Tuesday, 29 March 2011

...And then it was winter again.

I am sad to say goodbye to the sunshine.
It left me this morning after the briefest of visits, of which I only enjoyed two days. But what a delightful weekend it was.

Spent on the beach catching the drips off an ice cream before it makes a sticky mess over your hands and turns the cone to mush. Who'd have thought we'd be eating ice-cream in March, let alone watching it melt?
Now I am no pessimist, just a realisitc optimist, but I think we shall be done with sunny intervals until at least May. Once we've got our rainy season over and done with - look forward to it April, I really do!

But when that sunshine arrives, and believe me it will "....burn our eyeballs out...." when it does (to quote Papa Dodd), I shall be out there enjoying every second of it. At least,  every second that doesn't fall between 10am and 6pm, monday through to friday when I shall be in a climate controlled office, with two green plants and windows that won't open. And because no one will be able to see the computer screens, the blinds will be shut. So I won't even notice the beautiful sunshine and bright blue skies.

But I am hoping the sun shows its lovely face sooner rather than later, for I am really quite bored of my winter wardrobe. Now don't get me wrong, its brilliant come the middle of September, as the nights get cooler, to be able to change out of my array of flip flops and into my lovely brown leather boots and beautiful camel coloured cape (courtesy of Frank, thank you very much!) but now I would quite like to pop those flip flops back on my feet and bask in a bit of warmth.

In preparation for the Indian summer that I have been assured we shall be having, I have begun to build my 2011 Spring/Summer wardrobe.
I have scoured the pages of Vogue and Elle. I have "ooohed" and "aaaahed" over beautiful lacey designs at Dolce and Gabbana and the neon pallette of Jill Sanders and then held my breath as I look at price tags. To be honest, I don't why I even hope to find something within my price budget - which for the record is Null, because I am desperately saving my meagre pennies for a summer holiday.

But all the searching and bookmarking is particularly helpful when locating replica designs - AKA cheap clothes.
There are some excellent copycats in the shops (Hennes, Zara and Topshop - you are superstars) ready for the sunshine, but unfortunately I haven't been able to peruse these mecca's of fashion. So I resort to the online eqivalents.

Online shopping doesn't quite create the same level of satisfaction - you can look but you can't touch!
And ladies, we all know how much we like to pick things up, look them over, make a face of judgement and A) retain for trying on or purchasing purposes or B) return to the rail and continue to explore.
But you don't get to do this.
If, like me, you're a "try-er on-er" then your online basket grows and grows (p.s never look at the basket total. Ever.) , and then you whap out the little plastic saviour. The "Yipee, I got free delivery" completely justifies the hammering the plastic got and so you await a mammoth delivery. Then you think about how much you spent and you start to panic. "It's okay" you say to yourself  "I'll send half of it back"

But the packages arrive, and as sad as it is to admit it...  your heart skips a bit and the adrenaline starts to pump. Brand new. With tags. Zips that work. That lovely new smell. And without the "I've been through the washing machine more times than I care to think" look. You immerse yourself in them.

You try it all on and, much to your (faux) disappointment, you like everything. You can't possibly send it back. You have to wear the biker jacket with the cute floral summer dress, because the dress won't look right otherwise. And you need the dress for the day at the races, that you are sure you will be going to this year.

So for the next few days you walk about in a new clothes bubble. Relishing in the compliments and the feeling of complete and utter ... happiness.

And then your credit card bill arrives.
Sad face.

This was me.
So ... I did a very brave thing on Friday. I took a sharp pair of scissors. Removed my shiny pink mastercard from the 'emergency' pocket in my purse and under the watchful eye of Glam Maggie at work, began to cut.

My mastercard still exists. In tiny little pieces in my purse. I haven't had the heart to bin them yet.

And now it is most defintely winter in my life.

Contrary to popular belief, I do not have a shopping problem.

And even if I did, I could stop at any time.

But just not yet.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

...And then we learn a life lesson.

You may laugh, but this one is important.

If ever, when you are washing your hair, you get a dollop of shampoo in your ear - don't foolishly try to rinse it out with water.
The result? A ridiculous amount of bubbles, soap in your eyes and temporary ( I hope) deafness.

I can't think of an alternative to water. But you could just avoid getting it in your ears.
Take it from someone with first hand experience.

If you perhaps feel like booking a place on an online seminar [webinar] broadcasted from the USA, make sure you are fully competant in your understanding of US timezones in relation to GMT. Otherwise you end up biooking the wrong session and then waiting an hour with wet hair, bad hearing and an overwhelming desire to sleep. But of course, this isn't me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

...And then it all started to look a little perky.

For those of you glorious people residing on ( or fairly near to) the south coast, I am sure you will have enjoyed basking in the recent 'warmth' of the spring sunshine.
I say warmth, yet being in an office all day I don't really feel it, and although it is a gigantic burning ball of gas it isn't projecting much heat. Yet.
However we have still got a psychological heat/summer thing. - A single ray of sunshine and immediately your toes start to tingle and you mass purchase sun cream in plenty of time for the scorching Indian summer we are guaranteed every year. This is only justification I can think of for the six men I saw in shorts today, two of whom had flip flops on.
I think UVB rays damage our ability to gauge the seasons.

I can perfectly understand getting those little pasty legs out and presenting our wintery withered feet to the world in early May, but March? The clocks havent even gone forward yet.
I am a summer born child. I would quite like to make the most of our limited days of sunshine. But I think donning the sunglasses rather than bermudas and flipflops is a little more acceptable at this time of year.

So with the mid morning sun beating down on my car as I drove to work (yes, I am a lucky individual who has a much later start than most, but who reaches the pub later than the rest of the world), I realised that sunshine seems to make the world look a little more peachy.
Every morning I drive  past a rather large field covered in polythene tunnels. I'm assuming this is for the premature growing of tastless strawberries (June, people, June is strawberry munching time) and usually every morning it looks like an eye-sore. Dull and lifeless.
But this morning, when you remove those dull, grey clouds, this plastic field radiates sunshine. I actually had to put my sunglasses on and pull down the visor in my car. It was quite... I won't say beautiful because to be quite Frank, even with a yellow glow it is still a mass of plastic. But it was quite pleasant.

I even, and this is a significant step to make, joined the a particular car-owners club that I really don't like. The 'open window musical appreciation' society.
Yes call me a hypocrit, but this morning I wound down my windows and turned up the radio. I have no idea what the song was, but its besides the point - when the sun is out, everyone must know you are happy. Apparently.

We are British, we must relish in these sunny moments for they are few and far between.

The sunshine makes everything look nice. The trees with lots of little buds popping through, and blossom forming. Which is lovely until you are distracted by the mating rituals of the ugliest bird in Britain. The pigeon.
Now... we say mating, what we actually mean is unwanted physical contact and the noisiest display of "Ladies, come get me!" the confidence of which soon becomes desperation.

And no, I'm not a pigeon pevert, it is just hard to enjoy a weekday lay in with noisy creatures copulating in the trees outside my bedroom window.

So avoid the pigeons, and the influx of spring time seagulls who aim for newly cleaned cars (Brian included) and bask in the the warm glow. Forget the suncream and just frazzle.
Because lets face it, the summer will be over by sunday and the colour needs to last as long as possible.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

...And then it was finally the weekend.

You would think that any weekend that begins with getting your car locked in car park would be a bad one, but I should just like to reassure you fine people, this is not the case. It is however an event that I will no be repeating.

It was of course Brian who get himself locked in, and not his negligent driver who is unable to read warning signs. But the presence of a delightful ice cold gin and tonic took away the pain of waiting behind a security barrier. It did not however, hide the embarassment at the cars driving past waving at the idiot who got herself locked in a car park.
Luckily my ignorance added to the hilarity of post work drinks to celebrate  Miss Alice Chamberlain's new job and 5 month emigaration to Greece for the summer season. (Alice: I shall be flying out to see you, just don't let me drink my weight in sambuca!)

I should not like to consider how much gin was consumed on Friday night, but it was enough to feel like something had crawled in to my mouth and died when I woke from a heavy 'sleep' on saturday morning. The beauty of drinking copious amounts of gin at social gatherings is that I had two wonderful friends to keep me under control and conserve my dignity - something very important when beveraging in  an old workplace with familar regulars and ex-colleagues.  Spake and Dr. Dee, I commend you on your efforts, and apologise, I have a hazy recollection of the evening. My self control slipped, as it often does, when my inner ladette (a personality I keep well hidden, but who unfortunately responds to high levels of alcohol) escaped in the carpark. when this gin drinking lout decided to quietly release a small and lady like burp.
Echoed is an understatement. I  disgusted  myself.  And then carried on tottering to the car for my lift home.  Please do not judge me. Usually I am fine example of elegance and decorum, but if Gordon and his mate's tonic and lime arrive to join the party then I'm done for!

The only thing worse than a small hangover from gin consumption is a Ninja hangover. These are deadly. They have an uncanny ability to sneak up on you when you least expect it. You awake in the morning ( or early afternoon as it is in some cases) and are  lured into a false sense of security by your surprisinly clear vision, lack of 'litter tray' mouth and thumping of the brain. Do not be fooled. You have not escaped.

A ninja wraps itself around your head and squeezes so it feels like your little dehydrated and shrunken brain is going to burst forth from your eyeballs. It is trained to suck every once of energy from your body and turns your mouth into an amplifier of muffled unintelligble sounds that emerge from your vocal chords. The only cure? You must succumb to the pain (for paracetamol is not mighty enough to destroy the Ninja) and sleep.

I am plagued by ninja's when I change my choice beverage  from the spirits to a liquid that begins with 'W' and rhymes with 'mine'. I can't say the word (or think it) for fear the reparcussions.... stunning biological pyrotechnics.
Saturday evening announced the arrival of two very dear friends. I was of course completely ahead of schedule. Dinner was prepared and I was suitably dressed to greet and entertain fellow graduates/housemates.

Of course I am lying.
The only preparations made for the evening's antics were the bottles chilling in the fridge. The array of vegetables lay unprepared on the counter and the oven remained dark and cold. I am not one to follow recipes and enjoy a very blase cooking method:  a bit of this, a sprinkle of that, fry that, dunk that there, season this and then "Oh poo, I should have put those in to roast 40 minutes ago".  Voila!
The result? A dinner on the table at 9.30. Slightly pissed housemates and a lovely recipe that I shall never be able to recreate.
 While concocting a spectacular feast of moroccan lamb stuffed peppers with seasoned sweet potato wedges, I was happy sipping my aloholic grape juice.

"But" I hear you cry, " why would you drink if you were already hungover?". Well my friends, the answer lays in the my cultural lessons as life as a student. The only exception to not continuing to drink the day after was if you were unable to raise your head from the pillow. And because I still had the control and movement of all my appendages, I consumed a large amount of grape flavoured alcohol with Mr S Musical and Miss BBL last night.
I awoke this morning blinded by sunshine and roasting beneath a duvet more suited to winter in the Serbia, than a cool spring night in a central heated home.
It appears that a brisk walk along the beach in the sunday afternoon sunshine triggered my Ninja. Which was then made worse by lunch in the sailing club.

And so you find me here, sprawled on my bed, groaning on the inside and wincing at the brightness of my laptop screen (and yes, I have already turned it down.)
I can't even relish in the relief that I have a few more days to recover because tomorrow is Monday. What happened to the ability to instantly recover? Perhaps this 'skill' disappears the day you don the cap and gown and collect your very expensive piece of paper.

Next weekend shall be the same. Frank is returning to my family home after a prolonged absence ( a visit I am eargerly awaiting), along with a whole host of family members who are reuniting for what shall be a riot of a weekend. My younger sister, studying the art of fashion and Birmingham nightlife, is returning home, and as with most sibling rivalries I will be rising to the challenge - I shall not be beaten by her youth and ability to hold her booze like a cactus holds water.
If someone offers me an ice cold gin and tonic, I will not be turning it down.

But please may I have an extended weekend to recover?  Thank you kindly.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

...And then it was time for the re-uni-on....

Last week Exeter wasn't Exeter without my family at Number 10 Longbrook Terrace, so this week Brian and I made another road trip - much to his disgust and I think my credit card groaned at being shoved into a chip'n'pin machine at yet another petrol station.

It was quite possibly the most unorganised weekend ever, and it was well deserved after what felt like a week worth of Monday's. A lot of laughing and a lot of wine, and even more food. My first ever Calzone, my first ever pub lunch in Windsor and my first ever on- screen 'moment'.

Surbiton has an ATM vestibule ( Essentially just the foyer of a bank which is still open – nothing to exciting and yet PRIOR to any alcohol I found it , like... totally amzing). And just like the episode of Friends when Chandler gets stuck in one with a model during a black out, I got ‘stuck’ with Mr S. Musical … while he took money out from the machine.
It was ruined however, when I tried to explain the importance of the vestibule and the woman by calling her a Veronica’s Closet model….
His blank face said it all.
He thought I was a loon.

He quickly (but it could have been speedier to save my embarrassment) realised that what I actually meant was Victoria’s Secret. Obviously.

It became the source of much amusement. Unfortunately.
I drowned my stupidity in wine, olives and garlic, cheese and a really good Pizza pasty – a calzone.
Just a quick note for all you Calzone virgins? ... share it with a friend. That’s a lot of dough and a helluva’ lot of filling. Luckily little Miss BeachBreak was on hand!

But with my Uni family around me, it felt like I’d never left. So the surroundings may have been a little different, and we were celebrating newfound employment rather than the bonus of a maintenance loan, but the company was still the same.

A little trip to Datchet, Royal Berkshire to visit a certain Miss Brazil fresh back from her Thai travels who couldn’t attend  our little pizza night. We planned to feed some very hungry ducks, however the lack of stale bread and a chorus of rumbly tummies meant we decided to seek food for ourselves. It was a very hard to decision to make. And I apologise to those little quacking animals. You looked at me sailing past in the car with such hunger and desperation.
Lucky for them I saw a group of small children laden down with bags of bread. I assumed they’d be feeding them. Unless five year olds enjoy stuffing their faces with slightly mouldy Kingsmill.

When you’ve had a flat week, it’s those little poorly organised reunions that put a little smile back on.
I don’t have a reunion next week – just an appointment with the hairdresser. She shall be turning my hair orange. Oh god.
But I’m sure I shall smile underneath the grimace.

 NB I would also like to pass on a heartfelt message of thanks. Florence, (of Florence and the Machine fame) you were part of the reason I missed my junction and took an exceptionally long detour a few weeks ago, but my friend, this week - this week you made me run a full  three and a half minutes on the treadmill. You are brilliant.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

...And then I returned to Exeter.

And so eight months after Graduation I returned to the wonderful city that was my home for three years.

I managed to get myself and Brian lost. Twice. Then I wrapped him around a well hidden and utterly pointless bollard.
Complete with scratched paintwork and a sizeable dent he's looking a little more butch. Perhaps.

I didn't really see much of the city that I miss so much. I briefly sped (being the operative word) past the regular haunt of the residents of Number 10 Longbrook Terrace. The Firehouse. It should be listed as number one of the list of things to do in the West Country - if only for its cheap wine and huge bargain pizzas. Just to fill those late night munchies don't you know...

Drove past my department where I spent most of my days, and 'The Impy' opposite where I spent the rest - Oh the pimms memories, or lack of.
Summers spent wasting away in the sunshine of the beer garden when you actually intended to have a productive group planning session for that all important presentation.

Exeter doesn't quite have the same 'homely' feel when you know absolutely no one in the city, and for the first time ever you've completely lost all sense of direction and end up driving the longest route across the city at rush hour, throwing expletives at anyone and everything.
I'm usually a very calm driver. But that's only before I plough my 4 wheeled engine into things. As I keep telling my friends though, in hope to reclaim the smallest shred of my driving credibility "At least I don't hit moving things".

A friend organises an annual networking event and I was invited back to share my knowledge and experience with fresh young students, disgustingly unaffected by the real world and skepticism. Oh how I miss that beautiful bubble.

I met a lot of very interesting people. Who knew a lot of very interesting things. They were happy to share this very interesting information with a very keen bean. I think I helped some students, at least I hope I helped. If I put them off then I doubt I’ll be invited back. Which for Brian might be good news.

Aside from the extortionate cost of fuel, a rant that I shall not begin, getting lost, eating a ruddy awful breakfast that tasted like rubber egg, plastic sausage and stale muffin from a restaurant with glowing golden arches, and leaving Exeter at 4.30am without my morning caffeine fix (the kettle in my hotel room sounded like it was going to explode), unshowered and bleary eyed, I made it into work with a wealth of contacts and information to help me on my way.

People who know people, know people.

And now, having wrapped my car in bubble wrap and tying pillows to the bumpers, I am off to Kingston town to meet my housemates from that bubble we call Uni.  I will have to park somewhere.

Wish Brian luck.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

...And then it was a sunny sunday.

On sunny Sunday summer mornings it seems British tradition to clean your cars until they shine, but in the Spring time - we garden.  Today I have learnt to operate and manouvre a lawn mower. Quite an achievement for an unsavvy gardener.
 But Papa Dodd has always been in charge of cutting the grass. I don't know why - that's just the way. However, Pap's has gone off to New Zealand on a business trip, leaving Mumma and I alone at home.

The garden needed sorting. So I pulled the mower out of its home. Filled it with petrol from a little green petrol cannister - how quaint.
How to get the engine roaring?
Well, I used to watch Papa pull the cord. So I copied.
Not even a splutter. My poor little arms (from lack of gym) couldn't yank the cord quick enough or hard enough! I am sure the neighbours were very please to hear my numerous attempts to start the stupid thing, and also my huffs and puffs of frustration getting louder and louder.

But my determination proved successful after about 20 minutes and I managed to cut the grass in the front and back garden. Though  I must add that trying to mow in straight lines is far more difficult than it looks.

We have wonky lines, bald patches, bits that I might have missed but at least it's now short grass.
Never mind.
Papa is home next week.
He'll sort us out.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

...And then I masquereded as a successful young professional.

Yesterday I found myself amongst the bustling crowds of the Earls Court exhibition. My purpose?
To be honest I was just being nosy

I applied for tickets, they came. I pulled on my smartest clothes at some stupid o'clock hour of the morning and journeyed to London.
I wore a conference badge. My name and my company - a very successful, internationally renowned cosmetics company. However, when walking around an Events Management conference everyone, and quite rightly so, assumes that you work in or around Events. I don't.
I went to suss out the big players, the who's who of the world, what they all do and where... just for personal interest of course, but the other delegates weren't to know that!

I spent most of my day trying to avoid friendly (but not without added purpose) eye contact from representatives on stands. I knew that these very posh hotels and conference centers were going to encourage me, Little Miss Event Planner, to engage in some business deal. However I have no control or input into my company's event budget or how it is spent.

I was unable to avoid the friendly accosting by one such representative from the name of a hotel I cannot remember, but the photographs were impressive. I panicked. Lots.
I spouted a lot of BS about meetings and training days, and only being here on behalf of my manager. I think she saw through it.
I'm glad she didn't expose me as the fraud  I felt like and have me escorted from the premises.

She did however let me have a free cup of coffee and I left quickly. I nursed my pain at the realisation that a £20,000 DRAMA degree hadn't taught me to act better. But I did have a very nice double espresso.
After this encounter, I kept my head down.

I left 6 hours later, with a bag full of goodies. Magazines full of beautiful hotels that I will never be able to visit. And very sore feet.
As good as they look, do not be tempted to wear heels to a conference. Your feet will punish you.

N.B I should like to apologise to the events teams that I was representing by wearing my badge. Any reports of terrible imitator will undoubtedly be linked to me. But don't worry; you won't be receiving any invoices.

On another, entirely unrelated note, I decided to give my fitness regime another go this evening.
I have a Pilates DVD, and a pretty much brand new yoga mat. And a long day at the office needs to be unwound somehow. What better way than to stretch out your body and sculpt a beautiful beach-worthy body at the same time. A perfect combination.

It lasted 20 minutes. Lara Hudson, you perfect Pilates guru, I hate you. I ache in places that I shouldn't.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

...And then I came home

Unfortunately, the rule with going away on holiday is that you have to come back. Unlike emigrating when you don't.

So I had to return from Essex and begin my proper life again. Gone are the days of lounging on the sofa watching daytime telly and awfully cheesy chick flicks. For the record, Frank chose 'Titanic', not me. (Frank, your identity is safe so its okay to admit this fact.)
I have eaten my weight (prior to the holiday) in very yummy food and now need an extreme sporting break to burn it all off again. Or perhaps I should just get my larger-than-it-was-before arse down the gym for some cardiac therapy.

Then again, maybe not. Let's face it, I'll set the challenge and not do it, so better not to set it at all. If I lose the jelly bum and matching belly then it will be down to a miracle of  and therefore an even more impressive feat.

But back to the holiday that gave me the jelly layer.

 Five days of welcome bliss. Apart from the rain and slight spring chill in the air. As a female I think I packed my entire wardrobe. Everyone knows that you have to be ready for the day that you need to wear the little black see-through, backless tshirt* you once bought in a boxing day sale because of course it was a bargain... even though it still has the tags in it. The day that you eventually wear this might be on this very holiday.
However packing everything apparently does not stretch to 'packing thick wintery layers'. I forgot these and spent the week wearing Frank's.
 He is now moaning that they now smell of me. Calvin Klein 'Euphoria' and Johnsons triple moisture shower gel - I don't think it's bad enough to whinge about.

N.B I do not own an item of clothing that even partly resembles this (*) description. Thank god. Of course, I am sure it would look lovely on someone. Somewhere. In a dark room.

The beauty of the last day of my holiday was that the sport was on. Three lots of sport to be precise.
Normally I would be the first to huff and puff and compete with the television for Frank's attention. But on this occassion I didn't mind the rugby, cricket AND football. It meant that I could plan our next holiday.
Maybe there is a rule that prevents you from planning a holiday before you have even finished the current one, but I was, and still am, oblivious to it. And what else was I meant to do to to keep myself occupied? I have temporarily banned myself from all online shopping. It is deadly to the Mastercard. So I chopped it up.

So because Frank wasn't really paying attention, I was happily flicking through holiday brochures for the Maldives, Caribbean and Thailand.

Frank, we fly to Phuket in September for an all-inclusive 4* break. Oh and it's on your Mastercard.

[Next time, he'll only watch one game and I get control of the remote!]