Thursday, 29 March 2007

Paris: part two

If the second day of my Paris break was sunny and a joy to behold, the third (last) day was sunnier and the joy even deeper.

The downside was that I hadn't slept well again, really not sure why, so I switched my alarm off as soon as it sounded at 8.30am, hoping I could rest a little more. Thankfully, I had forgotten to hang the 'please do not disturb' sign over the outer door handle before going to bed, and was woken by a chambermaid knocking to see if I was there as she wanted to clean the room. It was about 9.45am. I stumbled to the door, she took one look at my sleep-swollen eyes and backed away, apologies falling from her smiling, embarrassed lips. If she had not arrived, I may have slept until past breakfast, and that would have been a waste of time, money and lovely food.

Having made the effort to stand up, I progressed to the window and was greeted by a beautiful day. So, I showered and made my way down to breakfast where I filled my stomach with some of the most delicious bacon and scrambled egg I've eaten in ages. Plus fruit, bread, cheese, pastries and lots of black tea...

I was sad to leave my garret room (albeit an executive suite...) with its stunning views and lovely interior, and sad, too, to check out. The hotel staff had been superb. I hope to return. The time I had this far spent in Paris had somehow cleared my head, given me energy and – yeah, OK – given me back my joie de vivre, which had been hiding, suffocating and fading away underneath a pile of work and exhaustion. Oh, and another thing was that people were talking back to me in French! I had studied the subject when exams woz exams – GCE O-level, not GCSE sub-level... I managed to get an 'A' and to this day regret not studying French at A-level and beyond. The language is, to my ears anyway, magical. It was rewarding to converse in French (where it all came back from, I don't know). I understood more than I could speak but I did sit my O-levels more than 20 years ago, so that was OK. It was strangely empowering.

So, today was shopping day and my first target was to buy candles at Diptyque. I sneezed after inhaling one particular version and couldn't stop, which was slightly annoying for me and the sales assistant. Eventually, I chose two that didn't cause an allergic reaction. The dapper assistant asked if the candles were for me or were a gift so I said 'a gift', knowing that they were a gift (ahem) for me... This meant they were presented wrapped in delicate pink and purple paper, tied with ribbon, and he also threw in some fragrance samples with a wide smile.

Next, I walked towards Notre Dame en route to St Paul and Le Marais again. My ultimate target was Place des Vosges, which had been too packed the previous day when I was out with Inz and V, what with it being the weekend. The sky, as the picture below shows, was clear and blue. I was even wearing sun protection cream. Yes, it really was that hot.

Approaching Notre Dame © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

Notre Dame is beautiful. Well, what else can you say? It draws visitors like a magnet by dint of what it is and where it is, surrounded by the Seine, and visible from several of the bridges that cross the river. The only thing that spoils it is the crowds of people outside its front, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover this area, to the side, where it was quieter and weirdly hushed.

Notre Dame © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

It was one of those mornings that made your eyes open wider and your lungs expand. People walked around smiling, or perhaps it could have been the case that I had a smile plastered on my face and they were simply smiling back.

Seats around Notre Dame © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

Could this street (below) be anywhere but in Paris? It was on the way to Place des Vosges, its surface still wet from the rain that must have fallen (mercifully) the previous night.

Narrow street, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

On my way, I spotted this traffic light. It made me do a double-take, especially as my long sight is no longer what it used to be. But, yes, there it was, a heart-stopping sight. The lights then went green so I stood there fiddling with my camera until the cars stopped again. People watched me watching the traffic light, possibly thinking I was slightly eccentric. Good.

Heart traffic light, Parisian street © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

And then, I reached Place des Vosges, with its archways and tiny shops and galleries, many of which were extremely expensive and exclusive. I bought a couple of things (yes, they are presents, yes, they are for me, and they were within my budget)... and had a very long and pleasant chat in French with a middle-aged man who explained the history of a company to me (in French), with me able to make observations (in French!) back to him. For that moment, at least, I felt like a bloody genius, especially when Monsieur fell for my haggling in his mother tongue. I was triumphant.

Place des Vosges, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

I had, by this point, walked for a few hours but didn't want to waste time sitting down for too long. I had Shopping to do and needed to get to Rue de Rennes to buy some presents – not for me this time, but some more things for S, who deserves plenty of extra treats for helping me through my sleeping disorder. I got on to the Metro at St Paul and got off at St Germain-des-Prés, wandered up Rue de Rennes, as per Inz's instructions, found some lovely stuff for S, which involved spending some time in a specialist chocolate shop among other places, and exhausted, went back to the hotel.

Having eaten no lunch, I stopped off for a takeaway croque monsieur and a mille-feuille from a café near my hotel and encountered the only rude Parisienne of my entire trip (apart from two snooty ones in a shop in Le Marais but that's slightly acceptable; they did at least say hello, while conveying "you cannot afford this"; little did they know, the silly idiots, I am a woman with a budget, I have not had four weeks' holiday per annum for five years and this was payback time. I felt like Julia Roberts in the shopping scene in Pretty Woman, but without being a whore, of course).

Anyway, the sour-faced café woman, who looked at me as though I was an alien, handled the pastry with her fingers and was rude (in French, which, yes, I understood).
"Take it! Take it then, go on!" she demanded, holding out her sloppy, heated, cheesy offering. Bitch. I glared at her as I left and muttered something Anglo-Saxon in her direction. While waiting for my taxi in the hotel lobby, I ate some of the croque monsieur but chucked the pastry in the bin. At least the sealed bottle of Badoit was uncontaminated by her ugly bitterness.

So, that was nearly that. The taxi arrived, I thanked the front of house staff at the hotel for a wonderful stay and before I knew it, I was hauling my bags around the Eurostar terminal trying to find somewhere to sit. I gave up on duty free – I couldn't leave my baggage, not in this day and age and all that, and my fingers were already strained and purple from the effort of carrying the things I'd bought.

When I found my seat on the train, which took longer than it should have as I was initially in the wrong carriage as the Eurostar staff hadn't bothered to number them on the outside as they normally do, I took out some paper and sketched out a storyline and characters for a new novel. The woman next to me, who was French, and had terrible halitosis, kept glancing over at my frantic writing and smiling at me. I just wanted her to keep glancing at her book and not breathe in my direction, but it was nice to be seated next to a friendly, if smelly, face.

From Waterloo, it's easy for me to get on to my London train and get home. Dear S was there on my home station platform, beaming, if looking a little peaky and thin. He had been ill while I was away. Poor S, he doesn't look after himself very well when I'm away. He eats poorly and loses his ability to sleep like a log. It was lovely to get home. I began to tell S some of my tales but as he had been – and was still – unwell, I encouraged him to sleep, which he did soundly after making protestations, while I pottered around in a state of rejuvenation, tiredness and happiness. I slept like a dream that night, too.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Paris: part one

Am writing this quite slowly because this is a French computer keyboard and also there is a woman waiting – hovering – as she wants to use one of the two keyboards in the plush lounge of this gorgeous hotel.

Good, she has gone. I mean, it is not good manners to hover. By the way, cannot find the apostrophe key hence this will all sound a bit formal.

I have had a wonderful day today. I should start at the beginning of the trip but hey, I can always fill in more detail later. (Keep mixing up the a and q keys as they are in odd places as fqr qs qn English hyphen speqking journqlist/writer goes!)

Anyway, when I arrived hier, it was COLD. Yes COLD. Like the kind of cold where you see your breath in the air, feel your fingers lose sensation and wonder why the hell you did not bring your long red woollen coat. Three degrees I think. Inz met me 20 mins or so after I arrived off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord and guided me and my heavy case to my hotel, which, it turns out is better than I could have hoped for and has really satisfied the many needs of this clean freak who values spotlessness, cleanliness and comfort in a hotel to an extreme degree. Oh, and I was upgraded to an executive suite. Mon Dieu! The view from my room is great. You get the Eiffel Tower in all its glory (and indeed it is glorious when all lit up at night; plus it gets all sparkly like a fireworks night sparkler sporadically, not sure why, but it is stunning). If you click on the one below, you'll get an idea of what I mean.

View from hotel, night, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

So anyway, after a brief visit to the flat that belongs to Inz for the time being (she's moving home soon), we had a meal at Comptoir, where Moroccan and French food is successfully fused. It was wonderful to see and catch up with Inz. However, after an early start to the day, poor sleep the night before plus the travelling process, I was deeply tired, and needed to get back to my hotel to relax, as I could barely speak (or eat) by the time we had our dessert. I was so fatigued that I wasn't convinced I could return to the hotel seule without getting lost or mugged, but it was OK bar my nervousness. The joy of standing under a hot shower and washing away that travel dirt feeling (in a sparkly-clean marble bathroom) was immense. I then phoned S for a long chat filled with details of life in Paris and London, and sank into the comfortable pillows.

As I closed the shutter and curtains before getting into bed, I wished for no repeat of rain (not unexpectedly) today. More rain and the same degree of coldness would have rendered my trip somewhat dreary, which is not what you expect from Paris.

In any case, despite my medication and underlying exhaustion, I did not sleep very well and also lost two hours due to the BST and EST time changes, can you believe, and some inconsiderate twunt decided to do plenty of door slamming at 5.30am (EST). I was extremely grateful that I had packed my earplugs and, from about 3am, slept fairly well (bar the door slamming) until 10.08am after waking from a dream in which I had slept in until a day-wasting 3.23pm. I was so happy at the sunny/ non rainy view and the decent hour at which I had woken that I (literally) jumped up and down with joy as I watched the glinting rooftops and Eiffel Tower through the window:

View from hotel, morning © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

After a lovely brunch (plenty of choice for breakfast, hot and cold, which you could get until a very civilised noon!), I took the Metro to Abbesses and walked around Montmartre for a couple of hours. Beautiful. I felt as though I had walked to the top of the world (all those stairs!) and felt as though I was indeed on top of le monde as I sat in the sunshine and soaked up and breathed in Paris. OK, so there were plenty of tourists but I'd been here many times before (this was my seventh – or eighth? – visit) and this experience was not about trying to get the entire Sacre Coeur into a camera frame, but rather centred on watching what went on around the massive white church.

View from Montmartre, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

I now think I have sufficient perspective on the city that allows me to say I have favourite parts of Paris. So, I looked for the unusual angles and corners of what is one of my preferred areas of Paris (Montmartre) before having a strange three-cheese panini thing (too stodgy) and hot choc (mediocre) lunch, then mooching some more (the area around Notre Dame and the Seine):

Park, outside Notre Dame, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

Above is the park just by Notre Dame. It was early in the day and had an air of serenity. Below, a greyish view of Notre Dame as the sun faded later that afternoon. Annoyingly, I have many superior photos but they were taken as portraits and only upload sideways despite me re-saving them after rotating them on screen. Hmph.

Notre Dame and the River Seine, Paris © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved

Later today, I met Inz and her French friend, V, in Le Marais (another of my most-loved bits of the city) during the late afternoon. We walked, talked and had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. I bought a few bits pour moi (naughty, naughty; tomorrow is meant to be shopping day...), and some extremely posh balsamic vinegar for S, who will hopefully liken it to honey. "Eet ees like caramellll..." said the sales assistant. The shop from which the posh balsamic bottles are from is exquisite in terms of its olive-y selection and price. I had no idea so many things could be made from olives. Inz and V ended up buying bottles, too, so lovely was the taste.

Finally, we sat in a café – well, outside a café – and drank thick, dark hot chocolates as we discussed the French presidential elections, British politics and the quality of hot chocolate before saying goodbye with two-cheeked kisses.

To be continued...

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Friends – episode two

Today, I spoke at length to a woman I've known since we were 13 (she is two days younger than me). We hadn't spoken for 17 years but thanks to my faffing about on t'internet, especially Google, I came across her brother, who passed my details on to D. She called me mid-morning and we chatted for more than an hour, reminiscing and pledging to meet soon.

It was good to hear news of people I'd completely lost touch with, and it was fabulous to speak to D. She sounds the same. We were
good friends for a while and share quite a few teenage memories. Apparently every time she sees Morten Harket on the television, she remembers my obsession with the man and the rest of his group, of course.

We lost touch after choosing different A-levels and then, well, the years passed at an alarming rate that has added up to nearly two decades. She knew from another mutual ex-classmate that I'm married, but I didn't know that she was a wife let alone a mum of a six-year-old girl. It is refreshing to hear that we share similar views on things. She's definitely not just her daughter's mother or her husband's wife.

Coincidentally, another schoolfriend who I got to know around the same time at high school, K, is meeting me for dinner soon. We three know one another but the two of them weren't especially close, as far as I can recall, and possibly won't have been in touch since school.

Cor, get me, all that makes me sound like some kind of (hateful) Miss Popular but it was more a case of me having more in common with K and D separately than they had with one another, and I have known K for far longer than I've known D. During the time our paths coincided, I was the 'Carrie' glue to their Miranda and Charlotte, if you see what I mean, to use a rather silly, shallow Sex and the City analogy.

I only got back in touch with K after she tracked me down via the internet, which was lovely of her. K and myself were very close friends and stayed in contact until we were around 23, when we drifted apart due to her moving away to study. She lived around the corner from me, and as teenagers we had a fabulous time plotting things to do with shy boys, as well as talking about everything ranging from divinity to 'doosies' (an odd word used by our mad form teacher). In some ways, K hasn't changed at all, which is a good thing. She's got a heart of gold.

Anyway, I'm happy to have them both in my diary again. I last saw K two years ago and am ashamed to say that I still have a present bought for her birthday in... 2005. I've bought an early gift for her birthday this year. Ah. Just remembered... I spent eight hours in Piccadilly one Saturday morning in 1985 waiting outside the BAFTA place (if indeed it is BAFTA?) with poor K to catch a glimpse of Morten, Pal and Mags. K and I had only eaten Mars bars for breakfast and were very cold and tired. K had wanted to eat breakfast at home before we rushed to the Tube but I didn't let her, saying we had already left too late, hence the Mars bars. (I still feel bad about this.)

Pal came up to me and signed my notebook. I never wrote with the pen after that, treasuring it carefully. I don't think I washed the fingerless glove I wore, either (he shook my hand!!). Ah, those were the days! I was playing up to the TV cameras something rotten, as well, not caring who saw me acting like a crazed Beatles fan (well, not quite, but I was only 15)...

Now, apropos of Paris... the pictures of the hotel I'm staying in are slick and modern, a bit like the Metropolitan in London. I shall take my camera, of course. I'm very excited despite having a 'foggy' day as far as the tiredness goes. H, the friend who had wanted to come to Paris with me is in fact going there (ish) the following week as her husband has booked a surprise EuroDisney trip for them and their son, which will be good fun for them before their second baby arrives. And my ex-Londoner-now-Parisienne amie, Inz, who is moving into a flat of her own soon, will be around when I'm in Paris, which means I'll get to enjoy lots of her company after all, which is excellent.

As for sleep, well... I didn't sleep well but I have to try to do so tonight as tomorrow's pre-holiday workload threatens to be humongous. And that, is the first time I've ever written the word 'humongous'.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Kung fu fighting

Don't mess with me. I am learning kung fu. The first session was tough going – especially the military-style warm-up – but I don't ache as much as I thought I would, and S says he feels OK, too. Those rogue sessions of yoga must have really done me some good, considering I haven't exercised much since 2003 or thereabouts.

The venue was a church hall. We had to go barefoot and run around lots and lots, kicking and stretching and punching. The lack of footwear took me back to my very early days. I can't recall having such dirty feet! Still, it was worth it. I have learned a couple of things, possibly not very well, but hey, I've only been once. S and I really enjoyed it, masochists that we are.

I have had bags of energy today but now (7.09pm), I am feeling tired. I have rushed around and done lots and planned plenty and so on. I feel almost normal if a little manic and 'bitey', if that makes sense. Perhaps it is just the shock of having some energy again. Kung fu was great for ridding me of my anger at GFG keeping us awake with her hours of DIY post 11.30pm, plus some irritating worky matters. GFG can be an inconsiderate woman, and is old enough to know better. Hmph.

Wish I could kung fu kick the Oval's stupid, slow browser so that it works faster. So effing slow. Round and round the 'loading' thing goes and although I have a username etc, I can't find where to put it in, so am being asked to register again. Except I won't as I can't be arsed to waste an hour sitting here while the bloody page loads. I can't be bothered waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. Boring. Does anyone know? Where the bloody hell are you meant to log in?????? I hate websites that fail to tell you the most obvious. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr x 10 million. So, no cricket because I can't sodding well buggery well f*cking well log in! Bollocks!

A cricket aside: weird how they are now saying that Bob Woolmer may have been murdered. My friend SS interviewed him in St Lucia last year (SS does some sports journalism and got to make a dream trip out there). He said Bob was a very amiable chap. You could hear the waves in the background on SS's tape. Horrible stuff though, this recent development. I hope it's untrue.

My forthcoming interview at the agency was cancelled by simpering Amanda who called to say she didn't have time to meet me as some other people were away and she had to go to an important meeting and she had to cover.
She probably has a hair appointment, which incidentally, is what I had today, in preparation for the flipping interview that will now be sometime in April. Grrrr. Well, bugger you, Amanda. Anyway, at least I have three rather good references ready to distribute now – my referees came up with trumps within 24 hours, which is fantastic in my book.

So, my hair now looks shaped, shiny and layered, and I can now permanently dispense with Louise (who used to manage to brush my face with her metal pronged hairbrush). I will now use the services of my new male discovery at the same salon, a 49-year-old heterosexual grandfather, who can actually cut hair without skinning your cheeks. He got a bit emotional when he told me about the poor treatment his late father had had in hospital and I of course, got on to my hobby horse and rode around on my opinions, fuming for the poor man and his family. Louise was on holiday this week. I'm pleased. She does all that tedious, mind-numbing, knuckle-crackling where do you go for holidays/ what do you do/ you going anywhere nice tonight/ where do you live stuff that makes you want to run to the sink with a plugged-in hairdryer and the person in question – Louise – while wearing an insulated rubber suit, of course.

Ah, I feel much better for getting that all out. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, 18 March 2007


We went to Leith Hill, the highest point in the southeast, followed by National Trust property Polesden Lacey today (no pics as my camera batteries ran out, annoyingly). According to what I've just read, it was on the summit of Leith Hill in 851 that Ethelwulf, father of Alfred the Great, defeated the Danes who were heading to Winchester, having had their way in Canterbury and London. The day was windy and sharply sunny, progressively colder as the hours passed. Hail, sleet and snow all feel in small amounts by 4pm but it's just cold now. No snow, yet.

The view from the top of the Leith Hill tower was good – you could almost make out the jagged tops of the buildings at Canary Wharf, the smooth curve of the Wembley arch, and possibly the sea. On a clearer day, these would have appeared more distinct, no doubt. It was very windy and I was glad of my hat. Also, I was almost sick on the walk up, perhaps because of the medicine, I'm not really sure.

Polesden Lacey had an inviting atmosphere, unlike some NT stately homes that can seem somewhat austere. It felt warm, possibly helped by the deep brown wooden panels and sumptuous, plush crimson drapes, and when the NT volunteer wound up the gramophone, you could close your eyes and feel as though time had stopped. The rooms – visited by the late King George VI and his Queen during their honeymoon – would have been filled with ladies and gentlemen dressed exquisitely, every detail of their clothing attended to and properly arranged. The dining room and the drawing room (well, the one with the large chandelier) struck me especially in terms of their beauty. Pictures of people long gone decorated walls and sideboards – people with straight backs and no-nonsense values. The place had just opened today after its winter cleaning recess, and the efforts were not unnoticed. Every colour was bright and the surfaces shone. When the weather is warmer we'll visit the gardens.

On arriving back home at 4.30pm, I lay down on the bed and fell asleep for four hours. S came in at one point and whispered that the Pakistani team's cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, had been found dead, but this sad news seemed simply like part of a surreal dream at the time. I was surprised to see the time when I finally did wake.

Closer to home – inside it in fact – the rabbits have forged a strong bond. They snuggle and follow one another around. It is wonderful to watch. Yesterday, I tried to get hold of the younger bun to groom her but she raced to her companion's side and sat there, pressing her soft pale body into that of the black, silky rex who proceeded to growl – yes, growl – when I tried to get hold of her lagomorph best friend.

Saturday, 17 March 2007


The good things about today are S's patience, my eternally caring parents (even though they are abroad) and the friends who really know me (and care). Also, my rabbits make me smile, as does the spring sunshine, and the garden, in which I have spent more time today – it looks lovely now with its small seating area surrounded by patio plants. Simple but effective.

I haven't yet heard back from H, who said she would like to come to Paris with me for a short break if she can. She said she would check the situation with her husband (she has a little boy, so it may be a little tricky, logistically). My dear friend, Inz, who lives in Paris, is moving home when I'm planning on going there (if I do indeed make the trip), so she may not be around much, which is obviously understandable as she will be up to her eyes in organising her move. Bad timing on my part, really.

Another close friend, R, is now unexpectedly freelance as opposed to a well-paid staffer due to being shafted by her company, and is strapped for cash, which is fair enough. It's sad though, as she and I have shared some brilliant holidays over the years – she is great, relaxed company. LA, a kindred spirit who I first knew as a penpal, lives across the Atlantic. And my dear S can't have any holiday as April is his busiest month. Typical.

Some of my friends are the kind I meet for meals, wine (often Champagne if we feel flush) and usually a good helping of laughter in Covent Garden or Chelsea every few months; others live locally so we regularly have a chance to catch up over a cup of tea and cake. We do, literally, meet for tea and cake. Very civilised. There are also the ones who I have known since schooldays and with whom no gap of time causes any awkwardness.
Others have turned into email friends lately, now bordering on acquaintanceship. One old friend has reappeared, which is nice. I've known her since we were four and made pictures with paint handprints.

There are a couple of people
I haven't seen for a while, which is sad, and I have suggested meetings/ venues and times that might just accommodate their needs, but in the absence of much effort, or possibly will, from them, well, maybe I should now stop trying. Everyone's busy but priorities differ. And people do grow apart.

I slept better but am feeling very irritable and slightly upset today. As you may be able to tell.

Friday, 16 March 2007

New business?

Went to the bank to sort out my business account, as per the taxman's requests and all that. But I'm now beginning to worry that I won't have any business, post April, to have to account for.

I keep writing stuff in this entry and deleting it. I can't explain how I feel, except to say very frustrated.

I was offered some work for 'after next week' but my holiday, which I must take, gets in the way, as do a few shifts I've got lined up mid-April. My holiday is now a problem. God, that depresses me deeply. Now, some other person – the golden boy, by all accounts, who seems to be permanently on standby – will likely get this work that I had started counting on after it was mentioned to me yesterday.

I've slaved so hard lately, it would just be nice to have some stuff lined up so that after my holiday, the first thing I'm doing is not hunting for work. The person who is commissioning the work, J, a friend, is going to do his best to try to wangle it so the work comes my way, but I don't know if the people who commission him will wait. They are all soooo busy but yet it will take them ages to get back with any amendments that need making, expecting the writer to drop everything and do it all by tomorrow! None of this is J's fault. I've possibly been an awkward, annoying sod as far as he is concerned but other people in my (currently tottery) shoes might feel the same way when faced with such inconsistent corporate rigidity. I'm also a bit hurt that I'm not on this organisation's A-list after working there for as long as I did (or, if I am on the list, no one ever tells me!). I get occasional "C and L think you are great!" but such comments come from people with at least three degrees of separation from the sources.

The organisation in question has made me jump through hoops lately for other projects (moving deadlines etc), and I've been far more flexible than most people would put up with (I have to fit around their holidays/ days off etc). But it seems I lose out as hey, now I have a fucking holiday, and I have a few shifts booked. I want to scream. You can guarantee that these people will subsequently work at a snail's pace and... grrrrrrr... I must stop thinking about this now. Maybe they will be accommodating if they want me. This latest episode is not what I need right now. I do not need to feel deflated and at the mercy of other people's vagaries. I've had that and am done with it. This may all sound a bit over-dramatic but when you are clutching on to what you can in terms of life's certainties (and by that I mean Maslow's low-level essentials, such as having money coming in to buy food and shelter/ pay bills in 2007 speak), having a solid patch of work ahead looms like a large, sweet carrot. I defy anyone to try feeling level-headed and calm with months and months of sleep deficit hanging over their head.

The agency may also find me something new, and better; they were impressed by my CV and I know I am good at what I do, so those others who don't realise it and don't appreciate me can get stuffed. I need to get some work references to take along with me but don't want to ask anyone, or, rather, don't know who to approach. I asked lots of people for testimonials for my website and only four bothered to get back to me with anything I could use, one of these four has promised me a glowing reference but she has since forgotten all about it. Must email her. Maybe the rest of them find it all a bit too embarrassing. Hmm. I wouldn't have just not bothered to get back to such a request if the boot had been on the other foot, that's for sure. This is work, for goodness sake!

But that's me, I am a mug. I suppose I need to look out for number one a bit (much?) more. Right now, I feel like a bloody fool, sorting out other people's lives and evidently neglecting my own along the way. I am almost always the one to call, email, make arrangements, pick this or that up, meet at place X instead of place Y, be nice for the neighbours even though I'm ill, give glowing references, get people work/ ideas that I could act on myself, conjure up plans to make others' lives easier, research stuff that could help them with various problems, that sort of caboodle.

So, what is the point of being nicey-nicey and helpful all the time? Most people only look after themselves, and you are simply incidental. End of. This makes me feel like crying. I need to just get over it and stop expecting too much. "That way, you're never disappointed..." How many people have told me that?! Plenty. But the thing is, never expecting anything is a bad thing, isn't it? Doesn't it show a lack of faith in humanity? I'm not sure I could be so cynical. But I do need to strike a balance.

Oh, and I didn't sleep very well, despite a double-dose.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Ex-mouse misery

So, yes, it was a mouse that had been squeaking. A tiny, sweet little thing. Its miniscule feet were attached to the evil sticky paper and it was still alive. Oh God, it was still alive, struggling. S couldn't detach it from the cruel trap and had to administer a blow after, well... use your imagination... I felt sick and cried. I didn't watch any of this, obviously. It happened in the garden. My lingering images are of the little creature watching me work yesterday and of it stuck on that fucking evil bastard paper. I was going to remove it this morning but I bloody well forgot.

I've removed the other strip of sticky murder paper that was thankfully untouched, and thrown away the rest that Mr Patel had left. Off to Homebase tomorrow to buy some humane traps and we'll get a Pole in to block up the holes (yet another disaster by Mr Moron-Troll). Grrrrr.

Thinking about the mouse has really upset me. Are women meant to cry when rogue mice are killed/ removed? Who cares...


Oh bugger. I can hear little squeaky noises. I have seen two mice in here (one tiny, a mere mouselet no bigger than my thumb) and another, possibly the mummy mouse. There has been poison down for a while, behind the kitchen unit kick boards from the time I saw a now very deceased and rather big mouse. But yesterday Mr Patel came round (we got him through our bank account perks – we get two free visits) and he put down some sticky bits of card, which the mice are meant to stick to. And die. "They suffocate," he said, not a jot of emotion on his large face. Well, I don't suppose you could do his job and be all sentimental about the creatures.

But I feel terrible. There I am, all "Aaah" over anything from rabbits to giraffes, and yet I get someone in to murder these tiny little mice. I've heard squeaking all day. I keep opening the window in the hope that a small bird is perched there tweeting away happily but the opening of the window and the squeaks don't coincide. It could be a baby bird. But it could also be a mouse. Dying. I'm too scared to move the kick boards and look.

Well, this afternoon, my sleep guru told me to double my dose of tablets. He was surprised that I am still grinding my teeth (I'd emailed him to see what he reckoned). When I expressed my worry at the "you will be addicted tone" of the leaflet in the tablet packet and the stuff I've read on the internet, he told me I must not worry and that he would get me off the tablets. He has a reassuringly reassuring air and said "Take care" as he ended the conversation. It's liberating to be taken seriously, finally. People who have never suffered any sleeping problems can't possibly understand how debilitating the effects are, unless they have a fertile imagination, or have been cripplingly drunk and had to go to work the next morning to cut million-pound deals day after day after day...

Call me Charlie

When it was bought at a fair in the grounds of Hampton Court, this clematis was a two-foot high plant with no flowers, a hardy stalk and, erm, well, that was that. Obviously, it had roots. Oh, and it cost £24.

A week after purchase, my parents came over one baking hot afternoon, while I was working at home, and we spent three hours digging the ground and getting rid of the masses of building rubble and awful grass that Mr Moron-Troll had left, to make it fit for planting. S thought it looked a bit plonked when he came home and saw it, surrounded as it was by bare earth, but after we'd put in some more plants and eradicated all signs of that stupid, wild 'grass', it looked like a proper garden. GFG isn't bothered by gardening, which is good as I quite like it all to myself.

I am still in awe that these things (plants, I mean) grow the way they do. How does it all work? I do have an A-level in biology and I do actually know, but still... Now, 18 months on, we have walls covered with scented white flowers and glossy leaves, and the beginnings of spring flowers are emerging at soil level. I find it exciting. I hope the snow forecast for Monday, hmm, doesn't do any damage.

I haven't slept particularly well but I'm falling asleep more quickly and when I do wake up, which I did several times last night, I go back to sleep more quickly than I used to. However, I am tired and I had a horrible headache yesterday evening, which thankfully disappeared during the night. Early days.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Lapin love

This is a first. These two were going to be separated as they almost killed one another when they were introduced. We thought they were a female and a (new) male but they are in fact two does – highly territorial animals. But here we have lapin harmony. It's a lovely sight. Not a great pic, admittedly, but you get the idea.

We took a massive bunch of roses (that I was tempted to keep) to the rabbit whisperer last night, plus a sizeable donation. She was so grateful that she told us dozens – and I mean dozens – of tales of various bunny bondings. She's a sweet little lady, the personification of a rabbit, in fact.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Awake and online

I still feel tired but am more alert, which is an amazing thing for me at the moment. Really, amazing. I am beginning to recall what it's like to feel normal again. Mmm. It is a beautiful spring day, dreamy, and I can appreciate it for the first time in ages. The tablet side-effects are alarming but I don't appear to have any (touch wood etc). I am definitely sleeping for longer periods and, when I do wake, I don't stay awake for four hours any longer. But, typical me, I'm wondering what happens when I come off them. Hopefully, my body clock will have re-set so that I don't need any help. I shall ask my sleep guru doctor to assure me about this.

I've never worked so
hard in all my life due to tiredness and the demands that have been placed on me this year. I try not to let it show but it does at times, and when it does, I don't care too much. If I appear grumpy, so what? I'm sodding well unwell and where other people would take to their beds, I bloody don't. If I tell the cretin at BT that her company has 'fucked up my phone', and that I am 'fucking sick of it', it is fair, frankly, no matter how much they whinge at the other end. I am fed up with being polite and nice and being patronised by a) BT b) commissioning editors and c) estate agents.

I should probably explain a) and c) a little more. The first – well, where do I start? To cut a long, tedious story short, the morons at BT decided to cut me off (while fixing GFG's new phone line) so I had no phone and internet, and, despite my pleading, and their numerous empty promises, it took them five days to fix it (even though the problem was due to their engineers). This resulted in me losing days of work and my stress levels flying through the roof into lunar orbit.

I wished I could have stepped into Michael Douglas's shoes in Falling Down and had my way with the bunch of liars who comprise most of BT's customer 'service' department. I have never been lied to and patronised as much as I have by BT. I detest that company. Oh, and the man I spoke to at their press office is a small-minded, sarcastic scrote. I shall get him back good and proper, a cold dish served right in his face. Cannot wait.

Then, they did it again. Oops! Yes, the fuckers cut me off yesterday, leaving me in tears as I faced another three days without email or a telephone. They don't give a damn about the effects that their ineptness and incompetence causes – I think they rather enjoy it. Bastards. Luckily, I collared an engineer outside in the street and forced him to try to sort it out. I was fortunate – he was a great chap and obliged, and within two hours, I was back online and with a phone line that worked. He was, after all, a contractor and not a BT employee. If he had been a member of the BT sub-species, he'd have come out with a robotic response and forced me to pull his plug out, so to speak.

As for c). Hmm, well, out of curiosity, this afternoon I went to see a house nearby (not nice) and asked the estate agent to come back and value this place. We aren't thinking of moving (unless our dream home appears) and just wanted an idea of what we could get if we did wish to sell up.

The woman, however, was very familiar and kept telling me how I looked like her younger sister (is that a sales technique?!). Then, she took two phone calls interspersed with: "I keep wanting to tell you off, you look just like my sister. I can't look at you." I bet her sister wants to slap her silly. I bloody well did. It was hard enough looking at her nicotine-ravaged features. She repeated (again... yawn...) that she felt she wanted to tell me off as I showed her the door, so I told her, quite pleasantly (I'm far too nice), that I'd go elsewhere if she dared to do anything of the kind. Then – ugh – she pulled me to her Silk Cut-scented scrawny self and attempted to air-kiss me, saying, "Oh, you are just like my sister!" Bleurgh.

Friday, 9 March 2007

The drugs better had work

Don't know whether to celebrate or have a lie down. My doctor yesterday diagnosed a sleep disorder that incorporates two elements (bruxism and PLM – in layman's terms, this is teeth gnashing and plenty of moving around, which means I'm finding it difficult to get into deep sleep and REM, which causes exhaustion and headaches and numerous other symptoms that aren't pleasant). I saw the way my brainwaves peak and trough on a computerised chart. It was very interesting to see my inner stuff in black and white. Spooky in a way.

The doctor prescribed two kinds of medication for two months. He is a kindly man with a fiercely intelligent air, and had a look of sympathy and possibly slight curiosity when he spoke to me, as did the pharmacist from whom I collected the tablets. I have a summary page of my polysomnography report, which shows that some figures relating to my sleep and its quality are out of the normal range. It's not as bad as it could have been, but it is all relative and it's bad enough for me that my entire life has been put on hold due to what my brain and body decides to do of a night.

I could only take one of the tablets last night as I had helped myself to the last beer we kept in the cupboard, having had an utterly tiring day that involved being on 13 different pieces of transport and plenty of walking. Oh, and I had to interview lots of people and suchlike. My body *aches* today. I am so glad I am working at home today... I have a deadline to meet and a weekend ahead that is packed with work (another trip tomorrow, and yes I know it is Saturday), and then I'll have to write it all up on Sunday. Anyway, I can't drink any booze while on these tablets, so I'll be deprived of my lovely rioja for a bit. But it's a price worth paying. I would, in the spirit of a well-worn cliché, love to be drunk on life itself.

The garden is coming into bloom (the clematis we bought at Hampton Court is scrambling up the wall rather beautifully) and the skin on my hands burned slightly while I was out yesterday. This, folks, means spring is here.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Tired and tireder

My word, I am tired. Beyond tired. I'm under a blanket of tiredness that is so heavy that it pushes me down, down, down.

Tomorrow, I see my doctor again.

I shall beg him for sleeping tablets that won't make me feel drowsy come the next day. My fingers are crossed. I have far too much work on at the moment and face a weekend full of it, too. Terrible timing. And I have run out of wine...

Tonight's soundtrack:
  • Dissolved Girl (video by amateurs, I think, but the song is beautiful, one of my favourites)
  • Protection (almost up there with Unfinished Sympathy)
  • And this one by Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys, from the film Scandal. I loved the film, wished I was back in the 60s and had sharper cheekbones. My friend, LA, and I saw it back in '88 or was it '89? We were in Leicester Square one Friday afternoon and went along back when tickets were a few quid. She was on holiday from Toronto and stayed with me and my parents. We got on amazingly and have been great friends for 23 years, having met as pen pals.