Monday, 31 October 2011

...And then I left the country for a bit.

I flew for the first time in nearly five years.
Apparently that makes me a nervous flier.
I don't think it helped that the aeroplane was only marginally larger than the tiny ones little boys fly round their heads at the speed of light, making that delightful 'neeeeeeee-awwwww' sound. You know the one? Very irritating.

So yes, a nervous flier and a super excited Frank who had only found out about an hour before boarding that we were flying to Dublin for this birthday surprise. Much better than driving to Scotland which is what I had originally led him to believe.

If I have learnt anything in the last two and a half months, it is that 1) as a blogger you must regularly blog, 2) getting fit requires exercise and 3) I am an excellent (if that can be a good thing) liar.
Poor Frank had no idea and he'd heard so many tit bits of information and mistaken conversations that he really had no idea what I had planned for this birthday.

I must say I am a little smug.

We landed in a somewhat soggy Dublin, do not fear my friends, we are alive and well and arrived post flash flooding. I had eaten even less than when I had boarded the plane and desperately wanted coffee. But alas.
We had to fight our way to the baggage carousel to collect the lone bag I had paid to check into the hold because this little moron is incapable of reading a baggage measure scale thing. When I paid this particular low cost airline who's name coincidently rhymes with my car, an additional £50 for oversized bags - I was reading the 'lb' measure rather than 'kg'. (Much to Frank's amusement as I relayed this to him on the transfer bus from the car park)
I think perhaps I told Frank that it was fine, it was quite funny - but actually I was seething at my level of stupidity.
I have a degree and I am still unable to read scales. Wonderful. That £9,000 proved to be a worthwhile investment.

Anyway - we found our bus to take us to the centre of Dublin. Then we found the hotel. And then we wandered the streets. Aimlessly.
We hadn't yet located a local map.

Being the English tourists we were, Frank and I jumped onto a tour bus. We picked up a set of complimentary head phones and plugged ourselves into the sockets to listen to the tuneful renditions of traditional Irish ditties, as well as insightful facts about important buildings along the route.

Frank will deny it, but I am sure that he shut his eyes and slept part of the way round, we had been up since 6am. He argued his lack of sleep the following day by reboarding the tour bus and reciting each of the important facts before the recorded Irish man could say them. Some say Frank is gifted, others say he is wise. Me? I say that sometimes he is annoying (honestly I don't really Frank!) and I don't know how he does it. If I had been me 'sleeping' - I would have been out for the count, and no version of 'Whiskey in the jar' would stir me.

Frank awoke on Wednesday morning to a little pile of perfectly wrapped presents. These had caused no end of problems in security at the airport  - that and the fact that my bag was so overloaded that the scanner couldn't actually see inside it. Oh and I basically had a full body search. Bloomin' ridiculous, how is one meant to smuggle a weapon in skinny jeans and fitted sweater?

So Frank had a lovely birthday morning, I treated him to a very swish breakfast in one of Dublin's oldest cafes. If ever you go - you must visit Bewley's on Grafton Street. It was lovely. Frank wolfed down a good old Irish breakfast (the distinguishing factor from its English counterpart was the absence of bakes beans and the addition of white pudding - bleurgh!)

And then?
Well when in Dublin...
Do as the Irish do.

Drink Guinness in the Guinness Storehouse of course.

Now, I ain't no fan of that heavy stuff, but actually I managed to drink a little more of it than usual without scowling. Maybe it was the fear of being lynched by Irish locals that made me keep it down!
Of course I am joking.
The Irish we encoutered were the most welcoming people I have ever met. Now Frank loves a good natter with anyone, and usually I smile apologetically to people - but here? Well I just let him chat.
In fact, I found myself conversing with strangers, and even  with some Canadians.
Did you know that Ireland has the highest population of Americans and Canadians outside of North America?

Obviously I am lying. But it felt like it.
It was quite odd, but very funny to listen to their excited exclamations about "little Irish buildings", oh and the squillions of photos of ... "Me and Chuck by some bricks, me and Chuck on these cute little cobbled streets and ...oh these were good weren't they Chuck? What were they again? Oh yeah, pubs that's right - all those pubs. Here's me and Chuck eating Irish stew and ....."
Oh dear, I actually pity those poor folks back home!

Frank's biggest surprise, perhaps bigger than the actual trip, were the secret tickets to see Lee Evans on his last night at the Dublin O2.
Now, I'm not biased or anything, and he didn't pay me to say this - but he was absolutely fantastic! Frank had a cheshire cat grin throughout the entire stand up, and my tummy hurt from chuckling.

And to all those people who left early - yeah you, the guys who left when you thought it was the end, you know to beat the queues? Well you didn't get your full money's worth did you chaps? Oh no - that little sweaty monkey man continued for another twenty minutes!

We walked back a long the river side into the city centre. The River Liffey was exceptionally high, (because of the floodwater) but had a fat man jumped in - he would have displaced all the water onto the pavements and roads that ran along side.
It was quite a pretty walk. Dublin is very flat. Very pretty. But has a lot less street lights than London. There were a lot of dark patches. And some rather obscure sculptures of what looked like emaciated people.

And then all of a sudden it was our last day in this lovely little city.
We spent the afternoon in Cafe En Seine, Dawson Street (another little hotspot to visit). It was all art deco and very suave. I felt like Frank should have been wearing spats and a suit and hat, and I should have had finger-waved hair, a fur coat, and a cigarette in a holder between perfectly painted red lips.
But no - we were not so overdressed.
We enjoyed the paper, drank coffee, and maybe a cheeky liquer coffees and then decided after a long afternoon of doing very little, that we really should move on and find somewhere else to consume our very last truly Irish Guinness.
That and the fact that we were being goaded to clear our tab by the waitressing staff who were trying to prepare the bar area for the evening.
Oh dear, we always seem to be in the way.

The only thing to put a little downer on our lovely week, was that Brian - my poor little Brian who was carted off to hospital last Friday, has been fighting a losing battle.

It turns out that his fight with Discovery wasn't quite so victorious. He came away more wounded than any of us would ever anticipate.
He has a damaged chassis.
The mechanic told me he was beyond economic repair.

Naturally I feel a saddness, and ache in my body (perhaps though this is the whiplash), but I know that letting Brian go is the right thing to do.
He will be donating his organs to other needy Ka's who have been injured and need help to recover from less serious incidents or merely to prolong their lives. It's what he would have wanted,.

I will say one last goodbye to Brian tomorrow, collect the last of my possessions from his trusty care. He will wish me all the best for the future.
I shall look longingly back at him as I leave the compoud - playing a montage of images and treasured moments in my mind to a beautiful soundtrack playing softly from his speakers.

(It will have to be softly because, well to be honest, his speakers never worked that well...)

And then back to reality, and the dreaded shopping for a new set of wheels...
Almost as important as purchasing the perfect pair of shoes.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

...And then Brian got shunted.

Yes, you read this correctly.
Brian had his rear ended rudely barged by an orange Land Rover Discovery.
(Who buys an orange 4x4 anyway?)

I was moments away from work, let a pedestrian cross and smash!
Poor Brian.
But somehow the 4x4 came off worse - cosmetically at least. I don't what what Brian looks like inside.

He's gone to hospital to have his bottom checked. It was just a bump but Mumma and Papa Dodd were concerned about invisible damage. So he's gone for an internal examination.
I had mine - just a bit of whiplash but Brian?

Still no news.
I feel like one of those people who pace up and down outside the operating theatre, but obviously with less drama.

And the worst of it all... While Brian is hoisted up in the car hospital and crying out in pain as the mechanics poke about his insides (no anaethestic for inanimate objects), I am cheating.

Yes my friends, cheating on Brian is the worst feeling of all, and with a brand new Corsa. How will my little Ka ever forgive me...
Perhaps if I tell him I thought of him every time I drove the Corsa, and he meant nothing to me?
Will that numb the pain of me deserting him for another who works better?

Oh the shame.
Come back to me Brian.

Monday, 17 October 2011

...And then I learnt a certain amount of etiquette.

( I also wanted to teach some too.)

Today's classroom of learning?
The gym.

Or more specifically perhaps - studio 2.

This evening, in studio 2, I decided to partake in a class. Gone are the aerobics and legs bums and tums that I can't keep up with... replaced with Pilates.
Having done it once or twice, buying a mat and DVD to do at home, and then losing interest, I'm not really sure what inspired me to go back. I think it may have been my lack of motivation to do anything remotely exercise based.
Unless it involved walking the mutt. Which I don't mind. Unless its raining or cold. Both of which it was this evening after work.

But today? Well something came over me.
I ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill in the gym before going down to the studio so I was already suitably exhausted. And incredibly sweaty.
However, I had the forethought to take a change of clothes.
So I mopped the sweat off me, redressed in clean clothes (never that satisfying when your body feels gross) and walked into studio 2.

Lesson #1
Don't take someone else's Pilates space. People are (by nature) very territorial and the exercise studio is no different.

Lesson #2
Arrive early enough so that you don't have to place your mat by the door where you have to listen to the banter of lads preparing for an indoor football game whilst trying to find your centre. (It also means that you will be well and truly surrounded by other Pilates-ers when the person who's space you pinched by arriving early enters the room. This is tatical pilates play and should not be attempted by beginners. An advanced Pilates-er has a much stronger core than you. This is a secret strength and is deadly when used correctly.)

Lesson #3
It is advisable to do a little bit at a time. Don't try and be the best ever, most super pilates-er ever. Never overestimate your stretchiness because my god, does it hurt and you look like a moron huffing and puffing by the door. If at this point, anyone had not realised you were new... they will now.

Lesson #4
Never copy someone else. Chances are they're doing it wrong. The instructer doesn't have the heart to tell the woman who's been attending for weeks that the moves are wrong and actually she isn't doing pilates at all, instead she will tell you. Infront of the whole class and pull/push your body into muscle destroying stretches, while you do your best to hold back the expletives and tears of pain.

Lesson #5
If you have eaten brussel sprouts, beans, bananas, shredded wheat, raisins or any other fibreous food find a way of releasing the trapped wind before entering the class.

Lesson #6
If someone in the pilates class does happen to experience the ever-feared passing of gas - DO NOT laugh. You will be the only one who does so and there will be lots of stern expressions.

Lesson #6a
If the pilates-er who ate brussels was the same person who's space you pinched, laughing will make the situation much worse.

Lesson #7
Position yourself in such a way so that when attempting these core building exercises you do not touch anyone. At all. Pilates-er's do not like to be touched. Even a little foot graze is too much of an invasion of space. Apologise. Sincerely. Without giggling like a school girl and reposition yourself so that you hit the wall every time you move. Thus only injuring yourself without destroying the calm and serene atmosphere.

Lesson  #8
Do not offer your towel to anyone else. Regardless of how sweaty they are, or how much you think it might help. They will not only be utterly disgusted (more so by this than the wind with no owner), but they will think you barbaric and uncivilised.

Lesson #9
Avoid drinking lots of water. And if you must (because you did cardio before arriving) at least remember to go the toilet. Pilates is all about core muscles. Core muscles control your bladder. Excessive squeezing and releasing plays dirty tricks on your mind and you may think that you will wet yourself. If this is the case ... grin and bear it. Leaving a pilates class before the end is a sin, and you will be punished by the muscle stretching instructor.

Lesson #10
A true pilates-er does not flick the exercise mat in the air when rolling it up. A true pilates-er knows the health and safety risks of this method and will instead roll it along the floor, thereby removing the risk of whipping a fellow pilates-er in the face.

If you have learnt these 10 basic lessons, you may return to your second class. Or avoid the humiliation and never attend again. Perhaps try yoga instead. Similar exercise but you can start afresh with a new set of people.

And the etiquette lesson I should like to teach?

Lesson #1
An all-female changing does not allow you to walk around starkers. Women may appreciate that they are all-female, but do not need to see it all. Get yourself a towel for the shower (infact make that two towels so that you don't use the only one you have to wrap your hair up) and go into a cubicle.
The locker area is for changing shoes, removing layers and blow-drying hair once dressed, not for stripping down to bare it all.

Many thanks.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

...And then it was 7 days late.

Obviously I'm talking about a post.
Not anything else, don't worry Frank. Or Mumma.

This has post has been a long time coming and I don't even have any exciting news to fill it.
Except that even though I should be the most stressed out person in the world, I'm actually a little too laid back right now - aside from literally reclining into a deep pile of cushions.

I blame it all on my weekend.
I had the most uneventful and stress free journey to Ipswich.
I saw my first most perfect and complete rainbow (practically drove under it, even though I know it's the refraction of light through water droplets in the sky so you can't possibly 'drive under it'... it felt like a girly and magical moment all the same.)
I became one of the people I hate the most on motorways ... not a lane hogger, just a slow driver. And we're talking Grandma slow.

And it meant that I arrived at Frank's calm. There was no anger. No frustration but I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep.

I was taken out for a lovely lunch on a boat. I knew it was posh when I saw tablecloths, fabric napkins, too many glasses and more than one set of cutlery. It was such a treat.
Mmmm and so good. Thanks Frank!

Then we drank a lot in the evening. Call it 'teacher bonding' or 'team development' if you like, I like to call it 'Getting off yer face'. And it was a right laugh. As always.
Sunday was lunch with Frank's family. Good old roast dinner...  mmm
I'll I've done is eat.
And its great.

I don't even feel that bad about not going to the gym.
Maybe I'll get around to it later, but I doubt. Too much else going on right now.

Ooh must dash, dinner smells done.
mmmm fish pie!
God I could eat a horse if I wasn't utterly disgusted by the idea/

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

...And then there was a walk with the Mutt.

The sky was clouding over.
The wind was picking up.
The dark night was setting in.

But... Well the Mutt can't walk herself.
She might.
But I don't think she'd make it back.
And if she did, it would take hours.
I think she would lose herself in sniffing strange smells.
So I must act as a chaperone.

Actually it was quite a nice walk. I plugged myself into a music playing device and had quite a varied soundtrack.
And I forgot all about the potentially terrible weather.
I even had a bit of a sweat (or glow) on by the time I got home.
What a lovely Tuesday.
And winter is definitely on its way...

Monday, 3 October 2011

...And then there was an innoculation.

Yes, that's right my friends - this less than sickly child has had a flu jab.
(Much to the disgust of Miss USA who couldn't see the point in protecting myself against three particular strains of flu... out of hundreds, if not thousands of mutations of the flu virus. When put like that - neither can I.)

I'm not really sure why I opted to have a needle jabbed in my arm.
The worst I get is the sniffles.
I've never had a flu jab.
My immune system is pretty hardy.

But what if... what if, this was the year I get struck down by the virus!

So yes, my am may be aching a whole lot more than is perhaps deemed necessary but I'm hoping I'll be healthier than usual.
Watch this space!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

...And then there was an omnibus **.

** "...Pertaining to, including, or dealing with numerous objects or items at once..."

Which is precisely what I am doing now, having not written since Monday. A downright shocking attempt at being a regular blogger. However, at least I didn't let it drag into two weeks of silence.

I feel I must begin with the overtly British topic of the weather, since that has been all that has graced various conversations this week. I am aware that we are having lovely weather, and yes I am also aware that yesterday's temperatures make this the hottest autmn on record... but please can we stop talking about it?

I know it's hot.
I don't really like that it's hot.
I want to be wearing boots and scarves please. It was September and now it's October. I want proper autumn clothes please
This morning, I did almost succumb to the heat and consider (albeit briefly) wearing shorts. It meant foraging for them in the depths of drawers and now that our calendar summer is gone, my 'tan' has faded. I say 'tan', really it was a skin shade darker than my natual British glow... or translucence, if I'm being honest.
Rather than display this less than worthy attempt at a summer body, I opted for a simpler (and safer) combination.
I resorted to jeans and a pretty camisole, choosing to save the eyes of the British public. But some did not act with this level of thought or common courtesy. I saw bottom skimming shorts on bottoms that were eating them, and topless men who were sporting larger and considerably more wobbly 'pecs' than some females.
It appears that our judgement of appropriate attire flies out the open window as soon as the sunshine rears its happy yellow face from behind usual English blanket of grey cloud.
I beg you people, please consult a full length mirror before leaving the house... and if in doubt - don't.

Call me harsh, rude, unnecessary, mean, bitchy ... but you will all thank me for the preventative measure since I know (and secretly you do too) that we will never be able to say "Joe/Joanne Bloggs, I don't think you should wear that."  It's so much easier to smile (covering the grimace) and say "Oh I like your shorts."

So aside from bizarre wardrobe choices, what other events must I share with you this week?

- On Tuesday, Reese's Pieces (a staple of the American candy store and delivered with love by Miss USA) saved my life at 3 o'clock. Or choc o'clock as it has become known by the team. It appears our sugar levels drop simultaneously so we pull various assortments of cocoa-based snacks from our secret hiding places (never trust sugar deprived women, even if they are colleagues) and enjoy a brief mid afternoon siesta - without the sleep. Except my chocolate stash was empty and I had forgotten to replenish my stores. Apparently Miss USA has two stashes - her draw and her handbag! Excellent planning.

- It was announced this week by the Transport Minister that they were considering raising the speed limit on UK motorways from 70mph to 80mph.
Phillip Hammond, Transport Secretary, was quoted on the BBC Radio 1 news saying
"...We will be bringing all those drivers who regularly speed back on to the right side of the law..."
May I just say that this is a truly wonderful plan. Rather than fining those drivers who speed we'll just raise the limit to encompass them instead.
I will admit, and not proudly, that there are occassions on the M25 when my speedometer is waggling furiously over the 80 mark. And I slow down again. But if we make the limit 80mph, doesn't this mean we'll probably end up doing 90mph before saying "..Whoopsy! I must slow down"
And surely Mr Hammond (not of Top Gear fame - who I'm sure will have something to say about this new plan), increasing the maximum speed will increase the number of accidents. We aren't used to driving at 90mph and will probably underestimate the thinking time and stopping distance...
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Besides Brian can't drive at 90mph, so I'll be one of those annoying drivers. The ones I hate.

- I also needed a hair cut. Nothing extravagent. Nothing exciting. I realised that it was time to face my hairdresser. There were some serious split ends to sort out and I had to admit that I'd been dying my hair myself.
I would happily say I was quite assertive. I'm quite happy to speak my mind. But when faced with a skilled hairdresser brandishing sharp scissors... You say anything to keep your hair safe. I walked out with a perfectly normal hair cut. And an appointment for colour.
It's fine, I can cancel it later.

- There was a moment this week, when I thought I could move out. And rent. Ha. Fat chance. Turns out that I can't do either. My maths skills and saving aren't too great. I thought they were alright. So that was a bit of a reality check. I set a new goal though -  so I'll be a grown up little girl soon. (Living on baked beans again.) 

- Oh and I don't like Pop Tarts. (Sorry Miss Hendo, I know they came all the way from Vegas)

And here we are... Sunday night.
I'm full up with roast dinner (and a cheeky Wispa), the headache I had is gone, I've done nothing (sometimes that nice)... oh I dyed Mumma Dodd's hair (sorry, I lied) and now? Well I'm sat ready to wait for a bit of Downton Abbey.
Can't wait.

Have a good week everyone - lets fast forward through Monday.