Friday, 29 February 2008

Happy Extra Day

I'm not quite sure how this February 29th lark works. I mean, how did we work it out and is it really correct? What would happen if we just dispensed with the day? Hmmm? Would it really make a difference? Would the clocks eventually be out of synch?

Don't get me wrong, I like the fact we have this mad day every four years. It's quirky. But I just don't understand how we know...

Anyway, enjoy today. It's Friday, quite springlike, and well, life's too short and it's nice to have an extra day.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Last night, there was an earthquake in England – the biggest in 25 years. I'm relieved to hear that no one was badly hurt. Must have been frightening to wake to your home shaking and your cupboard doors blowing open.

I'm amazed to read that some people are saying things like: "This is by far the worst earthquake I've experienced in England."

Just how frequent are they?!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Any room on the wagon?

Why is it on the news that the parents of Madeleine McCann "have sent their prayers" to the family of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews?

Is that really news? I find it somewhat disgusting that they a) need to make public their thoughts/prayers about poor Shannon, and b) that some news media choose to report the McCann sentiments.

It's repulsive.

Juno what I mean?

Oh dear. I am possibly among a minority because I didn't love Juno. It was OK but that was that... it was watchable and I thought some of the characters were well drawn (the mother, father, friend and boyfriend). But I didn't leave the cinema thinking 'wow'. I could see why the film would appeal to some, but, erm, I couldn't see why all the hype was deserved – maybe it was just hype after all.

I think Ellen Page played her (annoying) part well. But I felt that her character's endless smart-arse dialogue was overdone on a grand scale. It was trying so hard to be cool and hip that some good lines, in my opinion, were smothered. There were points when I wanted to shake Juno for going on and on and on and on in that manner of hers. I liked her a bit more once she realised the husband in the adoptive couple was a sleaze, but the smarty-pants comments... Her saying she wanted to "procure" an abortion while on her 'cute' hamburger phone just didn't do it for me. It was all far too obvious and try-hard. A bit of subtlety would have helped at points. The constant ramming down the throat of the 'Ooh, she is so young/but yet she is a woman' paradox choked the life out of the film, I thought.

As I say, it was OK. Just.

But I won't be procuring the DVD. H
onest to blog. Silencio!


Monkey marriage

This story about two monkeys getting married made me smile. It is so odd. They seem to have been well cared for as pets, and this was quite a good way to release them, if somewhat unusual.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

It isn't Monday

Maybe it is the changing of the light, earlier sunrise, birds singing (beautifully) at dawn... but I can't sleep beyond about 6.30am.

I am tired. I need to go for walks and do more in the day – maybe saunter by the river or visit the many parks of this city. Working from home and having a painful knee is making me feel a little bit caged.

I woke up thinking it was Monday. It isn't – it's only Saturday, so I have two bonus days ahead. I'm not sure what to do today. A slow walk with S to our see a friend, maybe? Or maybe we'll go to the cinema, or to see live comedy. Something like that. Something...

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Shirking from home?

When I tell people I am working at home, there are two main responses. Some people tell me how they'd never have the discipline to work from home. Others say "God, you are so lucky, sitting watching TV all day".


Well, in response to the first lot – yes, it can be difficult to motivate oneself at times. But I am my own boss. If I work quickly, I have more free time. If I don't, bang go my weekends and evenings. Also, if I don't motivate myself, no one else will, and I risk going bankrupt. Professional pride, a strong work ethic (inherited from my parents) and a love for what I do – as well as the need to earn a living – are reasons to not spend the day on the sofa.

Yes, there are times when cleaning the bathroom is attractive, or I feel a desire to go to Sainsbury's, just for a change of scene. But on the whole, I love what I do. As for the people who think I sit in my underwear, drinking cans of Stella and eating chips while watching Jeremy Kyle (who is he?) well, no. It's not like that. My days start early, they end late. I don't have anyone around to chat to (thank God for email and phones)... So, it's tough. Often, I work nine-hour days, everyday. But it's my choice and I love it.

Sometimes, I do need to see the whites of people's eyes, though. This happened yesterday afternoon. It was late in the day, and freezing outside. But I got ready (well, I disguised my casual top with a smart woollen top) and pulled on a clean pair of jeans and boots that I can wear without upsetting my knee problem, and set off for the other side of London.

My quick stop turned into a two-hour circuit of two floors, as I caught up with some people for work, and with others for a chat. It was lovely. I could have had conversations on the phone but this was good – this was proper interaction – in a shortish dose, and it was extremely valuable. At times, people need to see you to realise that the email you sent was not sent in annoyance but was simply firm and factual. And they need to know, through all the non-verbal communication that's sacrificed in email, that you are smiling, happy and are working with them. And that it's going to be OK. I left there feeling uplifted and lucky to be working with such a fine bunch of people.

S joined me after my trip to the office. We used to go out for meals in Covent Garden, central London, when we first met. I decided we needed to do so last night, just because it had been a while since we'd been to a particular, favoured restaurant. We had a lovely evening, eating, drinking prosecco and talking. I don't know whether it was the influence of yesterday's full moon or eclipse, but I found ways to unfurl feelings and turn them into plain speak (in a positive sense). Somehow, I found words to express things that I had
previously failed to comprehend (these are things relating to my insomnia, things that are deep-rooted but are being eased out).

Last night, I slept like a dream. Bliss.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Kneed and the city

Kung fu has left me with an injured ligament in my knee. In fact, I have a proper sports injury: runner's knee. It hurts – a sharp, stabbing sensation – when I move in certain ways, and, as you can imagine, kung fu demands plenty of moves. The solution? Rub with tiger balm and rest. Argh.

I feel frustrated at yet again having something wron
g with me that stops me from going for it, all guns blazing (well, fists). One of my classmates is up for a competition and I would have liked to have started training for the one after. Instead, I have to mainly do stuff that involves standing on the spot. It's driving me mad. Well, at least I had the chance to hit pads at the end of class.

I'm not a violent person. It's funny when people say: "Ooh, you do kung fu, you must be sooo violent." Er, no. It's not quite like that. We sure as heck don't go out as a mob, duffing up members of the public as we are so pumped up. Sure, some of us could do serious damage, but when you can, you tend to be able to keep a lid on it. You couldn't be any good at kung fu without learning self-control. Also, once you have taken a martial arts class – just one – you'll find the police will automatically assume that you mean business if you get into a fracas. Silly, but true.

But, having said that, it is deeply cathartic. When I've had a stressful day, or have been dealing with things that have been rather heavy (such as those that pertain to the reasons I have suffered from insomnia for so long), kung fu is brilliant. If you can do it properly... I was doing some fairly easy moves at the end of class but nevertheless felt a sharp pain – back to square one with the knee. Damn.

Anyway, I tried a couple of classes, which I found frustrating, and then came home, still not quite warm enough. S was at a football match, so I stuck a pizza in the oven, poured myself a glass of some award-winning chardonnay I'd bought from Marks and Spencer (now 20 per cent off all wines and spirits, if anyone's interested), and waited for Sex and the City to start on one of the satellite channels. Not the healthiest meal in the world. Oh well...

Ah, Sex and the City. I love it. I have said it before: it isn't worthy (and why on earth should it be?) and it sure isn't dull. It made me laugh and I coveted some of the clothes. I have no idea which series I was watching but I recalled parts of some of the episodes from seeing them years ago. Still, the lines were sharp. They won't appeal to everyone but for me and my friends the programme was a must-watch when it first came out, and I have fond memories of discussing what had happened, interlacing chat with stories from real life. We laughed and laughed, on the phone or at restaurant tables, inevitably with a glass of wine or mojito in our hands, as we chatted about the escapades of four fictitious women (as well as our own, much more sensible lives).

The combination of exercise and relaxing afterwards was a good one and I slept well until the alarm clock went off just over an hour early, the dratted thing. My leg aches today and I have a snuffly cold... if I had my way, I'd sit on the sofa and watch SATC all day. I could order the DVDs... Online shopping is such a temptation when you're working at home and can't walk around the shops. What's a girl to do?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Dream girl

The girl was about five, immaculately dressed in white and pink. She stepped forward and started to sing. But no words came out. Her mouth moved, she carried on, trying. But nothing except the odd shadows of words emerged. She was there to sing for the Queen. The Queen didn't seem interested.

I watched the child curiously while noticing two kittens there in front of me, in a box. I picked them up and they lay still, content, as I stroked their fur. They nestled into me, warm and silky. I remarked, to no one in particular: "Look at how my kittens have grown."

Then a parachutist came into view, except he was taking off, not landing. Bizarrely, his chute was open; he seemed rocket-propelled. He was scared. Those around were nervous. I was concerned about the little cats and held them close.

And then, the alarm bleeped me awake. I told myself I must remember this dream: it means something. S came back into the bedroom and I told him the first part about the voiceless child, and it made me cry.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

No words for prose

Clouds in her head
Make the room heavy with unease

Formed years ago
That need a thunderbolt

To release pressure
Through things that are unsaid

Wind blows gently
She closes her eyes to breathe

Raindrops start falling
Her face with cool relief

Listening to: Editors - Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors

Friday, 15 February 2008

Time: clock of the heart

Wedding bouquet © Mellifluous Dark, all rights reserved.

Part of me thinks, like plenty of people, that St Valentine's Day has become increasingly commercial, like Hallowe'en and just about everything else. But it is only like that if you make it that way. For me, it's the intent that is the most important thing.

The day can provide a lovely way to break the ice with someone. It can remind some people that they need to stop and appreciate the one they choose to call their girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse. This doesn't necessarily mean that you 'need a day to remember each other'. If things are as they should be, this should just be the cherry on the icing, or just another layer of icing on the cake. That's all. It doesn't mean you've 'done your duty' and that's that for another year (if it does, run. Fast.)

S took me to a small French restaurant near our home. The food was good but the best bit was having the entire evening to talk. We both work very hard, are pretty sporty and are out for some of the week keeping fit, so it was lovely to have an evening with no cooking, chores, television or phone calls. It's not unusual for us to go out or talk – we make an effort to speak to one another properly every day, without exception. How people – especially married ones – can stand to go through their lives stalking around and not communicating is a mystery to me.

Time, given wholeheartedly, is undoubtedly one of the best things you can give someone, no matter what the day. Given time, you can (hopefully) talk, listen and understand the trivial and tumultuous things that go on. The stiff upper lip is just waiting for someone who can make it quiver...

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentine's Day or not...

...I hope you've had a good one. Eat some fine chocolate, drink some delicious wine, have a cup of tea and some cake, put your feet up. Be good to yourself.

Agh, just PC off, Shami!

We are not living in an ideal world, not that any of us need telling. Some young people – whether it be due to the breakdown of family life, the poor quality of family life/parenting or apathy (brought on by a lack of imagination, need or gumption) can be utter arses.

There have been plenty of stories in the news in the past 12 months, detailing appalling behaviour by some young people. Ask Gary Newlove's widow, who wants the death penalty restored following the murder of her husband. Ask dead Rhys Jones's dad. Have a word with Ernest Norton's wife, who has to live her life as a widow now. Add in teenage gun and knife crime. And on and on and on...

In an attempt to deal with groups of feral youths, someone created a device that emits a high pitch that causes discomfort to those under 25. The so-called Mosquito is used in areas where young people gather in an anti-social manner. It is used as a last-resort. It's not plugged in at Mothercare or Marks and Spencer at two in the afternoon, for goodness sake.

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, however, has come out bleating about the rights of young people, saying that the device 'had no place in a country that values its children'. Oh, do shut up. Valuing children means giving them boundaries. Tough.

No one writing about such matters should have to say I'm not talking about all young people, just a minority. It is a no-brainer. However, the minority are a majority in pockets of some cities. And (as I have said previously), I'm sick of people defending anti-social and criminal activity among the young by going on about how a hard life breeds 'disaffected' young people. Poor loves.

The trouble is, their lives are probably not hard enough. They do X and they get a caution (if that). They know the voice of the 'our rights' brigade will come down on their side. They are not slum dwellers; there are ways out. If they could be bothered. This is the UK, not a war-torn land or a slum-dominated city (where I'd wager young people behave with more dignity). People in England do not have nothing. How insulting to those who scrabble in the dust for food, who wear nothing on their feet, or queue for bits of broken biscuits for dinner (I've seen it).
Lack of rights? My arse. Disaffected? Hell, I think I am fast becoming disaffected by the stinkingly pathetic attitude of some of this country's decision makers...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

View from my chair...

• My work schedule, which is on my desktop, is shorter than normal today, as my boss (me) has kindly given me some time off to compensate for my hard work of late. She even got me a free ticket to an exhibition and emailed a friend who I haven't seen for months so we can catch up at lunchtime.

• The sun is pouring through the kitchen/study window. Beautiful. I shall be taking my camera (which itself is within view at the moment). The trees are glinting as the sunshine caresses the leaf buds and evergreen

• My attractive knee support is on my desk. I left it there after peeling it off after my last kung fu class. I have damaged a ligament and it is unexpectedly painful when I move in certain ways.
• M, the rabbit, is cleaning herself in her soft bed next to me. There is a small clump of fur on the floor from when she fought me while I was giving her antibiotics this morning. I felt terribly guilty for upsetting her but she hates medicine and always struggles. Poor creature.

• My mobile phone, which is relatively new, is sitting there all shiny. I hope the client who has been giving me lots of stress calls today and confirms that they've taken on board what I said and found some resources to help me cope with the mammoth project that I've signed up to work on (I tried to get out of it but it just didn't happen, damn).

• I've just received emails from two friends with whom I plan to visit Paris in early summer. We've finally decided a date, so I shall get booking! Very excited about this. On my desk, there's a black and white postcard of Paris that S brought back for me on his recent trip.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


On Friday, at 6pm, I had a phone call from a woman who I may – if I choose – continue to work with on a magazine project. It's a new thing and sounded so promising when I had the initial meeting a few weeks ago.

I turned down work so I could fit this project in, and booked time in my schedule. But the organisation concerned has not fulfilled its side of the bargain. The woman is 'very busy' and has not furnished us with the details we (I) need to start work on the thing. Well, we are all 'very busy'.

I didn't like the way she snapped at me down the phone just as I was about to start my weekend. It has been preying on my mind. I have a miniscule budget with which to work – and they want me to complete the task in record time. The deadline is ever-closer, with things slipping in the meantime as they fail to deliver their side of the bargain.

When I told her, nicely, that as her department had not provided the information promised several weeks ago that we'd need to push the deadline back, she was horrible.

I don't like backing out of work. But this has been in limbo since it started. The woman in charge is very unhelpful and I have been thinking about work – and dreaming about it, which I hate – and am wondering whether to back out now, while I can.

This project hasn't started properly yet and it's stressing me considerably and affecting my sleep. OK, I have had some thorny projects to work on – and God knows I like a challenge – but this has got my alarm bells ringing like a Big Ben on repeat.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Springtime in London

It feels like spring. It is sunny and the sky is a pale, clear blue. The daffodils are out, the clematis is budding and I have spent all morning madly cleaning, imbued with quickness of hand and foot, so much so that I grazed my hand while frantically vacuuming under a chest of drawers.

M, my houserabbit is scampering around, very excited by the sunshine and all my activity.
S is at a stag day event, paintballing his way through the woods. I intend to go out now, to have some lunch somewhere nice and bright, where there are plenty of tulips so that I can take some pictures with my beloved camera.

It is a lovely camera... I like looking at it, as well as at the images it captures. Last night, I wandered to the riverbank as the sun was setting – birds cried out as they flew over the water and dived in. It was stunning. I took some pictures – they are OK in terms of composition, I'd give them a grade B – but they are not sharp enough. I need to learn to use the settings correctly.

Friday, 8 February 2008

I don't believe it

I can't believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that the adoption of Sharia law in the UK is 'unavoidable'.

Religion doesn't do anything for me – I find it divisive and I abhor human beings hijacking what could be something good, what is sold as something positive, for their own ends. The things done in the name of religion are inhuman and amoral, too often.

I would, however, never dream of stopping people practicing what they believe. This is a free country. When I was a child and someone said something objectionable to another, they'd say: "Well, this is a free country".


I'm not an atheist. I have my own beliefs. I don't need to ram them down anyone else's throats. But I do not – not, under any circumstances – want to be governed by the laws of any religion, thank you very much. Maybe any new laws wouldn't affect me directly, as I wouldn't subscribe to any religion involved – but surely applying different standards in cases of tax, marriage and divorce will lead to inequities among people who live down the same street?

My main problem is: where do we stop? If I start a religion, may I invoke my own laws? How the hell can people living by different laws in one country (yes, even 'aspects' of religious law) contribute to cohesion? How can it help integration? Is it not the opposite?

It's interesting that nearly 11,000 people have responded to the BBC website's Have Your Say on the Archbishop's comments. Judging by the mood, I guarantee there will be riots like never before if people in the UK have any aspects of religious law imposed here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Goodbye Grange Hill

Admittedly, I didn't know Grange Hill was still on television (long gone are the days when I have time to watch TV so early in the day), but it is to be axed this year, 30 years after it began.

They're replacing it with 'the Grange' and aiming it at those aged 10-11, basing it in a multimedia environment. It's a shame that it has to change but the Beeb has shifted its editorial policy and that's that.

It was an engaging programme, groundbreaking at the time. It was gritty (though those who can remember 'Just Say No' may laugh with me about just how gritty it was compared to life today). But it did raise issues that needed to be aired and good on it for so doing. I can't say I'll miss it, as I don't exactly watch it now. But 30 years? That's a hell of a good run.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

F*ck me shoes?

Well, it says so on the news, so it very well may be true. High heels could improve a woman's – and a man's by default – sex life.

The pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, bowels and uterus are apparently kept in better shape if the owner wears high heels.


I have a new camera. It's small, has an amazing number of megapixels squeezed into its capacity, and is just brilliant. It didn't cost too much, either.

At lunchtime, I went to visit my friend, SS, who has his late mum's dog staying with him while the new owner is on holiday. I'm not a dog person but this animal was very endearing and ended up sitting next to me with her head on my lap, asleep.

I happened to have my camera in my bag, not really sure why. So I took a photo of SS and the dog. He took a couple of me and the animal as she sat by me, and that was that.

In the evening, I sorted out the software necessary so that I could upload photos. Soon, there were five thumbnail-sized pictures on my screen. My heart sank as I opened the first one – the picture was fine but for what looked like two globes of light. I cursed the camera and opened the rest of the pictures but the globes were nowhere to be seen. I stared and stared at these perfectly round, almost spherical looking anomalies (one of which the dog was looki
ng at) and then stopped in my tracks as I recalled there were such things as orbs that appeared in pictures at times.

Now, I don't know what orbs are meant to look like so I did what every sensible person does and turned to Google. The images were exactly like the circles of light in my photo. A minority of websites said that they were caused by light reflections but to me, these looked too perfect to be reflections.
And, in any case, one of the orbs – or shapes – was over matt carpet and the camera wasn't facing the window or any obvious light source/shiny surfaces. Some websites said they are manifestations of spirit energy.

I told SS and emailed him the pictures (only one of whic
h contained these floating shapes). He said it made him feel weird, and told me that he had been to put flowers on his mum's grave the day before, and he had told her to 'visit' him anytime.

It's easy to be cynical. Obviously. But no one knows what these shapes are. There isn't a fault on the camera and no dust on the lens. So, you tell me... (I'd upload a pic but it comes out sideways! Good old Blogger...)

in response to Sanddancer's request... (Cropped to preserve SS's anonymity, which means you can only see one 'orb'.)

The stuff in the Hoover

Where on earth does it all come from? OK, I can tell that the rug is still shedding and there may be some of my hair and M's, too (the bunny).

But there's all this other stuff, all grey and lumpen. It's bizarre.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Let them eat cake?

How can Selfridges justify charging £3.95 for a slice of cake*? They must just buy cake, probably from some cheap-as-chips supplier (judging by the taste), cut it into 20 pieces, and make an easy profit of about £70. Madness.

If the cake was orgasmic, then fine – I would happily pay £3.95 for a bit of cake that made me tingle. But this one was not moist enough (I expect my fork to slide through it with no effort), it had no cream with it to help make it edible. It was a total rip-off. My cake was chocolate and was horrible – I don't often find chocolate cake inedible. S had a sponge, which didn't even have a layer of real cream in it.

We sent them back and had them replaced with the same again. Yuk.

* I realise the choice to buy said cake is mine. But I didn't look at the price until I was at the till and it had been rung through. I didn't expect a small slice of cake to cost nearly four quid.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


I need to buy a new camera. It needs to be digital, small, not too expensive, reliable and easy to operate.

I'm thinking of purchasing a Canon, as I have always had good experiences with this make. But I am not sure... Weirdly, the man on the radio has just recommended a Canon camera to his co-presenter. I may take this as a sign. Mmm.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Too cold to go out

I'm waiting for a call to see where my friend (and her new boyfriend) want to go tonight. I would much rather stay home, though. It is very cold outside and I hate being cold. I don't know what to wear. I wish she would hurry up so that I can a) get ready and b) tell S, who is stuck at work (waiting for news of our venue) where to meet.

I realise I sound a tad miserable, not wanting to go out just because it is cold. But the going out will involve me waiting for a bus (if I want to drink and not drive) and that means I have to walk in the cold to the bloody freezing bus stop.

Pants. On. Fire.