Friday, 18 February 2011

And then it was time for the dentist....

Having not seen a dentist for 2 years, I felt it was time to make an appearance and show off my nashers! To be precise, I am currently experiencing a great deal of pain with the onset of my wisdom teeth. Unfortunatley I do not feel any smarter and find it rather bizarre that these teeth are associated with gaining further knowledge of the world.

I went to the dentist, a wonderful south african man, who for a mere £16.50 told me my teeth were fine and that my wisdom teeth were coming through!

I could have told Sherlock this myself and then charged him £16.50.

And now  I shall set off in to the rain and sit  in the Friday night car park that is the M25. A beautiful way to start my first holiday with Frank. Ten days. A dog. And probable rain.

No exoctic airports for me just yet.

Monday, 14 February 2011

And then it was Valentine's Day....

This weekend was my premature ‘Valentine’ weekend with Frank. I feel we must clarify that when beginning a relationship with a teacher at a private school that is 175 miles from home, you have to accept that there will be a lot of premature dates. However birthday’s and Christmas are exempt from this rule. Obviously.
Valentine’s Day has forever been something I scoffed at. I’ve moaned about over priced cards, boxes of chocolates and flowers for years. I have laughed at all the Valentine dinner offers and all those Valentine themed 8-course over price dinner menus - Cupid's Roll of Love served with a luxuriously creamy vanilla sauce. 
Or - Jam roly poly with custard.

And actually if I put on my Freudian psychoanalytic top hat and delve into the inner workings of my psyche ( a messy trip ) I will admit that actually this has been a cover up for the fact that actually I was desperate for a card, let alone a BUNCH of flowers.
Always the girl without a rose-a-gram at school. Then one year I got one. 2003. It came from Harold. (Like Frank, his true identity is being concealed) He was my on-off 'boyfriend' in secondary school. You know the kind where you hold hands during morning break, and by third period science you've broken up because his best mate told you, “You’re dumped.” The emotional scars run deep. 
Anyway on this occasion I received a rose. It wasn't even real. It was some sort of rolled up red fabric stuck on top of a green stick and shoved in a pretty plastic box. Nevertheless, the sentiment was there.
I was gloriously happy with my cheap excuse for a Valentine. Poor Harold probably saved his hard-earned pocket money for weeks. I bet all he really wanted to do was blow it all on sugary sweets and get the older kids to buy him those magazines from the top shelf.
Later I was told that Harold had actually intended to give it to the prettiest girl in my class, but she was off sick with the chickenpox. So I got it instead.

Needless to say I have always looked longingly at the red and pink themed cards in Paperchase, dreaming of the day I have one posted through my door. One that was actually meant for me. This all sounds a bit desperate really, but it is.
But here we are 2011 and I bought my Valentines card two weeks ago. Actually, I nearly bought three.
One funny one.
One with a nice black and white photograph.
And one of those ones that looks like a child with no hand control has drawn it.
 But I couldn’t face the shameful and oh-so –knowing looks that I would receive from the ladies on the counter. It would look even more ridiculous when I tried to justify the excessive cards for ONE boyfriend with all my years of pent up frustration and desire to participate in this entirely pointless ‘holiday’. So I left the shop with one.
A Quentin Blake scribble with ‘BLANK’ written on the back. It was safe. There was no soppy love poem to be found in my card.
The next dilemma- what to give Frank.
I really don’t know where this – lets buy gifts for each other came from but it’s all a bit silly. (Unless of course Frank plans to buy me some Manolo Blahnik’s in which case I won’t mind!)  Now that I had joined the V-Day club, I realised there was the small issue of funds and the apparent lack of. Growing up, I was always told that home-made gifts mean more.
So I decided to do something I had never done.
I made a small army of gingerbread men. And lovingly decorated them but not once having the sense to taste them. Fortunately, as it turned out they didn’t taste too bad. Had I really been creative , I could have dressed them in the full England rugby kit in honour of our glorious home team and their excellent track record in this year’s six nations tournament. ( Well done boys, although I do apologise for reading Vogue through the first half and falling asleep in the second!)

I have a beautiful bouquet of red roses and a funny little  card with a lovely sentimental message.
And Frank has a tray of slightly misshapen, a little bit broken, funny looking, but alright tasting biscuits and a card with a stupid handwritten poem about getting old with hair in his ears.

Happy Valentine.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

And then it was week two of February...

Today is February 8th. A fact which I am sure has not gone unnoticed by many. We are now good and done with the festive season, a long way off from those balmy summer nights and one too many jugs of pimms... and for those reckless few, myself included, counting down the days to pay day. Again.

It is also a full month and eight days since I made those yearly Resolutions. The resoulutions that everyone maintains will change the outcome of the prospective year. And every year we forget how utterly pointless they were and we make another promise to quit smoking, limit alcohol units and call Granny more often.
I, obviously, forgot these realisations from last year and set myself the annual challenges. Granted they were made post numerous flutes of Champagne and various other alcoholic beverages - nevertheless I vowed ( like every year) to stick to them.

1. Get the gym more.
2. Buy fewer shoes.
3. Clear the overdraft (an essential to student life, but a heavy weight in the 'real' world)

After revelling in the delight of a complimentary gym membership - a perk which for many is like rocking horse poo, I decided to have my induction.
Gym's by nature, scare me. Don't ask. It has something to do with lots of impressively athletic people, weightlifters making lots of noise and all those machines that move, flash and beep at you when you don't run/cycle/x-train fast enough.
It was easy enough to spot the Resolutions-ists. We stood out. Shiny white trainers. A look of fear and trepidation and brand new gym gear.
I realised after I'd finished sweating a monsoon amount of fluid from a 'light warm up"  that  I had left the labels in mine.
A true novice.But of the menagerie of new starters, I am the only one left. At least, I assume I'm the only one left. Until yesterday I hadn't been for three weeks.

We shall ignore the lack of persistance in this fitness regime. For I am now 'back in the game' and striving to improve my 'Grandad' level of fitness as was so eloquently described by Tom, the chap who educated me in the use of all those machines. But my self motivation is all very well the night before, but when my alarm goes off at 6.30am for that early morning kick-start before work, my motivation and desire to be a beach nymph is out of the door quicker than I shall ever be able to run. And so I remain beneath the covers.
Until it comes crawling back and starts tickling my feet and telling me that if I don't get up I will forever be disappointed in myself. I don't do guilt trips.
So I jump (not enthusiastically I might add) out of bed, rummage for a fresh gym kit, grab the car keys (I'm hardly going to cycle there aswell) and drive blearly eyed to the body morphing palace.

I am one of few early risers. I am the youngest. By 40 years. However, our fitness levels are on par. Really I should feel relaxed. I know that there will be no gym buffs flouncing round, flexing their muscles for us mortals to gawp at. Neither will there be anyone to 'race' on the treadmill.

I get on and set myself to a steady walking pace. No need to jump in at the deep end. ... But then there is this sense of shame. Not only are my feet incased in trainers (a situation that they are less than ecstatic about) but I am exercising at the same speed as geriatrics.
"This shall never do", I think to myself "How will I get fit if I am not challenged?"
So I increase the settings.
And manage 15 minutes before leaving. My face the colour of beetroot and my legs like jelly.

P.S Tom, the emergency stop button on the treadmill? The big red one for emegency stops? It does not work like you said it would. Infact it didn't work at all. Thanks.

Buying fewer shoes?
To be honest, this was never going to work. Shoes are to my feet, what coffee is to my brain. A neccessity.

Only a stupid person would attempt this feat. I think it lasted a week. If that. But the first pair were worth it. As were the second and third. Well after smashing a poorly made resolution, there's no need to hold back.
There was no shame, as perhaps there should have been, in breaking it. The shoes were beautiful and I would just like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the designers at Irregular Choice who have created shoes that make me as happy as my tall skinny extra shot extra hot Macchiato, courtesy of Starbucks.

Other coffee retailers are avaialable and this choice is merely personal preference. Although for the record - it is the best.

I don't think we should mention this one.
I blame shoes.

So of the three resolutions made on January 1st 2011, I've managed to keep one. Well I didn't even manage that one since it is an ongoing endurance test and daily battle.
Perhaps in this modern age where I have abosolutley no will power, I should make the resolution to refrain from making resolutions. And then at least I could relish in the smug satisfaction that even if, like everyone else suffering from the February Blues and a vitamin D deficiency, I didnt have the added self loathing of breaking yet another stupid annual challenge made on a drunken whim.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

And then it all went wrong after Dartford...

I drive to see Frank regularly. A routine drive up the A3, round the M25, a crossing at Dartford and down the A12.

Frank is my bloke, and lives 150 miles away.
"A 300-mile round trip?"
"Oh," I say, "It is but the price to pay for a relationship that begins in the geographical bubble that is University."
Lucky that I quite like him really!
We shall maintain his anonymity by calling him Frank. Although a seemingly bizarre name choice, it is not a random selection and perhaps related to his inability to croon like the Great Sinatra.

Every Friday, I climb into Brian ... my trusty Ford KA. So called because he is old, reliable, quite simple and to be honest you can never really get angry at a 'Brian'. Complete with an array of goodies (of the sugary variety), liquid refreshments, and musical accompaniment, I set off on what should be, but often is not, a three and a half hour drive.

The bonus of a long -distance relationship as I am sure others will agree, there is always a date to look forward to. And, like a child at Christmas I find myself counting down the ‘sleeps’ until I see Frank. For this reason, I often find myself speeding along the motorways. ( I will admit the speed is also related to the desperation for a glass of wine to soothe away the aches and pains of the working week. A medicinal routine, which my colleagues begin at 6’oclock.)

Unfortunately, on this occasion, my simple and routine drive took a disastrous turn after paying the £1.50 toll for the Dartford Tunnel. Sadly, this is perhaps a highlight of my journey; when for one brief moment I can pretend I'm about to unknowingly enter a high-speed car chase through the tunnel with a drug-mob who have mistaken my car for that of another very speedy KA. My imagination gets the better of me...Quite often!

At Junction 28 on the M25, after all the maddening road works - which are thankfully finished, I exit and join the A12. Or, at least, I am meant to.
However, when driving for long periods of time with an impressively predictable music collection and no-one to talk to (it seems that on Friday night's my friends have better things to do than take my hands-free phone calls) one must seek alternative sources of entertainment.
So after daydreaming about a high-flying job in the city, a flat in Chelsea and a different pair of Jimmy Choos for EVERY day at the office ... I get frustrated with my materialistic goals and start to sing. Very loudly.

(I am no chart topping success, nor am I a karaoke queen but I enjoy the happy freedom of singing in the car where obviously no-one can hear or even see you when you attempt to impersonate the impressive vocal tones of the red-headed songstress of Florence and the Machine fame.)
            And then, Brian sailed past the junction. Had Brian been fitted with secret microphones, listeners would have been graced with my tuneless wailing followed by a lengthy series of expletives. And even though everyone knows you never reverse on a motorway... I contemplated it. Briefly. Very Briefly.

Thankfully, Brian keeps a Satellite Navigation system in his glove compartment. Plugging in to a faulty cigarette lighter and attempting destination programming on the M25 surrounded by lorries is not advisable, and is a skill I have yet to perfect. So, I pulled on to the hard shoulder to re-navigate. Driving back on myself seemed an utterly pointless and very frustrating option.

But my sat-nav didn't work. I will not stoop to such levels as ‘naming and shaming’ the incompetency of my particular choice of electronic engineering, but it sounds like pom-pom and let me down when I needed it most. And before you ask - yes it was charged!

My radio was still turned up loud, and I was preoccupied with  my sat-nav (if in doubt, beat it) so I didn’t see the 4x4 with flashing lights pull up behind me. Or see the man in uniform approach. It wasn’t until he hammered on the window ( and make me jump so much my bottom left the seat) that I realised he was there.
“Everything alright Miss?”
“Yes Officer”.      
                       Note: Always suck up to uniformed men; they might let you off with a warning. But if he is a  highways officer and not a policeman like this lovely gentleman was, then don’t panic.

I explained my predicament.
“So do I come back on myself or go up the M11?”
“Well luv’...”
He had a heavy East London accent, and in my first (and hopefully last ) 5 minutes of  being a stranded damsel in distress I was not  allocated an officer with the boyishly good looks of Jude Law (who is obviously nothing on Frank!), but the rotund and balding Ray – he politely introduced himself.
His advice:  to drive back on myself.

I ignored it. And opted for the M11.

And – without map or functioning satellite navigation system, I embarked upon on unfamiliar motorway. Under Frank’s instruction, I followed signs for Stansted and the A120 and eventually I would rejoin the A12. Lovely. Having faith in my ability to self-navigate uncovered territory  Brian and I drove into the previously unexplored depths of Essex.

Finally at 11.40pm, five hours after leaving work and two necessary service station stops later, I arrived at Frank’s flat.

Perhaps the most distressing thing about the trials and tribulations of this journey is that if it had not been for seeing Frank in rainy Ipswich - the time taken and the money spent on petrol for Brian to consume could have gone on flights to somewhere hot!

I would like to thank the staff of Costa and Starbucks at the Clackett Lane and M11 services for keeping a weary traveller hydrated on her journey.