to punch you in the face. A distraction tactic. Anyway, I attempted to make muffins that rise and aren’t rubbery. They didn’t rise but they weren’t rubbery – yay! They’re actually really yummy, although you’llhave to excuse me blowing my own trumpet, so to speak. I made the ginger loaf first, where my aim was to make it so that the top didn’t come away from the bottom. I’ve made it three times and each time it tastes nice, but on two occasions the top’s fallen off before I can get it out if the tin. This time I was determined not to end up with a Tupperware box of crumbs, so I lined the tin. Hey presto! That seems to be the secret. Personally I can’t believe it took me so long to think of that.

So the muffins were made second in the same bowl as the ginger loaf, which gave it a bit of a gingery tang. I also mashed up some plain chocolate in lieu of actual chips. They were very flat but nice. Does anyone know how to make ‘em rise? Perhaps I need to put more air in the mixture. I might try peanut putter and chocolate muffins next.

I have a feeling that people may receive baked goods for Christmas this year – so much more personal than a music voucher. I could make them pretty, with bows and sparkle.

After mourning the death of Scrabulous, I have found another addiction.Gossip Girl. I know, I know – I’m way behind the rest of the demographic. I’ve had season one to watch for a while but just haven’t had the time to watch. I got the opportunity on Saturday night, when I caught up with Samantha Who? and Gossip Girl up to and including the dare episode. Then, last night, I watched Victor/Victrola and Seventeen Candles. Hooked! It’s brilliant, like a sassy, young and cool Sex and the City. I actually like the main characters, which is nigh on a first for me. I’m currently a Serena girl but that may change. I also do not have crushes on any of the guys, but again, that may change. Three episodes ago I disliked Chuck Bass intensely – now I think he’s misunderstood.

The episodes I’m watching have French subtitles on them too, which is definitely interesting. I now want to say “bises” and I’m also brushing up on my conjugation skills. Passe Compose? Eat my dust!

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the episodes. I may even be able to get Mr Charming interested…

Bises!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ideas above my station

I am going to miss writing about the train when I walk to work. Well, I will miss writing about it but I’m definitely not going to miss getting up at 6.25am, leaving the house at 7 to walk a mile and a half in 25 minutes and then doing the same thing 12 hours later, in reverse. I may even get to see Neighbours! Although since the move to Channel 5, it looks weird. Plus, I don’t recognise anyone in it. I suppose the point is, I could watch it, if I wanted to. More to the point, I can start running again, huzzah. Theoretically I could run now, but I get up as early as I can bear now and I get home so late that I’m absolutely ravenous when I get in the door. Running as well would either mean going on an empty stomach and not having the energy to enjoy it or waiting until I’ve digested a little bit which would mean me having enough time to run, return, shower and go to bed. This does not a happy commuter make. My start date is yet to be confirmed but I assume it’ll be around the last week in October-ish as I finish in Cambridge on the 17th, which is a Friday.

However, I will still keep up with the writing – I find it really soothing and it’s great to be able to write without it having to be technical or useful or reviewed by the team. It’ll probably have more reviews though!

I got on the train at Norwich this week to find two people fast asleep on the seats. One person was hidden in a hoodie and the other had music on and was middle-aged. It wasn’t even half seven yet so I guess I’d sleep on the train too. I’d also just watched the train come in and everyone get off, so I knew that I was the first person in the carriage getting on at Norwich. Most importantly, the hoodie was in my seat! I exchanged glances with one of the quiet Natives, a guy who gets off at Wymondham and also occupies the same seat each morning. He shrugged. After a bit of deliberation I decided to wake the older gentleman by poking him in the shoulder. It took a couple of tries – he was sound asleep and dreaming, bless him. When he woke up with a bit of a jump I explained that the train was at Norwich, to which he grabbed his stuff, thanked me and got off. Hoodie followed as he’d woken up by then too. It was definitely a fun start to the morning.

I had the chance to employ some of this social responsibility I’m always talking about the other day. I can’t stand the way everyone’s happy to let everyone else wreck our communal spaces because they’re bored/stupid/whatever. In the current climate I’m definitely more careful about what I say to people, but if someone walks into me or drops rubbish, for example – I’ll let them know about it. Anyway, I was on the train at Cambridge and a boy sits in the vacant seat of the pair I’d occupied. He dumped his schoolbag at his feet and took out a card. I admit it. I peeked – it was a birthday card for his dad. He disposed of the rubbish by releasing the table, shoving everything on it and then closing the table on it. I spent the next ten minutes quietly fuming. There are bins between seats and at either end of the carriages on those trains and if there weren’t any – take it home with you! It was a bit of plastic, not anything smelly or heavy. Why should the people who empty the bins on trains and clean up after the rabble have to check every table to make sure some wide-boy hasn’t decided to squeeze their litter in there? I had therefore decided to remind this sixth former about social responsibility and consequences of actions. He got off at Ely and I waited until I knew he was going to leave his rubbish before freeing it from the table, poking him in the back and handing it to him. He took it without grace but he did take it. Score one to the responsible (and perhaps a little busybody-ish) citizen. He may have dropped it off the train, but I hope he didn’t.

I overhead a couple of hilarious phone conversations in the last week. One was from the biggest man I’d ever seen – he was TV fat and I worried about how he was going to fit in the seats, to be honest. It was snug but surprisingly easy, in the end. He got on with an equally proportioned (well, near enough) friend but the train was quite full so they had to sit apart. That didn’t stop them though – they were the loudest Geordies I’ve heard for a long time. That was entertaining in itself, but then his phone went off. The ringtone was a police siren. I kid you not, dear reader. He then proceeded to tell whoever it was that someone or other had no right to take away her money, which sounded interesting except that it wasn’t. He then enlightened the carriage with his knowledge of the local geography, announcing at Attleborough that he was “in Cambridgeshire”. In case you’re as unfamiliar as he certainly was, Attleborough’s firmly in Norfolk. I suppose, to give him some credit I wouldn’t know all of the counties in other parts of the country, but I’d at least have the sense to realise that the train would’ve crossed at least one border after an hour and keep quiet about it.

I was most fortunate to sit in front of an extremely Norfolk young man on the phone to what I can only assume was his beloved on a different journey. I can’t remember the exchange word for word, but it involved him trying to get her to meet him at the train station by employing all manner of tactics. One was emotional blackmail “Don’t meet me, I’ll walk on my own” , while another was threat “Well, I may as well just turn around and go back again”. The best one was when he said he’d get a taxi from the station and then changed his mind almost immediately, going back to his “I’ll walk on my own” effort. The funniest thing was the high pitched shrieking I could hear on the other end which increased in intensity when he started the conversation with “What you so moody for?”. The climax was definitely near the end of the call, when he said “I luv ya Chelsea” with a straighter face than she could have hoped for from me.

I’ve been thinking about treating myself again. Ooh, the cons have arrived but they’re waiting at the sorting office, boo. Mr Charming hasn’t collected them yet (it’s Mr Charming because I am as yet unqualified to drive) as the books haven’t arrived yet either and I couldn’t stomach two trips to the sorting office in a week. I hate that place. The staff seem hand-picked to be the rudest , most unconcerned employees they could hope for. I’ve had to endure numerous conversations about their weekend while they wander about looking half-heartedly for my parcel/free lightbulbs/under stamped letter and three thousand others wait behind me. They always ask for id when you could give them a train ticket and they wouldn’t care and they don’t accept debit or credit card. Who doesn’t accept card? It’s no wonder Royal Mail are in trouble. There’s a crappy hand written sign in black marker which states “Credit or debit cards are not accepted” in capital letters. The sight of that sign makes my blood boil.

I digress. I think I may treat myself to a week’s long season ticket in First Class for my last week. The seats in there are easily double the width of standard, twice as comfy and even better – there’s never anyone in there! It all depends on how much it is, obviously. I would estimate a 50% increase in the standard ticket which would make it about £95. Hmm, that’s quite steep. It would be fun though.

I read my second Philippa Gregory last week: The Other Boleyn Girl. I don’t like her writing style at all. I struggled through the monotony of the first hundred pages and managed to actually get to the end in a decent amount of time, but really I only finished it because I like the costumes. The characters are badly written and if I ever see “gleam” attached to people again I’ll kill someone. Their voices were indistinct and I had a hard time telling who was speaking, especially in scenes with the Boleyn family meetings. I found the ‘history’ aspect interesting, but I think I’d be much better off reading the actual history books referenced at the back. Or wikipedia. I remember people raving about all of the Philippa Gregory books and about how great they are. To me they’re bodice rippers with a tinge of history, which elevates their status slightly. I suppose the same could be said for Harry Potter, which is just The Worst Witch re-worked for modern audiences. That’s not to mention the countless other ‘nods’ Ms Rowling included from Diana Wynne Jones to Ursula LeGuin to Tolkien himself. While we’re on the subject, does anyone else ever feel like not jumping on the bandwagon? As if Ricky Gervais was actually marching down Oxford Street naked, and everyone stands and applauds? I’ll never understand the fawning over that man’s stand up. The Office and Extras I can go some way to appreciating, but that’s for everyone else and nothing to do with Gervais.

Anyway, enough celeb bashing. I hope to read some of my new books soon, the aforementioned Middlesex is high up there, along with New Moon and Twilight Watch. Huzzah. I should make more of an effort to look like I’m working, I think.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

No ticket

Phew, doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself?
Apologies it’s been so long since I last wrote anything – I haven’t forgotten, I’ve just been busy with other things.

GM is still being a pain. I’m really trying not to let him affect my walk as that makes me as pathetic as he is being, but it’s a bit hard sometimes. Last week I was walking a short distance behind him, but to the left, when he decided to cross the whole path in order to stand right in front of me. I wouldn’t have taken any notice but he managed to time it so I was too close to move by the time I passed him, which meant I had to “excuse me”. I looked like the villain of the piece, basically.

Speaking of which, where does everyone stand on fare dodgers? I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that there always seems to be at least one passenger who does not show their tickets when the guard passes through the train. Now, some may reason that it’s a victimless crime (akin to prostitution) but I would beg to differ. I believe, perhaps incorrectly, that the absence of cash leads to a rise in ticket prices that wouldn’t have occurred if everyone paid their rightful fare.

Yesterday I was on the homeward journey when two men got on at Ely. This station is not equipped with gates, as Cambridge is. The men sat in a double seat across the aisle from and behind me. When the guard walked through the carriage and called for tickets, neither of them moved to get theirs out. I caught the eyes of one, who looked really guilty, to me, anyway. The guard didn’t notice them sweating and ignored them.
I resolved to do something about it the next time the guard came down the carriage, for the reason I announced before. In the meantime, I thought about what I could, or should, do. I could advise the men that if they didn’t show their tickets to the guard, I would ask the guard to see their tickets. I could catch the guard and ask about procedure when dealing with fare dodgers. I could point at the two men and loudly declare “I don’t believe you’ve had the pleasure!”. The possibilities were endless. In the end, it didn’t matter because the guard didn’t appear back in the carriage between then and Thetford, which isn’t a long journey – only about 25 minutes. Regardless, I still felt that I should have done something else. I pay £16.00 a day for my train journey – why should I pay for the people who are too lazy/tight to buy their own tickets?
Just as an FYI – a single adult ticket from Ely to Thetford is £7.60*. Which means those two men lost the train company £15.20 in that twenty minute journey.
To add insult to injury, a man got on at Attleborough who obviously didn’t have a ticket either! That’s a whole £4.80* down the drain.
What can we do? Count people? Take photographs of every passenger? Have a conductor stand on the platform for every train and count the passengers who get on, then let the on board guard know how many to expect? It’s tough. But there must be a more efficient way to make sure the law abiding citizens don’t end up paying for the shirkers. Hmm, a bit Daily Mail there, I think. Still, my point is valid.

Ah. Operation Hush update – goal achieved! I have informed my employers so I feel comfortable writing about the bare bones in the public domain. I have been offered a job with a well-known employer in Norwich, which I have accepted. Among other things, it means that I will be able to set my alarm clock later than 06.25 and still get to work before 9am. Bliss. Of course, this also means that I will no longer be able to blog about the train journey to work now. However, as Miss F correctly pointed out “I can blog about the walk to work”. The posts may be shorter.
I have a notice period to work but I should be able to start my next job within the next month.

I treated myself to some things. A bit naughty, I know, but soon I will not have to spend £250 a month on travel, so I felt that I was allowed.

Blue sparkly ambrosia resides here...


Aren’t they beautiful? Thanks to Amazon for providing that link and for pointing me in the direction of shoetopia. Ha.
I also bought some books that I’ve been meaning to buy for a while, including Eugenides’ “Middlesex” , which I think sounds fascinating. Ooh, and I bought “The Fountainhead” as the last three books I’ve read have mentioned it, and how great it is. Seriously. I haven’t read anything amazing for a while. I really enjoyed “The Handmaid’s Tale” *which mentions Ayn Rand) although I’m shocked to remember it being on the GSCE reading list. Did anyone study this for GCSE and find themselves traumatised by it?

Okay, I must rush off. Thanks for reading, as always. As soon as my html whizzkid is free there will be a new blog, complete with the spangly things I have envisioned.








*prices correct at time of print.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

In the bleak midwinter

Isn’t that photograph of Norwich RC Cathedral beautiful? Norwich is amazing. This is the smaller of the two cathedrals in Norwich! It won’t be long before we see that kind of weather again – I do like snow as it looks so beautiful, but it’s terribly inconvenient.

The nights are definitely drawing in. It’s colder, wetter and I even had to dig out my winter coats this week. I know it’s a generic thing to say but really – where did the summer go? Did it ever arrive? I remember a fortnight in May where it was beautifully sunny. Never fear – next year I shall venture abroad to somewhere I can lie next to a pool on a sun lounger and do nothing. I may read a few books. Ah, the sunshine. How I miss thee.


I got my results back – I am not diabetic or anaemic. I am allergic to some nuts, which wasn’t terribly helpful as I knew that anyway. The weird thing about the results was that the test showed an allergic reaction to peanuts and not almonds, when in fact it’s the other way around. I discussed this with the doctor, who told me that my IgE level was so high that it could, and probably did, produce false positives. Eep.


In other news, Mr Charming and I have our fifth anniversary coming up soon. We have the day off from work, which is always nice. We’re not sure what we’ll do but it will involve dinner in the evening. I can’t believe it’s been that long already, to be honest. It feels like it should be no more than about three years. It’s all good.


I had another encounter with Grumpy Man the other day. He appears to have taken rather a shine to making my walk from the train station to work as difficult as possible. He’s there when I walk to the gate, out of the door and along the road to the office. I know, this does sound arrogant but honestly, the guy just doesn’t have anything else to do. So, there I am, walking to work and I cross the road to turn into the road that my office is on. Out of nowhere, GM appears and nips in front of me. He’s so close I almost trip over his heels. I tend to walk fast and I’ve noticed that people, especially men, dislike it when I overtake them. Once, a guy even ran onto the road to get round me when I’d overtaken him. Seriously. It’s not my fault that I’m usually cutting it a bit close to be wherever I need to be.


Anyway, GM had positioned himself so he was in the most awkward place possible. Directly in front of me, on a path that would be wide enough to cross on if he hadn’t insisted on walking like a gorilla. When I moved onto the grass to get past him, he moved over too. After about thirty seconds of this ridiculous dance I shouldered past him, muttering “Excuse me, please”. As soon as I did this, he crossed to the other side of the road. Basically, he’s an absolutely giant ass. It’s a shame, because there are a few Natives like him who walk the same way and get the same trains. It’d be nice to have a bit of company. Apparently he’d rather make a fool out of himself than act like a normal human being.

Speaking of which, I had company on the train the other day! It was the homeward bound train, rather than the morning one. A little early for a shopping trip, I feel. Anyway, Miss F and I rendezvoused under the station clock... Well, outside the train station, at least. It was really nice to have someone to speak to for a change. I was a bit aware that there were a couple of passengers who were particularly interested in our conversation, like the guy who came on clutching a can of Strongbow and then proceeded to stare at us for the half hour he was on the train. When he finally got off we were treated to a whiff of him as he swept past us – it’s really hard to describe the smell – old clothes, stale BO, alcohol…. You get the idea.


A little after he left two blokes stormed down the carriage. They were typical Bad Men – loud, proud and the types who would fly off the handle if someone looked at them the wrong way. As they walked past us Miss F had the pleasure of a corner of the last one’s jacket on the shoulder. He turned back. I have to admit, I held my breath for a split second. Then he said “Sorry!”. It was all a bit confusing, really. They proceeded to have a rip roaring barney peppered with suitably Northern words like ‘div’ as well as the usual suspects (begins with mother ends with... well , you get it) but then one of them announced he was going to sit down, stormed back down the train and sat down. Politely. Quietly. He even leant across to ask me something when I was making a cigarette (“Excuse me, love?”) but then decided not to and apologised instead. I reckon he wanted to ask for some tobacco but then saw that it was Cutter’s Choice and thought better of it.

It was still strange, though. I do think that either one of them would have a go at anyone who looked at them the wrong way, but they were also aware of the social environment they were in, and nodded towards that from time to time. It was a bit like the Friends kitchen phenomenon, where anything said in the kitchen can’t be heard in the living room.


Operation Hush is full steam ahead – there will be a decision around Tuesday next week, and the likelihood of the outcome being agreeable to me is 50%. Not bad odds – not as good as I hope right now, but we’ll see.





Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Human Affliction

Ah, another three day weekend. A much needed one, too. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that every weekend should be three days long. I wouldn’t mind taking a month’s less salary for a three day weekend all year round. We could have Fridays off which would mean we’d still have that sinking Monday feeling, but that would be alleviated by the half a dozen or so bank holidays scattered throughout the year.

By the way, while I remember – my apologies if there are typos in some of these posts. I do endeavour to keep it proper, but for some reason my version of Word has decided to set the default language as Welsh, which doesn’t appear to recognise any typos or come equipped with any sort of spell check at all. Any tips would be welcome, although I have already tried the obvious ones (like setting my language as English UK and making that the default) but to no avail.

Ooh, I finally got a haircut! It’s just trimmed as I’m still lusting after long, beach combed tresses. I wish my superpower was to grow my hair really fast, as well as it being thick and obedient. I just read this book which is called “Superpowers”. It’s actually pretty good.

It tells the tale of five college students who wake up with more than a hangover after a stormy night on the moonshine, and how they and the people around them cope with the changes. It lacks the clich├ęd superhero plot about the villain and how they have to save the world, but that’s addressed quite wittily. I’d recommend it if you harboured fantasies of flying when you were younger, or the other standard hero powers. It has a nice, shiny cover too.

I seem to have been on a bit of a superhero tip on my last library visit, as I’ve also read the book by the lady Shauna Reid, “The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl”. Her site can be found here. It’s an account of how she lost a shedload of weight and gained a husband over a period of about seven years. Wait, it’s more interesting than that... If you’ve ever thought about the way you look at food and decided it’s not that healthy to treat it as comfort/affection/your best friend quite as much as you do, you’ll probably identify with this.

I got to ponder the human affliction again one day last week. I reckon it was Thursday morning. We’re just pulling into Cambridge and I, as usual, politely ask the person beside me to let me out. I like getting up a few minutes before because it gives me a chance top stretch and generally get sorted before I have to get off the train and hotfoot it to the office. Plus, I shouldn’t have to justify myself! Over the past two months and eighty something journeys (ick) I’ve had a couple of people who object to me getting up three minutes before we pull into the station. The most recent was, as I’ve previously mentioned, Thursday morning.

There’s one man. He gets on at Ely, and is always wearing a black leather jacket and a rucksack. There are normally a couple of seats free in the end carriage by Ely (which is the last stop before Cambridge) but he tends to eschew them in favour of standing up. The last time I had a run in with him, he almost walked up my behind when I dropped my ipod outside of the station. Flustered, I snapped something about not actually helping and then overtook him as we walk the same route. He objected to this so much that he tried to block me overtaking on FOOT and then tried to trip me up when I passed him. Average Grumpy Man, then.

So, this Thursday, I ask the person next to me to let me out, and she gets out but goes the way of the doors. We do an awkward dance until I get past and she can sit back down again. When I reach the end of the seats (and the beginning of the door section) there is a queue of people. This consists of the GM and another passenger. There is about an acre of space by the doors, so I tap the GM and ask him to move forward, so the other passenger and I can get out of the way of the other passengers who were trying to get out too. I received a fairly typical reply in answer, where he correctly asserted that the train was stopping in a minute. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of a repeat of the first request. He moved, grumpily and didn’t even respond when I thanked him. After all, he didn’t have to move. It made more sense to and there was no reason he needed all of that space to himself – he still got out first, after all.

The other responses I’ve had when I’ve asked people to move to let me out of the seat range from sighs to feigning deafness. One woman even sighed loudly, moved to the other side of the table and snapped at her new seat mate, when she asked to move: “It’s the terminal, everyone gets off here anyway”. I had to bite my lip on that one – the poor girl looked heartbroken and I wanted to tell her that no-one has the right to tell her when she could stand up. But it’d probably be less “Dead Poet’s Society” and more “Coronation Street”.

Which leads me to the next thing I’ve been thinking about lately.

We’ve all seen them. The people who manage to maintain a double seat for one the whole journey. This relies on finding an empty pair of seats or table, and is not designed to hound people out of their seats! Here, just for you, I’ve collated some top tips on…

How to keep your seat

  1. When sitting in an empty pair of seats, ensure you sit on the one nearest the aisle. Anyone who wants to sit down will therefore have to talk to you or climb over you.
  2. Make sure anything you have that can play music, is playing. As loud as you can bear it and preferably with one ear piece hanging loose, beside your chin. This is to provide maximum volume for the rest of the carriage.
  3. Eat. Something smelly and/or messy is preferable, such as a banana sandwich or a McDonald’s.
  4. As soon as you get on, call someone. Talk as loudly as you can for as long as whoever you’re calling is free. Make sure that your ring tone is as obnoxious as possible (akin to the Nokia ringtone) and that your keypad tones are on full. Continue to call and text as many people/chat lines as possible for the duration.
  5. Grab loads of stuff and put it on the empty seat. Awkward items like paddles or big items like rucksacks are best for this situation.

Any or all of these are not guaranteed to allow you to keep your sacred space free of Other People. They will, however, make everyone in your vicinity hate your guts.

DISCLAIMER: I do not partake in any of the above practices. Nor do I condemn or condone.

On a side note, on my day off yesterday I enjoyed a bit of sunshine and a blood test. I actually had three vials taken out, which looks like an awful lot if it’s yours. There were two reasons for the test. One was for to check for diabetes, as I’ve had all of the symptoms and family members have diabetes. The other was to determine what nuts I’m allergic to and how severe the allergy is. When I have certain nuts I experience allergic reaction type symptoms – nausea, hot flushes, constricted breathing and stomach cramps.

Fun. So I should find out the results within the next week or so, I guess. I had to fast for fifteen hours before the test, which you wouldn’t think would be that hard. I could still smoke but I could only drink water, which got boring really quickly.

The other project will have an outcome within two-three weeks, too. First stage: achieved. Second stage: complete. It’s all out of my hands now, anyway.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

All you wanted to know about seating

Well, it’s been a little while. I’m definitely part of the “If you don’t have anything to say” school of thought, which I realise might be an adaptation of the conventional philosophy, but you get the gist.

There have been very few mental passengers, the Natives are still strangely absent (like the calm before the storm) and no engineering works to damp the general spirits.

Last Friday a group of what I thought were girls but actually turned out to be boys, jumped on the train at Cambridge. After five minutes of general noise, one of them remarked on the fact that there are people trying to read. At which point, Captain Bigmouth here pipes up with “TRYING to read...” After that a stabbing ensued – significant as the first one outside of London and to someone over the age of twenty-five. Not really – this isn’t the front page of The Sun, after all. We had a light hearted conversation about what to do about the one extremely loud male foetus. I suggested gagging. His friend elaborated by throwing “with a sweaty sock” into the mix. Added to that, they got off at Ely, a mere fifteen minutes from Cambridge. Bless ‘em, they were good boys – just a bit sugared up from their trip away from the ‘rents.

I have a lot of time to think, on the train. I generally fill up the time with reading and/or music (depending on the background noise and the fullness of my own brain) but it’s impossible to escape the idle thoughts. Such as – when a conductor checks your ticket for the second time in an hour long journey, why do we put up with it? Isn’t it rather like patronising the cinema only to find the lights up half way through the feature while they check you’re allowed to be in there? I realise it’s hard to keep track of everyone especially if they move around, but I always thought it was a vital part of the conductor-y type job. That and serving tea at 100mph without spilling a drop. Amazing.

You know what else is amazing? The tables on trains. How can it be that the train lurches around corners and topples passengers onto other passengers, but your full, large coffee doesn’t even break a sweat? I don’t understand. I can only conclude it must be magic – something to do with lightweight velcro. They could probably stand to make the carpet out of the same material, though.

I did have a brilliant run in with Grumpy Lady today though (hereinafter referred to as GL) who I have sat next to before, or rather, she sat next to me. You know who she is. She’s the person who makes you feel like you should apologise for not curtseying when she enters the train. As if you should throw yourself prostrate on the ground so as not to sully her eyes with having to look at your face. She also has a hell of a lot of Stuff. As in, plastic bags, laptop bags, handbags... Basically a bit of a nightmare ot sit next to.

There I was, on a half empty train, enjoying my book and whiling away the hour with odd thoughts, when the train stopped at Brandon. Before I knew it, a terse voice barked “Excuse me” while a veritable holiday’s worth of crap got dumped at my feet. Bewildered, I raised my head and pointed a slightly trembling finger to one of the empty pairs of seats nearby. When I say nearby, I mean actually directly behind her. “That one’s free” I offered, “If you don’t want to sit next to anyone”. She muttered something unintelligbile apart from the tone and sat down bad temperedly at the empty seat. The one in the aisle, so no-one else could sit down next to her. Seriously. Why would you WANT to sit next to someone when you didn’t have to? This was made all the more relevant when she spent the next half hour applying make up. After that, she compounded my hatred of trainers with a suit by changing her racy red stilletos for fugly black trainers.

Rather like the urinal etiquette, I believe there is a strict code of train seat etiquette which could perhaps be applied to any seated even i.e. cinema, gig etc.

The idiot's guide to seating etiquette.

  1. Do not sit directly beside, in front of or behind someone unless there is absolutely no room. If this means walking the length of the train/stadium, so be it.
  2. When you wish to sit down at a seat which already has an occupant (but enough room for you and/or companions) you ask the occupant if you may sit down. This may only be a perfunctory gesture, but it counts for a lot and will save your elbows on the ensuing journey.
  3. Armrests. There is one word to remember when dealing with an armrest hogger – SHARE. Very often those who sit next to the window do not have an armest – something nice to consider if you happen to be sitting on an aisle seat.
  4. Tables. There are definite pros and cons to sitting at a table if you are a lone traveller. The extra room is a bit of a con really, as you share about the same amount of space with three other people, as you would have with a dual seater.

My guideline is basically to esnure your feet do not encroach past the half-way line on the table. However, please remember that some people have longer legs and may need more room.

  1. The final rule, the last but not least, if you will – remember the person next to you is actually a human being. If you don’t have enough elbow room and want to get the pointy bits out or fancy playing mean footsie because your toes are a bit squished and you’ve spotted they’re wearing sandals – ask yourself how happy you’d be if they did it to you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been elbowed, trodden on or barked at just because someone else isn’t 100% comfortable. Believe me, I give as good as I get. But I’m so much more relaxed if someone asks me nicely to move my feet or my bag.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, if you think of any more that should be added – feel free.

Ooh, this is the first of my four day weeks. Bank holidays are pretty cool, and I have another Monday off next week,. For reasons unknown.

Book recommendation of the week: “twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. I’m a sucker (ha, no second pun intended) for teen vampire books. I definitely blame Buffy and all her scooby gang. If you haven’t heard of “twilight”, it’s about a girl called Bella who moves to a small town to live with her dad, and encounters some kids at the high school who... are a little bit different. Beautiful, dangerous and exciting – can Bella handle the pace?

I know, I know. I should write the blurb on the back of books. Before I’m thirty I want to realise my ambition of writing a Millls & Boon novel. Of course, it will probably be about high school vamps.