Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year


To you all, I wish health, peace, prosperity and happiness in 2008 and beyond.




If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don't hoard it. Don't dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly, like a millionaire intent on going broke – Brenda Francis.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Compare and contrast

I was going to call this post 'art or fart?', as it seemed most appropriate when discussing the merits of modern 'art', such as many of the exhibits at the Tate Modern. After visiting the Museum of London, which was interesting and engaging, S and I spent the remainder of our day at the nearby Tate Modern, an imposing building on the banks of the Thames. We spent most of the time muttering about the 'emperor's new clothes'. People stood and stared at a plethora of paint splatterings and blocks of colour, or sat gormlessly watching poor-quality animation or short films about absolutely nothing. They looked blank and bored. Hmm.

There were some – a few pieces – that provided intellectual stimulation and hit synaptic goals, but on the whole, well, anyone could have produced some of the rubbish in there. I say rubbish because, frankly, my rabbit could have arranged her pellets in a more meaningful form. It's an old criticism that is met by cries of 'Philistine' but it's true. And it's not because I don't get it; it's that I cannot respect and cannot recognise 'art' that is in fact no step above what Joe or Joanne Bloggs could produce given some crayons and an egg box.

Yes, at the risk of being called a raging Philistine, I ha
ve to say that on this, my third visit, I again found the contents of the Tate Modern insulting, patronising and empty. You shouldn't have to (pretend to) have an existential crisis to appreciate art. You shouldn't have to dissect something to have it say something to you, or worse, try to decide what the creator of the piece was thinking! No, art should be above such theorising. When you see a rosebud, the sea, a formation of clouds, or the flowers in someone's irises, you just understand. Art should be like that, not some elite, hidden 'style' that can only be appreciated by those who have spent two years learning other people's theories at art school or elsewhere.

All that pretentious 'what was the artist trying to say?' angs
t leaves me cringing. Often, he or she was saying bugger all, as demonstrated very clearly by the explanations proffered by most of the artists in the Tate Modern's very own video clips of people explaining their art. It was like watching sixth-formers having crises. Painful.

It would have been funny had it not been so up its own
behind, and so utterly vague. Artists saying things like: 'Well, uhm, I create these things because I like them,' and 'I, erm, like just seeing what happens when I throw colours together'. Well, that's fine: they are having fun expressing themselves through paint or balancing toilet rolls or whatever, but to read into such simple desires humanity's place in the cosmos is seeing a fine arrangement of regal clothes when the king is in fact walking around with his nadgers hanging out in the breeze.

Art turns me on when the creative work that has gone into it is relatively obvious, when you can speak about it without resorting to psychobabble, and it shows skills that leave you in awe, knowing that someone blessed with gifts that can't be reproduced, and who can fashion originality that doesn't reek of pretension, has produced beauty.


Walking out of the Tate, on to the Millennium Bridge, seeing the majesty of the glittering Thames, St Paul's Cathedral, the other bridges spanning the artery of London, and the blue lights twinkling on trees – Christmas and otherwise – was infinitely more delicious to the senses than most of what was on display the Tate Modern. Such a vista needed no labels.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Really, it is OK

I am a glass three-quarters full person.

I started off with a full glass but a little was tipped out a long time ago. It is still there, around the base of the glass.

Sometimes I see the droplets, shiny, glinting back at me, pieces of the whole, and bemoan the loss.

But really, the absence of something – the spillage – has given me room to move, to slide, to bubble and settle, and because there is a little distance from the top of the liquid to the top of my glass, it feels that little bit safer. Somehow.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Strange moaning

When I have a bad throat – a really bad, sore throat that is accompanied by a cough – I groan while sleeping. It stops me from coughing. Somehow, and luckily, S sleeps through it.

I was in bed last night, still in the throes of this annoying throat/chest virus thing, when I heard S get up. I figured it must have been because I was doing my strange moaning. I felt ill, though. My stomach was aching and I was very nauseas but couldn't bring myself to move from bed. I did that thing where you breathe deeply and slowly, and swallow down saliva, and repeat... I must have gone on like that for hours.

Ah, I should have mentioned that there is a dead mouse (or possibly two of the blighters) beneath the floorboards in our bedroom. The stench is vile. We aim to get pest control out as soon as we can. No mice have been seen anywhere, so I must assume that they have been living downstairs primarily, in GFG's place, and then head up to the ceiling to breathe their last.

Anyway, S eventually headed back to the bedroom, took a step inside and then retched when he smelled the decaying mice/mouse (I had managed to stay in the room thanks to the effects of my heavy cold; S's mum was staying in our other bedroom so we weren't able to decamp there).

S was very poorly. It turned out we had food poisoning, with S succumbing to the worst of it. He looks so little when he is ill, like a young boy. As it turned out, he hadn't left the bedroom because of my strange moaning but due to the washing machine that was his stomach. He hasn't been well since. We went out briefly today to get some air (the kitchen now also smells of ex-mouse – great!), but mostly sat in cafés like a pair of squeezed lemons.

What a combination – me with my ongoing Christmas cold, S poisoned by sausages... Just spoke to my friend, V, who is sneezing and spluttering.

'Tis the season to be unwell, it seems...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas one and all


Should be in bed, but like a small child, I have woken up and am in the kitchen. My eyes are tired, yet I can't sleep. I want Father Christmas to take away my cough/cold, which has made slumber impossible.

I am seeing whether manuka honey stirred into hot water will help.

It is December 25th. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

February? Are you sure?

A magazine to which I subscribe has just sent me its February issue. I took it out of its plastic wrapper and hid it beneath the January issue. I can't look at it yet. I mean, it will be full of Valentine's gifts. Spring clothes...

* * *

I have spent most of today in bed with a cough/cold. Many of my colleagues and fellow commuters coughed their way through last Wednesday and Thursday. One woman at work sounded plague-ridden – why she came to work is anyone's guess. I think it's rather selfish, especially when there was hardly any work to do. Such generosity...

Anyway, it was very foggy in London today. The view from my window was Dickensian, so it wasn't too difficult to stay inside. Nice and cosy.

Friday, 21 December 2007

It's Christmas, be happy!

My supermarket visit today was not relaxing. Sometimes, when I am working at home and can get there early, it is fairly quiet when I arrive. On such occasions, there is time to read the labels and scan shelves. Weirdly for some, I enjoy doing this.

But today, the place was packed with people impatiently pushing trolleys down aisles populated by those who hadn't had the foresight to make a list and loitered annoyingly, oblivious to the dozen people stuck in their wake of indecision. I carried a basket and a small shopping list but managed to fill it so that I could only lift it if I used both of my kung fu-strengthened arms.

All the checkouts were open so I put my basket down behind a grey-haired woman who was buying a feast's worth of goods and remembered that I had forgotten to but the stuff you pour down the plughole to get the water to flow faster. In the minute I was gone, the feast-buyer still had plenty on the conveyor belt but a youngish woman had wheeled her trolley up. When I slipped in to where my basket was – in its legitimate place in the queue – she snapped: "You shouldn't do that!" And thus ensued a ridiculous conversation where this sad, lumpy woman, who looked as though she sucked lime for pleasure, kept on and on about it. How, oh, the world would end if everyone did that. And, oh, how it would stop global warming if I hadn't left my basket there for sixty seconds. (Almost.)

I told her to stop being so rude and added that I couldn't be bothered to speak to her. I was amazed that such a non-happening could arouse her pique. She really must have a life devoid of any real problems if she could spare the energy to act like such a silly fool over nothing. The most ironic part was when she said: "It's Christmas, be happy!" with a scowl on her face.

I shook my head in disbelief and she changed aisle. A lovely old man with sparkly eyes and a smile then unpacked his things behind me. The woman watched from the corner of her eyes as we enjoyed some banter and laughed.

* * *

This song sends shivers down my spine. It makes me cry, every time.

RIP SS's mum.
RIP Kirsty MacColl.


Thursday, 20 December 2007

Sorrow

A good friend found out today that his mother has died.

A total shock. SS's mum, M, lived at the other end of England. Her friend couldn't get hold of M and called her son today, during the tail-end of our Christmas lunch. I'd just left but a mutual friend called me as I was on the bus and said that SS had had a call and that he'd rushed off – we live close to one another so she knew it was likely that he'd visit me and S over Christmas. We'd planned an evening of mulled wine, mince pies and games for Saturday. I'd planned to call SS tomorrow but he sent me a text message in reply to my 'please let me know how your mum is', which arrived during the surreality of my kung fu class.

The police broke the door down and found his poor mum. We had been talking about her a lot yesterday and today. He was brought up by her and has no siblings. They were due to spend Christmas together. He is driving up to his mother's place now. God...

He hasn't wanted/ been able to talk yet, and I don't feel as though I've been able to think of anything useful to say in my messages to him.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas events two, three and four

I know it's lazy. I know I said I'd write an entry for each event. But I am far too tired... And, to add to my lazy behaviour, I shall write a synopsis rather than a lengthy account for each. There is probably only so much one can say about Christmas parties, anyway.

* * *

Well, number two was a good night – it was spent at a very good curry house with 12 friends, including S. We ate a lot, drank a reasonable amount (I stuck to my quality-not-quantity-Champagne quaffing) and people laughed frequently, which pleased me as I had organised the meal.

People seemed to enjoy it more than they perhaps anticipated, which I think is better than expecting a wonderful time and feeling the slump of disappointment when it doesn't meet hopes. I wore my silver dress, which attracted a few comments. Seems that it was worth the mad hunt to track one down in my size.

* * *

Event number three was a large lunch party that fell short of the mark, mainly because it was at a Chinese restaurant and I have never been keen on Chinese food. The party – at one of the best restaurants in London, apparently – failed to impress me. Also, I was not in a great mood for the event, having been slightly arm-twisted by a friend who wanted me to go with her, as she would not have known anyone else at the lunch otherwise.

As it turned out, several people we knew were there and we sat with them and some strangers who quickly proved friendly and humorous. But I was glad to get home into my warm rooms, where I kicked off my boots, climbed out of my skinny jeans and relaxed, tiredness seeping from every pore. It has been so very cold of late... Being home was like being back in the womb.

* * *

Event four was a traditional, posh Christmas dinner, courtesy of one of my major clients/employers. Out came the (clean) silver dress again, attracting comments, including the bizarre, scowling: "If I tried to get into that dress it would come down to my ankles, but you are so tall and slim. You're such a fucking bitch." Thanks. So are you.

I was taken aback that this woman who barely knew me has spat out such a back-handed, erm, compliment. There was no irony or humour. But she was effusive in her 'good morning' to me this morning, whereas in the past she has bordered on the monosyllabic. A friend, who was considering employing this woman, was shocked, and suggested the comment was based on jealousy. How old are we?!

The 'fucking bitch' woman has stepped very neatly over my tolerance line with her charmless mouth. I had noticed (but not cared) that she excludes me from conversations – makes eye contact with everyone but me – although I have always been friendly to her... Don't really like being spoken to like that. This young lady should remember that what goes around comes around, and I know quite a few people who could give her work (or not).

S gave me and a friend of ours a lift home, which was brilliant and lovely of him. It would have been a very long, very cold night otherwise, as we all live on the other side of the capital. The silver dress is not conducive to a temperature of zero.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Fight afterwards, yeah?

That's what several of my kung fu club friends have said to me. We are going out tonight for a meal at a very nice restaurant. We're meeting in a bar first, then possibly going to one afterwards, too. But what has made me laugh is the number of people who have jested about having a fight once the desserts have gone down.

I don't intend to fight, of course. I'm not quite that obsessed with kung fu, and I haven't become a street-fighting wench. I will keep score if others wish to fight (they won't – they're actually all nice people) but if certain friends could see me now, scaring classmates, talking fighting talk and managing to get in some quick hits with much glee, they would probably think I have a secret twin.

* * *

My pet rabbit is stretched out in her soft bed, looking at me with her liquid brown eyes. Goodness, that creature is the epitome of gentleness. Utterly sweet. The animal manifestation of molasses, velvet, a fluffy hot water bottle and magic dust.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Frosty morning

Left the central heating on all night by mistake. Normally, this would turn the place into a sauna but instead it took on a mildly warmish feel. The cars outside are all white, the sun is bright but is hidden behind a mist of grey.

* * *

As I eat my breakfast, I am listening to the story (on the radio) of a 12-year-old who is writing her second book – incredible. Ah, I really must get cracking with mine. This young lady has even signed a three-book deal...

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Lalalalalala

I wriggled my toes, focused on softening my shoulders and tried to regulate my breathing. But I still found it difficult to totally relax as the dentist pierced my gum four times with his long, thin hypodermic needle. This thing was longer than my (quite long) hand. It glistened.

After the trauma of my recent tooth extraction and ensuing infection and disgusting antibiotic treatment, I can't say I was terribly eager to visit the dentist, who is a nice chap, but not one you want to see too often, especially when he has metal implements to hand. Anyway, it was OK. The process was uncomplicated enough but the noises rendered the simplicity complicated.

I wondered what I was meant to be thinking of as he prodded, poked, bleeped, crunched and, of course, drilled. I started by thinking about people who can withstand surgery thanks to their strong minds alone, eschewing anaesthetic, the crazies. It didn't help that the words driller killer ran through my head. That started images of hydraulic drills used by people who dig roads. Road diggers. That wasn't helpful.

Once the fillings were in place, I wiped my seemingly nerveless face with a couple of tissues, my mouth drooping slightly, paid and left. My next visit will be to the hygienist. Surely that will not involve blood and needles. Hmm.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I'm better than you...

I can be as competitive as the next person. But the person I am most competitive with is myself. Me.

However, I encounter people who are stupidly competitive in the context of friendships and it is terribly destructive. Like a shadow behind them that you cannot always see, you sometimes think this most unattractive trait has gone or was never there. But then, the light changes and it's there, sharp and dark.

I have one ex-friend who was idiotically competitive. She even said her new flat was in one part of London when it was in fact in another, less salubrious area. She was a miserable cow when she earned an OK wage, as long as it was one that was less than mine. She was irritated when I got engaged, wistful at my wedding and then pissed off when things got too much for her ego. They got to be too much for me, too, it has to be said.

* * *

What is it about some people that they have the manner and charm of a melted slug when 'serving' in shops? Why do they not go home and stick pins in their eyes, for surely that would make them happier? To the gnarled woman and the effete man in the small store I went in today: you are a disgrace. I will never buy anything in your store again but I may just go in tomorrow and try on 50 pairs of shoes just to make your grim little faces turn pink. Idiots.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Champagne farewell

My lovely boss took me and another employee (another freelance) out to say thanks for working at the magazine for the last few months. I told her I could only drink Champagne, so she bought a bottle for us to share. (I really can only stomach Champagne, following my treatment for insomnia... No, really!)

I had just about had enough water to feel detoxed from last night's four glasses (not exactly heavy drinking!). I retoxed with another two. I just want to eat fruit and eat good food now. I don't like feeling tired and zonked' have had enough of that with the insomnia.

* * *

The bruises on my arms from kung fu are black now. They'll heal just in time for the next class. I was glad the room was sort-of dark last night, as it made the marks less noticeable.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas event one

OK, so I'm back home already and compos mentis enough to write my blog, but I did go to a party from fairly early on this evening, where I drank Champagne. I had a few canapés as well – they were OK, not enough to soak up the few drinks I had, though, so I'm eating bread and honey now.

I wore my high-heeled black suede boots and my sixties silvery shift dress. I liked the result.

Plenty of S's colleagues were at the posh bar (it was a work-related event hosted by his workplace). It was good to see the ones I knew, funny to see the ones I'd only ever just heard about, and interesting to meet a few new people, too.

I realised yesterday that I had nearly 10 events to go to over the ensuing fortnight. These will be detailed in this blog. Going to the party has made me feel festive. I think I'll put the decorations up at the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The smelly man

I was lucky enough to get a seat on my bus to work this morning. I put my bag down and a woman plonked her wet umbrella on it. I wasn't pleased. As I settled down, an oldish man using two sticks as an aid embarked the double decker. As the bus passed the river, I stood up and offered him my seat, and stood nearby. He said thanks and sat down, seemingly amazed.

As he passed me to get to the seat, I smelled the stench of one who has lived on the streets. The woman who had placed her wet brolly on my bag glowered at me as he took his place next to her. The man played with what looked like a toy mobile phone as the stink of urine seeped from his very being. But he was just a man. What difference does it make that he was a down-and-out? He had more manners than the woman had with her frosty features and stony glare. It made me smile.

Eventually, the wet-umbrella-woman got off the bus and the man tapped me on the shoulder to offer me a chance to sit. I was getting off soon, so refused, thanking him. His blue eyes sparkled.

I wondered what he had looked like when he was a baby and his mother had held him close and breathed the very skin of him. I wondered if anyone did anything these days but simply walk away.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

People, people, everywhere, and not one stops to think

... or do they? They probably do. People.

It's funny, watching people Christmas shopping today, I wondered what it was all about, whether we are just bigger mice on bigger wheels. Signs said: 'Want it, Need it, Buy it'... And people, they bought and bought. It took an age to even get near the car park, let alone find a space. Why was I there? To buy some cards and a birthday gift. I could have waited until tomorrow and done that in my lunchtime. Ah, well.

Not many stopped to listen to the brass band playing (beautifully) in the store. They started with 'Joy to the World', then went through to my favourite carol, 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman', which makes me think of Dickensian Christmases.

On another note, I have fallen in love with Oxford. I had never been there until this weekend. The quadrangles with their perfect lawns, the tall yellow stone, the wood, the towers, the bells, took me back to dreams I had as a child, of spires, studying, silence and secret places. Christ Church was open to visitors – the hall was just lovely, with its huge Christmas tree, and the grounds near Merton College were bathed in tranquility. Utterly gorgeous.
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Listening to: Editors - The Racing Rats

Saturday, 1 December 2007

The root of the matter

Yeah, well, my gum was infected. What with the recent health sagas of late, you'd never have predicted that, eh?

I put up with the pain for a week and secured an appointment at the dentist's on Tuesday. My boss was sweet – she let me leave work nice and early, so much so that I had time to collect my car so that I could get there with ease. She was probably also worried that I looked dreadfully pained and was somewhat odd as far as the new members of staff were concerned. I can't say I was at my most conversational but they seemed to understand.

So, dentist prods around, uses a jet cleaner thing to deep cle
an the wound and says he can a) see the tail-end of an infection (I was right! I knew that pain was abnormal!) and b) that he could 'see the bone'. *faint* Did he have to tell me that? I mean.

He stuffed some soluble dressing in the hole and prescribed antibiotics. Now, you'd think that would be that. It would be for others. But no. No, no. The antibiotics made me feel faint, nauseas, deeply tired and my stomach was puffed up like a balloon. I lost my appetite, which was a relief, as trying to eat while in pain had been terribly difficult. I couldn't exercise at all this week. I had no energy.

Anyway, I took the stuff for the rest of the week and was glad to take t
he last of the bitter pills today. The pain went after a couple of days, thank goodness, so it was worth the side-effects. I can just about brush the areas either side of the gum to clean a bit more thoroughly now, too. I like a fresh mouth.

The huge difficulty, however, is that this tooth saga has been stress-induc
ed. I am beginning to realise that, actually, I do have a lot on my plate. It was when S sadly shook his head and said how awful it was that I had had to have a molar removed due to stress-related teeth-grinding that it hit home pretty hard. I don't mean that in a self-indulgent way, but seriously, I need to sort out the tangled source of my stresses – and the way I handle the (very) tough stuff. It's critical.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Dancing and pain (again)

My mouth is still hurting. Stillllllll... Ow. S and friends who have had teeth out say it isn't unusual that it is still hurting after Monday's extraction. So, instead of heading to A&E this weekend, I have put up with a throbbing jaw.

I was tempted to miss a birthday party on Friday night due to the mouth situation but went along anyway. S and I first went to visit a friend who lives on the same street as the pub at which the party was held, had cake and tea, and settled in very nicely in his warm flat. We didn't want to leave – it was so comfortable and outside was very, very cold – but we thought we should show our faces and dragged ourselves off his leather sofas.

The party was literally one of those occasions where you start off by thinking you'll stay for half an hour and then sidle off, but turned into a brilliant night, where you get to bed at 2am. The birthday boy, who was 40, played the guitar to one song and asked us all to get up and dance (he is in a band). It was excellent.

I haven't danced for months – possibly a year – and I loved it. Two of my friends from kung fu, V, and J, were also there. We laughed a lot and V and I had an obligatory play-fight, which amused the men. It was funny, though, to hear that I have a reputation among my friends for being 'most fearsome' when I spar. You wouldn't think so to look at me! I find it funny but secretly encouraging. I overheard two of my classmates talking about me while I was putting on my sparring gear in the week – they said 'Mel D's sparring, yeah, blimey we had better watch out'... I feel like I am in the Truman Show; it can't be me they're on about. Can it?

I had a couple of flutes of champagne and that was that for me (I didn't want any more than that) and did sleep well, but was exhausted yesterday, due to the ongoing blasted pain. I'm finding it rather tedious.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Forceps... clamp...

I thought I was going in for a filling. But no. The dentist said that today was the day for my tooth extraction. I had been nervous enough at the prospect of being drilled and filled, so was shaking by the time he had administered the two injections. I sat in the blond-wood waiting room, trying to interest myself in the magazine covers on the rack, and waited until it kicked in.

The nurse called me back after 10 minutes – I was convinced that surely this could not be enough time. After all, I was still walking, shaking, able to speak...

So, I sit in the large chair, am covered with the blue apron, don a pair of orange plastic safety goggles and am told to open wide. I did so, trying to concentrate on my breathing, my toes, the radio, and not on the dentist's requests for 'clamp', 'forceps', 'suction' and so on.

My tooth didn't want to be parted from me. It dug its roots in, the poor tooth, and gave the dentist a hard time. Now, following my experience of hearing my skin snipped away when I had the lump removed from my armpit earlier this year, I can add the sensation of having a long piece of my skull yanked out to my catalogue of 'things I'd rather not feel/hear, thanks very much'.

He said: 'Oh, stubborn tooth', and carried on putting what felt like his body weight on my jaw to steady it. 'Keep your head still,' he said. Hmmm. I'm afraid I couldn't do that, not while having it gripped from within and without. Just wasn't happening.

Anyway, out it came eventually, my mouth's equivalent of childbirth, with a bone-crunching whoosh and lots of blood (which I couldn't feel on my face but the nurse mopped up for me). I then bit down on wadding, which I was scared to take out for two hours, and tried not to throw up as I walked to my car and then drove to Sainsbury's to buy soft food. The cashier understood my tooth-out mime and sympathised as I paid. I mumbled back.

It is throbbing. THROBBING. And I won't even get any cash from the tooth fairy. Pah.

The dress

Well, I went out and got a dress to wear for the festive parties I have agreed to attend. It was remarkably quiet in the shops – there were parking spaces and none of the crush I had expected.

I looked in several shops and eventually happened upon a dress I liked – a champagne-coloured, beautifully cut number in a heavy material with a criss cross of straps at the back. As much as I loved it, it couldn't imagine it surviving those occasions without getting splattered with wine or food. If they had had it in scarlet or black, I would h
ave bought it immediately.

Anyw
ay, it was getting colder so I stepped up my hunt and came across one of very few dresses that didn't look like a tunic/tent. It's a lined silk satin number with beads around the neck and falling into a drape around the bust, with the waist and skirt cut on the bias, ending above the knees. It's gorgeous, elegant and striking (the picture does it no justice), and when I tried it on, it managed to detract from my coldy eyes and tired pallor. It is now in my wardrobe, waiting...

I also bought merino wool tights and a thick-knit cream merino wool zip-up cardigan to wear in the office in which I am based – they just can't keep the temperature constant and I often sit there in three layers and a scarf. Not good. Anyway, all I need now is for the postman to bring me a cheque from two companies that haven't paid me for a while, and I shall rest easier knowing that when Mr Mastercard pops round again, he will be sent away satisfied.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

More lergy, more fire, more chi

You know how some people say they wouldn't mind being ill (and even wish themselves the flu, which is nuts), so that they don't have to go to work? I don't do that.

For starters, when I am ill and at home, no one pays me, so it's almost as though I have taken time off specifically to watch the horrors of daytime television and to sit/lie feeling rough while people still call me for work reasons, seeing as I am a freelance and they know not of my lergy.

Hardly pleasurable. I mean, have you seen Deal or no Deal? I have watched it in the past but the episode I saw was just awful – and I think, horrifyingly, that Noel called the contestants pilgrims. Maybe that was my mind and scratchy ears playing tricks – let's hope so...

So, yes, boringly, I have been off work again for part of this week, with yet another virus. My throat was a gargle of Gillette, creeping up to my ear canals like snakes strapped to a pair of stilettos. I forced my way through two kung fu classes (while dosed up), thinking it would maybe be sweated out. Didn't work. I was high on endorphins but not cured. I am definitely physically addicted to kung fu now and feel restless and 'itchy' when I don't do my requisite sessions. I love it.

I'm sure the combination of a man sneezing into his newspaper, held at the right angle to capture germs and deflect them towards me, while I was on the train a week or so ago, was enough to cause this latest lergy attack. That, the icy cold weather of the last few days and the general fatigue of dealing with certain big things that I alluded to in my last post would have been enough for anyone.

In the course of my frenzied attempt to get better, I re-discovered active manuka honey, which is great. You dissolve a spoonful in hot (not boiling) water and drink it. I had a few mugs of this and swear it helped me. So much so, that I went to a kung fu class with the Master and learned some very interesting techniques, whereby you use your body's natural energy to have an effect on things external to the bounds of your skin. The technique was based on the ancient origins of t'ai chi, and the sense of calmness, while at the same time feeling energised – as though there was a fire from my belly to my throat – was amazing.

I slept like a log last night and feel almost ready to go out and see if I can find something new to wear for several upcoming Christmas parties.

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Listening to the absolutely amazing and utterly fabulous: Editors - Escape The Nest

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Hypervigilance

My friendscape has shifted, changed. Bits that were corroding have broken off, bits have been added, some bonds that had gently relaxed are stronger now than they ever were. Some remain constant, a comforting presence, like an invisible circle of hands holding you in, keeping you away from dangerous edges.

I am in a state of hypervigilance. This is what I have been told. It is likely to be related to why sleep has been such an issue for me. In a world of friends, I fear the unseen foe: the woolly mammoth around the corner, as a wise woman so aptly described it to me recently. Hearing that analogy made me laugh, even though the context of the rest of our conversation would make most people cry.

Like Madonna, (and yes, I am aware of how trite that sounds), I have a tale to tell. Sometimes I hide it well. But (keeping with Madge)... it burns inside of me. And when something burns with such intensity, you need to manage it, to create some distance from it.

It is necessary to treat such a thing as a foe – you need to keep it close enough to see what it is up to. You look into its blinking, cunning eyes, see into its darkness and the places where its tendrils have secretly snaked their way into your being, and then, only then, can you peel away the creepers, take it by the scruff of its neck and shove it aside for good.

Sometimes you bleed during the process. The process can be so painful that you are numb, and only when you are in a place of relative safety can you let yourself examine yourself and see what shape the cuts are, what hue the bruises and then – then – you begin to apply balm and dressings and although you are raw, something has changed.

A few people are aware of your tale – you don't know why you chose to tell them but you did. They clicked on some level; their strength, knowledge and compassion, perhaps invisible to others, is visible to you, and it is a relief to share such things, to see that the aftermath of the telling does not repel but in fact draws them closer.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Time and tears

I feel as though I am on a water slide, with no means of grabbing the sides, and I'm going up, down, through tunnels (some long ones) and occasionally getting splashed as the carriage moves so swiftly that you can only just make out people's faces, and places, as you pass by.

My diary is packed with things to do. The slots on my 'to do' list are filled and then struck through but there always seems to be the same amount pending. I get it done, mostly, somehow. The unnecessary things get left aside, they don't even make the list. The other stuff is a variety of nice and not-so-nice but all must be met head-on.

I know, for example, that kung fu must be prioritised, as it brings me sleep and fitness at levels I've never previously known, and I love doing it and have a few friends there. Work, well, that's just work (but I do love my job, so that's OK, too). Socialising slips in as well, as it tends to be with a mixture of people from my sporting and working lives.

The not-so-nice is another matter. That doesn't have to be booked in. It just settles in and makes itself comfortable at times. It's to do with insomnia, stress (that has caused me to grind my teeth so badly that one must come out) and suchlike. I am still on medication for the insomnia (albeit at a reduced rate), I don't drink much alcohol now (when I did a few weeks ago, I didn't sleep a wink), and my diet is pretty healthy. So, despite all the negatives of not sleeping and its effects, I have picked up some pretty good ways of coping – exercise and eating well. Sometimes, when I wake, my eyes are puffed up and the area around them is dark, but at other times, I feel and look reasonably well.

But, like one day this week, when I may have looked OK to those around me, there can in fact be a volcano brewing underneath the surface. I couldn't breathe. I felt faint. My head was swimming. It was scary. But fate dealt me a kind hand – I was writing a feature on stress – and had to look for solutions to what could have (I imagine) developed into a panic attack. So, there I was, at my desk, with breathing exercises at my disposal. I sat there, pretending to be engrossed in my work when all the while I was dragging normality and calm from where it had hidden, thanks to the serendipity of my work assignment.

I drank lots of water, I ate lots of fresh fruit and felt better within an hour or so of doing the deep breathing. But my cloak of armour failed me later, when I crumbled into tears at kung fu, as the effort of being lively and dynamic at work all day snatched my shell from me when the instructor, (who knows of my stresses/insomnia), made a perfectly innocent, kindly remark. I mentally zipped myself up, took a deep breath and carried on sparring, tears drying around my eyes.

The next morning, however, I felt amazing. Really bloody good. The endorphins, lack of rogue adrenaline, and good food in my stomach had sent me into a decent sleep, and I woke up feeling as though I could take on the world. If I could capture that feeling I would. The thing is, though, I now know the ingredients for conjuring up that feeling now, and chances are high that I will be cooking up that recipe for quite a while.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Teeth

I have been clenching my teeth in my sleep. This has meant I often wake with headaches and a jaw so tight that I must open and close it to release the muscles of my neck and face.

One of my teeth has died. This is because I grind my teeth, and a chunk of a molar broke off a few months ago.

It is a stress-related thing. Stress has killed one of my lovely teeth.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

White rabbits

'Tis the first of November, so I shall say 'white rabbits' to attract the luck fairy. Or something.

However, M is a black rabbit and is not too happy about this scenario...

Can anyone tell me where Jan-Oct went? Please?

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Odd, not even

Feeling odd today. It is as though my hands are not filled with as much blood as they should be. As I drove home from meeting my friend I had to make a special effort to grip the steering wheel. At home, I lay down.

S and our rabbit, M, were there, too. M 'clucks' when she is stroked the right way (so that you get her ears and cheeks). She did a lot of clucking and scrabbled on the bedcover with her little paws.

Well, I am stressed – the reasons are far too long and complex and
would fill a book, not a blog... So, it could be that that has caused the oddness, but it could also be that I haven't had much to eat today. I had a massive piece of cake (plus breakfast) but maybe that just isn't enough these days.

* * *

It's 17:41 and very dark outside. Why do we end BST every year?
Why do we have the same debate about how it's so very silly that we change the clocks by an hour "just for the farmers"? The farmers, who are in the minority in the UK, have the same amount of daylight as they would if the time wasn't altered. It is, surely, a no-brainer? Can we please stop mucking about with the time?

Saturday, 27 October 2007

International relations, puffy eyes and deflation

I'm meeting my friend Inz today, so we can have a rare catch up before she goes back to France. She comes over now and then to get her hair done as she has never found a hairdresser in Paris who can do her locks justice – good for me as we get to meet. It may sound indulgent to those who can walk into a salon and have an inch snipped off, or whatever, but as Inz and I know, a good hairdresser who can do more than just cut in a straight line is hard to find. Plus, it's a great reason for her to come back to London.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting a friend I've known since primary school – she is visiting from her new home in the Ukraine, so we are meeting for brunch. Due to the sleep programme (which I abused today by having an extra hour in bed), I am usually up early, so brunch will be a good use of the morning hours (especially as we have an extra hour in bed what with British Summer Time ending – annoyingly – tomorrow).

My eyes are rather puffy. They have been like this for a few days now. It could be due to the cold/crying/infection. Either way, I shall go to the chemist and buy some medicinal eye cream. I may buy something for my bruised arms and legs, too. Kung fu was tough this week. One of the classes felt like it was designed to punish us for not attending religiously (and I mean religiously). Our instructor, N, is passionate about kung fu and gets frustrated at times, accusing us of apathy. Personally, I think it's those who are sat at home who need to be told that they are apathetic, not those of us who make the effort to go along. And I do make an effort.

I feel deflated by kung fu at the moment. I'm much stronger, as toned as I could wish to be, and can hit hard and fast, but due to a lack of any positive comments, my enthusiasm has
waned. Yes, I passed my grading, but was told "that can't be right, I'll have to check that", when I revealed my results in class (even though N must have known already...). I know our performance reflects on N, but I can only do my best. Which will never be remotely good enough, it seems.

Also, one of my classmates with whom I was sparring is frustrated at having to spar with me. He wanted one of the other men to be there instead. They have more experience fighting, and are lads, so probably feel easier kicking and hitting each other. Hmm. Also, I have rarely – if ever – been praised for anything in class, whereas others seem to elicit more praise.

I don't feel as though I am dire at kung fu – in fact, I know I am improving, albeit pretty slowly – but only hearing feedback when I've done something wrong (which may be a psychological device) is wiring a synapse with negativity and it doesn't motivate me where it might work with others. It makes me wonder whether there's any point me trying. I am so tired and pouring my energy into something that makes me feel low and useless may not be helpful...

When I was ill, N commented that there "was always something wrong" with me when my friend passed on a message that I was ill, which I found incredibly hurtful. I have chronic insomnia, am on serious drugs for a serious reason, and have taken up a demanding sport. Most people would curl up on the sofa and watch TV, eat comfort food and use shopping as exercise. I do sleep well after exercising but am in the sort of mood where I am liable to snap if told off for no good reason or have sarcasm levelled at me, especially if it's to do with my health. I am resilient but I am also human, and now is not a good time for me. So, I may give it a miss for a bit.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Things I saw today...

1) A man – just like the model-esque black guy in the Coca-Cola advert, smiling and singing to his iPod as he walked home after work. He didn't look crazy, just happy. I couldn't hear him so have no idea of how he sounded.

2) A torn blanket, a plastic sheet and a small carrier bag left in a pile by a busy roadside in central London. Someone's home for the night.

3) Lavishly decorated Christmas trees in the windows of a public building. They weren't lit, but still, it is only October.

4) The view of the London skyline and the Thames at dusk. A twinkling, beautiful, historic, modern, busy, interesting, quiet (if you know where to look), wonderful place. Delicious.

Monday, 22 October 2007

I wish I was a superhero

I am stupefyingly ANGRY at this so-called 'sentence' for the 'man' who left a 96-year-old war veteran blind in one eye and so ill he must now be cared for in a home. If this doesn't make your blood boil, nothing ever will. A three-year supervision order? Are you fucking joking?????

I had to stop thinking about it on the way home as it was making me cry in public.

I would like to have 10 minutes alone with the 44-year-old fuckwitted cowardly lowlife scumbag who meted out an unprovoked beating to this old man who did nothing but 'stand in his way' on a train.

The old man walks with walking sticks. I would like to make the 44-year-old walk with walking sticks. And blind in one eye.

WHY THE FUCK IS STEPHEN GORDON NOT IN JAIL? WHY??????????????????? I hope there is a hell.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Dark pictures

My beloved digital camera is behaving strangely. It flashes – seemingly at the right time – but when you look at the image, it is dark. Don't understand it. I've fiddled with the menus and controls but it doesn't make any difference.

I poked my head outside this morning to take in the very cold air. The sun shone into my face and I pointed and clicked. That was OK. I have a picture of the glaring brightness of an autumn morning, which is no bad thing. I may have to invest in a new camera, though.

* * *

Didn't sleep much. Had just one glass of wine as we had a visitor last night, but I kept waking up to a pounding heart, feeling hot. Horrible. I'd rather be teetotal than put up with that, especially seeing as the same thing happened last Sunday, after two small glasses of champagne. What's the point?

Friday, 19 October 2007

Deterrent? Crapola

Hmm. Two years for stoning a man who then died of a heart attack. Apparently, the punishment – two years in a detention centre – will 'act as a deterrent to others'.

The boys cried and hugged their parents as they were sentenced. Call me a cynic but I'd wager the only people they cried for were themselves.

Reading about the father and son, the mundane details – that they put up a makeshift set of cricket stumps so they could practise bowling – make me want to weep and scream.

I hope the offenders' guilt, if they feel any, stays with them forever, especially when they have children of their own and realise what they stole.

Two sodding years. What a joke.

I have no doubt (judging from previous posts) that there will be people reading this who will be bursting to tell me how badly the boys' lives were/are and oh, what a hard fucking life it is, deprivation this and poverty that. Well (and yes, I am bloody furious), I'll have no truck with that, for a million different reasons. Come on, I dare you...

Estate agents are liars (not exactly a revelation)

So, I'm sitting here, in my dressing gown (yes, it is 1.30pm but I am still not feeling quite right and I am working at home, so who gives a damn?)...

I hear a rattle of keys at the front door and make a noise, thinking that someone maybe had the wrong flat, or was going to the neighbour's place, and heard: "Mell, Mell, it's [insert name] here from Estate Wankers."

Conversation through a closed door:

Me: What are you doing here?
Estate Wanker (EW): Nick left a message yesterday.
Me: I am off sick, I didn't get a message.
EW: But he called.
Me: I didn't get a message. It is not convenient now.
EW: So, we can't come in?
Me: As I said I am off sick, no appointment was made, I expect a call when someone is coming round. Will you check it with Nick?
EW: Yes, I'll go back to the office and check it.
Me: Good.

Then I called up the office and complained to the manager about the EW feeling perfectly free and easy as far as entering my property is concerned. How fucking difficult is it to pick up the phone to ask whether it is convenient?

I do not like being lied to about such things. Am furious. Suppose I was in the middle of an important interview, in the bath, or walking around with my pants on my head?

Bastards.

Which reminds me, I had a call from a different estate cretin earlier this week. She congratulated me on my 'pregnancy' on the basis of me and S looking at a few properties in the area. The idiot called me up at work and went on and on and I had to say that she had got that wrong. This is the same twunt who told me I looked like her sister and that that made her want to slap me. I really need to write some searing, arse-burning letters. Pronto.

I hate them. Idiots.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The smoke alarm

It started beeping yesterday when I was in bed during the afternoon: a short, sharp screech, just the right pitch to be heard above everything else. It then started again this morning for an hour or so, was quiet all day, and has been going for about an hour now. The sound is emitted every minute, I think.

I have been irritated by the smoke alarm and sit here waiting for the next mini-scream. A bit stupid really, seeing as it's only doing its job, and a damn good one at that. I need to buy new batteries, not waste my energy being annoyed with a clever and rather useful contraption.

As I am still not quite right, I shall let myself off for not buying the batteries today, and for forgetting to ask S to bring some home. I mean, I didn't even venture out to buy the lemons I needed.

Hmm, I shall cook some delicious M&S fish (ready prepared), put on a DVD and try to relax. Not easy, but I shall try. For some people this would be effortless but for me, when I am under the weather, I feel an absence of what I could/should/would otherwise be doing.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Words and paracetamol

Sitting here in my dressing gown with ears that prickle, a throat that is swollen and a head that is heavy, I am pondering a variety of things. (My harsh boss – me – has given me the day off, as I feel as rough as sandpaper toilet roll. I am so nice to me...)

Words is on my ponderance list: heavens, they have the propensity to cause all sorts of problems, don't they? I could write reams of words on words but to do so would be tricky at the moment due to the unconnectedness of my verbal reasoning synapses and the call of the leftover curry I'm heating up for lunch.


Curry fact: the heat from chillies in a hot curry cause the brain to think the mouth is burned, so it releases endorphins, which is possibly why so many
people crave spicy food. Works for me.

So: words. This way we have developed of communicating with
one another has evolved from non-verbal communication and grunts. Supposedly. But let's face it, non-verbal goings-on and gut feelings – intuition – can have a huge impact on us and can rule out the misunderstandings caused by words.

I set great store by my gut feeling, and the more I do so, the more it tells me, like an indistinct voice to which your ear becomes attuned. It is literally a persistent, simmering, throbbing feeling in my solar plexus, and I can know certain things (people's motives, whether someone will do what they have promised, whether something is advisable, more mundane things, too), with certainty, because of it. I consult it.

W
ho is to say that those areas of the brain about which we know nothing are not operating on what is naively described as 'another plane', but are governing such hunches and 'illogical' moments that most of us bury under a pile of steaming reason?

The trouble with words, as much as I love them, is our tendency to see what we want to see, to draw meanings according to our limited experience, and to interpret them in infinite ways. The more limbic things – the scent of one another's hormones, the smell of fear, a sense of danger – are often far more reliable simply because we do not translate these through our flawed, word-mangling, word-strangling, biased brains.

And on that note, I am going to take some paracetamol and lie down.

----------------
Listening to: Portishead - Sour Times

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Champagne

I had alcohol for the first time in six months last night – two glasses of champagne.

It tasted good.

I got home late... have slept for about an hour.

I feel awful.

It is not fair.

I am tireder than the tiredest person in Tiredland.

Tireder is a strange word...

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

People

I like watching people, and sometimes I watch people watching other people.

On my way to and from work I observe them, like ants, scurrying this way and that. All in their own secret worlds. It can make me want to cry, these people and their mysteries, weaving their way through my favourite city in the world.

Why is she smiling to herself?
Is he holding in tears, or is that anger? Where is she going? What is he thinking? Can any of them read my mind? If they can: hello...

If I listen to my red thing I feel as though I am travelling through a film script, especially when I'm in central London. Today's random shuffle began exquisitely and started with the song I most wanted to hear:

Love Like Blood (Killing Joke)
Sour Times (Portishead)
The Unforgettable Fire (U2)
Protection (Massive Attack)
O Mi Babbino Caro (from Gianni Schicchi)
Strangers (Portishead)

----------------
Listening to: Björk - Human Behavior

Monday, 8 October 2007

Broken finger, mended friendship

It's called a comminuted fracture, which means that S's little finger – which he fractured back in May, and has broken again this weekend thanks to cricket – is in pieces. He's on strong painkillers and won't be swinging a bat or catching a cricket ball for a while. Work will be tricky, too. And so is bathing (I showered him today and yesterday as he sat in the bath, his poorly hand draped over the side).

Anyway, this latest mishap (all sustained while S was fielding or keeping wicket) follows the breaking of another finger (keeping up?) a few weeks ago. That break was a hairline fracture.

So, in summary: we have finger A, which was broken in May, then healed (albeit at a strange angle), then was broken again, badly, at the weekend, and finger B on his other hand, cracked a few weeks ago but now OK. That, hopefully, will be the 'three'. Finger A is blueish red and very fat. Thinking about the shattered, twisted little bones inside makes me feel queasy. He chuckled as he told me about it.

* * * * *

My friend, P, who I have known for 20 years, drove us to have a lovely cream tea at the weekend. We had lost touch for more than five years for various reasons (I had things going on; she went abroad) but I realised in the course of our latest conversation that the good bits of P are very, very good, and that the not-so-good bits (as I had perceived them while not in a great state of mind) were really not at all not-so-good (double negatives necessary, I'm afraid). Perspective is a great thing.

Not one of us is perfect, and it became apparent to me as we chatted and ate scones slathered in jam and clotted cream that we have both grown up a lot during the hiatus. Certain insecurities are not there any longer, confidence has replaced what were growing pains, but most importantly, what made us friends as teenagers hadn't changed a bit.

I don't know anyone who hasn't said something that, if I so choose, I can perceive as hurtful. And I know I can be sharp at times (especially this summer with my insomnia, but the people who genuinely care see past my fug of deepest, darkest exhaustion; those who choose to see the negative, such as my ex-friend R, focus on themselves only, saying things like, "You aren't the only one with problems"...). Hmm, yes. Whatever. This isn't a fucking contest.

If I turn this thing round on its head, maybe P could have chosen to feel victim-y and cast me as a bad person... At the last meal we went to – a meeting of friends – weeks before she took a job abroad, I barely spoke to her despite her best efforts, and I walked away at the end of the evening, putting in place the first brick of a gap in our friendship that was actually quite damaging to me, as I added it to my feelings of being wronged. I remember it clearly. My breath rose in the air as I marched back to my car and drove to the flat I lived in alone. I'd said goodbye to everyone bar her. I don't blame myself for behaving that way, as I had stupefying things going on, but it's not a happy memory.

Anyway, when I contacted P at New Year after discovering her new mobile number (well, I'm not a journalist for nothing), I wasn't sure if I would receive a response. But I did, and when she remembered my birthday, months later, I suggested we meet. She called me up immediately and we met a week later. It was a little odd talking about big events such as my wedding to S. But it was also not odd, not painful, not embarrassing. It was OK, it was really OK. And that spoke volumes.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Fighting fit(ish) and a birthday

This week has been rather too busy. Sleep has been a friend for a few nights and a foe for the others, which hasn't helped in the light of the amount of work I've had to do lately.

I woke up yesterday with a scratchy sore throat, feeling drained and dizzy. My head is blocked this morning – I doubt I recovered from the virus thing last week. The scratchy throat thing has extended to my left ear today – you know that feeling when you have to wiggle your ear as the sensation is so deep in your eardrum? I shall ignore it. Pah.

Anyway, I am now allowed to fight. Yes. Fight! I passed my kung fu grading (though when I attended class recently I was very uncoordinated and felt about as worthy of my new belt as Britney Spears would be if she were crowned mum of the year). I was embarrassed and frustrated at my ineptness and my instructor joked that he thought me passing the test must be a mistake. I smiled but I felt bad. Maybe I should have just stayed at home and rested. But I'm not that sort of person. Even when I should be.

* * * * *

One of my dearest friends, Inz, celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday. It was a lovely gathering of people she'd collected from various times in her life. I rarely see her as she lives in France but when I do it's great. We met at a writing class in the early 90s, and clicked immediately. She is funny, lovely, caring, warm, and as cute as a button.

The music – which was courtesy of the radio – was an appropriate mixture of 70s, 80s and 90s tunes. The food, provided by Inz's mum, was delicious. It was an evening of easy reminiscing, devoid of angst, as it should be.

I got home post-curfew and walked past cars covered in condensation. Everything was that bit quieter, stiller and there was ice in the air. Autumn has definitely arrived. The ivy that was green and red is now blazing scarlet.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Poisonous waters?

Feel a bit better today, thank goodness. Maybe I sweated out the remainder of the virus – or the weird stuff that I found in my bottle of mineral water (more later) – at kung fu. Yes, there was a lot of sweat – we were all drenched, exhausted and loved every minute of it. Instructor N was on good form – tough but good-humoured – and the class was a pleasurable mix of pain and triumph.

I still have big bruises on my arms from last week's class. One is purple, one is red with a yellow patch in the middle. It was funny, N told me to "calm it down" when we were in pairs sparring. I have plenty of enthusiasm and speed but my technique needs sharpening up (as is the case with all of us). I quite like that I need to be told to calm it down w
hen sparring with a six-foot man. Ha ha.

But, yes, the water-poison thing. Well, we were out on Sunday, having a relaxed day, stopped at a café for lunch and I bought a bottle of mineral water to take away. I sipped from it. All fine. Later, I put the bottle by my bed, drank half of it and went to sleep – a fitful sleep. The next day, I felt utterly horrendous.

Before we went out (once I felt vaguely normal), I came across the bottle and found that the water was now green, slightly frothy, contained what looked like the large remains of a capsule – floating like pieces of a giant tapeworm – plus tiny purple globes of stuff.

Now, I don't know what it was – it may have been a vitamin.
All I know is that I felt like death warmed up the morning after (but then again I had been ill for a few days...). But I couldn't lift my arms or stand. Hmm. If I go back to the café, I'll only get an apology and free bottle of water, and I can't prove anything (though I still have the bottle with the now-purple water). Ugh.

* * * * *

M the rabbit had to go to the vet today. She hated it and tried to hide under the scales (she weighs 2.5kg, a fact that makes my heart melt for some reason). The vet gave her two injections and a check up. M tried (as much as a bunny can) to cling to me. It was very sweet. When we got home, she raced around, annoyed and in discomfort. I gave her a carrot top, which she ate, but I know she was disgruntled at being taken to the vet. She looks so sleepy now, poor little thing. I'm playing my iTunes favourites softly, which seem to soothe her. She likes God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, I think. One ear has swivelled towards the computer, you see.
----------------
Listening to:
Duran Duran - Rio This may seem naff but I remember being 13, in a plane, flying over the Rio Grande and listening to this song on my Walkman. Fucking amazing... "You make me feel alive, alive, alive..."

Monday, 1 October 2007

Faint – but with fab hair

Ended up sprawled in the bath in my night clothes this morning, while my hair was saturated in hair dye.

I had been having breakfast, with dye-damp hair piled on top of my head, when the blood rushed from my brain, from my limbs, and I felt horrendous. I have never passed out but must have been very close to doing so.

Had I not been in a hair-dying situation, I'd have somehow crawled to the bedroom, or called for S. But no, my tresses (and arms – on account of slumping with my head in my hands) were covered in this deep, dark stuff that was ready to be washed off, and I imagined that if I left it, it would burn my scalp away. So, cold and perspiring frighteningly, I let some time pass, barely able to move. Then, I walked – very slowly – to the bathroom, careful to hold the walls (but not stain them in the process) to keep me upright. I felt, with every step, that I might fall, and was terrified that I'd hit my head in the small bathroom, and S would find me out cold or worse. It was that bad.

Eventually, I slid into the bath, clothed, and lay there for a while. Then, with my head swimming, I shifted underneath the shower head and let warm water flow over me, which soothed me slightly. It took ages for me to have a shower as my body felt like jelly and my arms and legs were like a rag doll's. Even typing this – an hour later – my fingers feel bloodless. My face is white.

It's very odd. I've been eating well... so I don't know what caused this. I just hope it doesn't repeat as S and I have a longed-for day off and he's taking me out to a lovely place celebrate our third anniversary of nuptials.

I shall wear my red dress and damn this bizarre dizziness.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Green dress, aching head

I've succumbed to some sort of virus thing. My head feels as though it's got some kind of balloon inside that expands and causes awful pressure that blocks my ears and gives me heavy, dragging headaches above my eyes.

Trouble is, as a self-employed person, illness is not an option. But having to work when ill means that your working days are very long as you struggle to do things that would take you half the time normally, and you don't rest. Somehow (and this has happened to me several times), the weekend, or a holiday arrives and you are laid low. I spent most of yesterday on the sofa.

* * * * *

Googlers have been searching for pictures of Cecily Tallis's green dress in Atonement. I know because a couple of them have come here.

Here it is again, on the very slim Keira. It is a backless creation and is lovely. There doesn't seem to be much information about the dress out there. But The Dress, it seems, has become a star in its own right.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Clichés are based on truth

Estate agents = wankers/bastards/moneyfornothing scrotes? Well, based on my experience this is certainly the truth. All bar one outstanding chap (who I think has left the 'profession'), they have all been useless time-wasting tossers over the past five years. I would use the rudest word at my disposal but I think the words 'estate agents' will just have to suffice as a substitute.

Long story short:

1) We see a house we like – it's one we had spotted ages ago, when we were looking for our current place. It's back on the market.

2) We put in an offer – the asking price; it is accepted. We very quickly put our place on the market with the same agents, thinking they'd have the motivation and it would be easier to deal with just one firm of twerps.

3) The estate wankers (who we feel have overpriced our place but who love it) use 'summer' and 'the holidays' to account for the lack of viewings. They bullshit us, bring a handful of people round (who mess up our lovely pale carpet with their clodhoppers) and that's that.

After a few weeks, we realise that these people can't be arsed. Just can't be arsed – they don't even know if there is a service charge, whether it is leasehold etcetera... Their 'solution' is for us to rent our place out (via their sister lettings firm – hmm) so we have two mortgages on the go. In the current climate, this is hilarious, and we do not want to be landlords or have any extra stress.

4) S tells them that we are worried about the renting option, stresses to the agent that we still want the other place and would the manager of the estate wankers get back to us to let us know what the vendor thinks.

5) I casually browse the internet this morning and search for the address of the place we thought we were still buying. It's back on the market. They didn't even tell us. I am fucking incandescent and am minded to take the 'for sale' sign outside our place and ram it up the estate wanker manager's arse.

6) Today will be interesting. I feel it's time for me to wear my investigative journalist hat – again. Excellent.
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Listening to: The Source Feat. Candi Staton - You Got The Love

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Whiter than white

Hmm. So, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan is being criticised for advertising a product that can be used to lighten the skin. Apparently it endorses stereotypes. Well, stereotype, schtereohype.

If people still want to spend their money on things that make them feel attractive (however misguided in others' eyes) let them get on with it. If they are buying X or Y simply because they feel that others may view them as inferior if they aren't A or B, that's sad, but what are you going to do? Impose sanctions?

Are we going to stop brunettes buying Garnier blonde hair dye? Where are the news stories about the myriad sun-worshippers and fake-tanners who want to darken their skin (and risk bloody cancer in their pursuit of a brown 'attractive' skin)?

And, while I'm at it – why aren't we all moaning about the number of anti-ageing products around? Why is being old – and looking it – a sin? Hmm.

Save the date

I received an email yesterday. It was prettily decorated with pictures of shiny red baubles and candles and chocolate.

It was an invitation to a Christmas party, telling me to 'save the date'. Heavens. First, it was the (increasingly large range of) festive biscuits and selection boxes in late August, Christmas cards in September, and now, I must start thinking about what to wear for this bash. Apparently.

I am too tired to make a fuss. I'll just get my diary and save the date.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Atonement

Ian McEwan is not everyone's cup of tea (what writer is?)... I find his books either turgid or very good, a bit similar to my reaction to Nick Hornby, who failed miserably (in my humble opinion) with How to be Good. I am anal about books but that one went flying across the room and was sent to the local Oxfam store very quickly. The sight of its cover set my teeth on edge after about page 20.

I enjoyed McEwan's Amsterdam. Enduring Love was OK, but I didn't like it as much as the former. I didn't get as far as buying Saturday, but I did buy Atonement when it was published in hardback, years ago, on the strength of Amsterdam and the black and white picture of the girl on the cover.

I am not sure why I never read it but it may have something to do with hardbacks being a little too heavy to read on the Tube. Plus there was never enough room in my bag.

So, I decided to see the film of the hardback. I deliberately avoided reviews, didn't pay the blurb on the cinema listings much attention, and put away my irritation with Keira Knightley.

My friends (two men, who had no idea what the film was about) and I watched the first part of the film waiting... It was drawn out, soporific, threatened to be dull and full of ingredients for criticism, and I thought they'd slate me afterwards for choosing the film. But my goodness, it turned around. Some devices used in the film were irritating (the echoing "Come back to me...") but overall, bloody hell, that opening half hour was essential, just to contrast with what followed.

Keira did what Keira does best: fragile, posh and, when she was swishing about in that green dress, very English rose. James McAvoy was brilliant, as were Romola Garai and Saoirse Ronan.

The Dunkirk scene, which will be talked about for years (and has got to be Oscar-worthy), was compelling, amazing and somehow conveyed the sheer madness and horror of war through one shot (shot only once) that lasted seven minutes.

The rest of the story is difficult to describe without giving away too much. Suffice to say, when you realise what has happened, the thing for which the girl on the book has tried to atone (and its effects), it is unexpected. I am so glad I didn't read the book, or that moment would have been spoiled for me.

© Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved.

As it was, I recounted the story to S the next day, surrounded by leaves such as the ones above, and surprised myself by crying as a few scenes came to mind – the ones at Balham Underground Station (it was indeed bombed during the war on October 14 – 68 bodies were recovered from the sludge; 600 people had been sheltering...); the one where Robbie (McAvoy) is with his friend, trying to sleep at Dunkirk, the revelation, the beach... among others. Yes, this may be fiction, but people have been through some of this stuff, and it really is heartbreaking.

I'd recommend Atonement – the film – for its entertainment value, for its score, beauty, sadness and its ability to move, if you are at all movable.

Cynics will say blah and blah, but cynics always do; they are never satisfied, always superior but culturally vultural. And what's to recommend that?

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Do you realize?

I didn't really know much about the Flaming Lips. They were one of the support acts at a wonderful Massive Attack concert in London's Hyde Park a year or so ago... They performed this and rendered me speechless.

I cried my eyes out behind my sunglasses.


Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face

Do You Realize - we're floating in space -
Do You Realize - that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize - that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun don'-go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize - Oh - Oh - Oh
Do You Realize - that everyone you know
Someday will die

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Autumn

Autumn is here. This is deeply pleasing.

Mornings of sharp, bright sunshine. Breath you can see in the air, giving you feedback that you are alive.

Crisp leaves underfoot. The need to wear a coat and boots. Glossy chestnuts by the dozen, so shiny they seem to have been polished by Mother Nature... Perfectly-formed acorns, the targets of skittery squirrels.

The spectrum of colours... leaves blazing with fire before they die. Ivy, climbing up walls, turning scarlet for a few precious weeks in a scintillating display. Stunning.

The comfort of getting home from spending a day out, revelling in being warm and cosy.

Beautiful.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Excited about curry

I am so hungry. I have just done a sort of dance-type movement, having ordered a curry to be delivered from the best Indian restaurant round here.

I stooped to the floor and told the rabbit, M, that 'we are having curry, yes, we're having curry!'. She didn't even blink. But be sure that she will want a piece of chapatti – she always does.

Ah, my saliva is at the ready. I really am very excited. Mmm...

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Arghhhh

I didn't realise September 24th is just a few days away (and incorporates a weekend).

This means I have one working day left to write a feature that I have thus far thought I could finish in about eight days' time. Blast.

Gorillas in a twist

So, certain people think the Cadbury's advert with the gorilla playing the drums is racist because it was shown on Channel 4 after Brian (who, for those who didn't watch it, is black)... won Big Brother. What the hell?

Does it not say more about those whining about 'racism' that they go on about offending black people when they see a gorilla?????? How incredibly idiotic.

I watched that advert and didn't jump to thinking: "Oh, my, that's a gorilla – that's offensive to black people. Let's ban it." For goodness sake, get a grip, people. Get a bloody grip.


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Wasp in the cooker hood

It's in there, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. At first I thought I was going mad, or that the fridge was about to die. But no, a wasp is living (or trapped) in the cooker hood.

I switched it on for a few seconds and all went silent. But only for a couple of minutes.

I am so tired. So very, very tired. My back is aching. When I move, I can feel – and hear – the vertebrae crack.

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Listening to: Editors - Escape The Nest