Thursday, December 15, 2005

firing blanks
I'm too contented to write so have decided to take a holiday. Really, burbling on about how great everything is and how super it is to plan to paint a wall is dull, dull, dull.

Monday, December 12, 2005

marvelous medicine soup and other tales
I made soup on Saturday. Water, yellow lentils, an onion, half a butternut squash and some carrots were added to the saucepan, but only after I'd fried up some spices. I wish I'd paid more attention to what I was doing because by happy accident the soup ended up tasting sublime - just the right mixture of spicy, earthy, robust and delicate. I remember adding fenugreek, ginger, chillies, cumin, a dash of paprika, a healthy shake or two of turmeric and cayene. Whatever it was I did, it was good and I hope I'll be able to repeat it.
The Sett continues to delight, even though we had our first experience of the responsibility of homeownership. Poor TA spent an hour and a half on Sunday unblocking the waste disposal unit in the kitchen. Meanwhile I am full-on nesting - I find myself unwilling to leave the flat, even for things I really want to do. Getting up and out for things I don't really want to do - work, for example - is verging on impossible.
This morning I woke feeling slightly troubled. I'd dreamt that I was swimming in a public pool. I had to swim front crawl because I needed to see where I was going (I'm much better at backstroke) and everything was blurry because I wasn't wearing my glasses. The shallow end of the pool was far away and I was tired but I carried on swimming doggedly, self conscious because I knew that my legs were sinking and I was not swimming well. When I finally reached the shallow end a lifeguard insisted that I get out of the water as I was a danger to myself. I refused and so he drained the pool to prevent me swimming any more. I told TA about my dream, expecting some affection and reassurance. But no! He thought this dream most amusing and chuckled at my twisted subconscious.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

happiness is
Do you remember those naff cartoons saying ‘love is’, featuring a cutesy girl and boy in the buff doing cutesy-cutesy things? Well, I hate to admit it, but my life is beginning to resemble those sickly-sweet cartoons. I find myself overwhelmed with joy at the most mundane things: a teaspoon, for instance.
When we lived at the Palais we kept most of our kitchen equipment boxed up in the shed, since the apartment had been supplied with crockery, cutlery, pots and pans. So, instead of using the beautiful plates we bought with our wedding money or the elegant glasses we had been given as a long-ago flat warming gift, for the last seven months we have been eating off ugly white standard-issue plates and using the cheapest, nastiest, worst designed knives and forks you can imagine. The spoons, in particular, were a source of revulsion. The bowls (what is the technical terminology for spoon anatomy?) of the spoons were larger than they should be and the neck was oddly hollow (as were the handles, which used to fill up with water when they were washed – ugh) a sort of ‘n’ shaped stem joined the bowl to the handle. All sorts of food would get into the ‘n’, but what bugged me the most was seeing my yoghurt in the back of the spoon.
Last weekend we unpacked boxes that had been in the shed since we left Badger Mansions: out came our lovingly chosen plates, our good-quality kitchen knives and the cutlery that TA had bought when we first moved in together. Well-proportioned, simple stainless steel – the teaspoons looked positively dainty in comparison to the clod-hopping nasty spoons I could never become resigned to. Happiness is eating yoghurt with a teaspoon that doesn’t get clogged up.
Last night I was so keen to get home I tried to run the whole way (but only managed a 50:50 ratio of running to walking); as a result I got home in a record-breaking (for me) 45 minutes and then promptly had to sit down to recover. TA and I pottered around the kitchen – roasting a chicken, veggies and washing spinach – while we waited for the bedroom design chap to turn up. To cut a long, dull story short we didn’t think much of the chap, he was patronising and repetitive, or his wares, which weren’t as flexible or customisable as we had hoped. We discussed the bedroom at length while eating our chicken (beautifully roasted, even if I do say so myself).
“Honestly, if we ignore practicalities and cost, my heart is set on real, solid wood,” I said. “But I’ve been looking for solid wood fitted bedrooms and it seems they don’t exist – we’d have to hire a carpenter. Can you imagine the expense?”
I popped a Brussels sprout in my mouth (beautifully cooked – slightly charred outer layer, sweet and soft interior and pleasingly salty – even if I do say so myself) and we thought about the expense of homeownership, both still shell-shocked at the revelation that a merely adequate fitted bedroom could cost £3.5k.
TA and I discussed what we wanted in the bedroom – the importance of ensuring that the end result looks city-type sleek (we plan to rent the flat in a few years’ time), the need to maximise storage space, the fact that spend has to increase rental value (which is different than increasing sale value). TA and I discussed his bed – had he enjoyed building it, how long did it take to complete, what tools did it need, how much did the wood cost? And slowly, but inexorably, the conversation began to sidle up to considering a whole new level of DIY.
TA’s first step will be to create a 3D model of each room so that we can try out different design ideas, colours and so forth. Once that is done – hopefully before the New Year – we can begin planning our bedroom in earnest. And then the carpentry, and the fun, will begin!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

home sweet spinach
I cannot begin to describe to you how happy I am with the sett. I spent the first few days just trying to absorb the knowledge that this is our home, ours not a landlord's and not shared with anyone. Having finally got everything to an adequate level of sorted outness, I curled up on the (temporary) sofa on Sunday and just breathed it all in before reading a book and enjoying the space. It's the simplest things that make me realise now how crabbed our existence at the palais had become, how fearful I was of stepping outside our bedroom door and entering the perfect storm of theatrics. I find myself reluctant to leave the cocoon. I find myself cleaning just for the pleasure of making the most of each room.
TA is most excited about the loft, which is ripe for a half-conversion (leasehold gubbins prevents us from ever being able to fully convert the loft); while I am both thrilled and overwhelmed at the prospect of gradually transforming each room until we have a beautiful apartment. Our bedroom is my highest priority, since it is tiny, cramped and lacks storage space. An advisor from a fitted bedroom manufacturer is coming round tonight to draw up plans and give us a cost estimate. It all feels unreal.
The vendor left all the furniture in situ (hence the temp sofa, which sure beats having a temp housemate), having taken our pick of this bounty we have arranged for the estate agent to dispose of the unwanted items soon and scheduled to collect the inheritance furniture in January.
From now on you can expect regular progress reports on the bedroom, bathroom and loft renovations; not to mention colour schemes for the living room and kitchen makeovers. Should I apologise in advance for boring you silly?
And the title of this post? When I was teaching in Greece my English housemate and I were taught the Greek expression for ‘home sweet home’ – unfortunately it was several months before we realised that we’d been saying the second half of the phrase incorrectly ‘spinaki’ instead of ‘spitaki’. Spiti mou spinaki mou = my home my spinach.

Friday, December 02, 2005

ready, sett, go!
Yesterday I worked from home, the old one, so that I could help TA with the removal process. Having made three round trips with our rucksacks the night before, I woke up quite sore and overwhelmed at the task in front of us, wishing that I had been successful in my efforts to persuade TA that we needed to engage the services of a "man and van". We set off with more stuff at 7.30am so that I could be back in time to log on to work at 9am. The Sett already looked like a bomb site - a clothes mountain in the living room, many leaning towers of books... And we'd barely scratched the surface. When we returned to the Palais TA's sister requested an audience - TA came back thunder faced, he said: she wants us out so that she can move her stuff into this room. He headed out with another full rucksack, a suit bag and a suitcase on wheels that was falling apart - he looked like he was about to face his doom. We did another joint trip after lunch and on our return TA had a moment of clarity, admitting: we need the services of a "man and van".
After securing a man and his van for this morning, our efforts yesterday afternoon became more focused - boxes were taped up, furniture dismantled - as items were sorted according to their portability and weight as either "van" or "rucksack". We made our last trip yesterday at around 9pm and, for the first time since viewing the place four months ago, I took a few moments to look around properly. Even through the haze of tiredness and the mess I could see that we had managed to find a little gem. Sure, I'd rather be more central, sure, I'd rather the flat was bigger - but all in all I think it's a good flat for us. Phew!
We returned to the Palais and pottered around, trying to clean up as much as possible and prepare for the final big push. Finally, we could do no more and went to bed exhausted. Lying in the dark on the bed that TA designed and built himself, I whispered, "I think of this bed as a magic carpet - where we live changes, we move, but we always sleep in this bed. In my imagination it flies to the next place." TA harrumphed.
This morning I cooked TA scrambled eggs and bacon before we took care of the final few tasks. We rolled up the futon and as I left for the office for the last time from the Palais TA began taking the bed to bits.
Two hours later my phone rang. The tired voice of TA came down the line - it's all done, I'm knackered. He had carried 12 large and heavy boxes, a multigym, our bed, his computer and various other belongings up three flights of stairs.
Tonight we are meeting at the Palais. We'll pick up our frozen food and a few straggling items and then close the door of the Palais and with it that tumultuous chapter of our lives. Hurrah! My month of Advent has ended just as the traditional one begins.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

ich bin ein homeowner
Finally. Finally. We have completion. I can hardly type...of course this may have more to do with the two glasses of red wine I had at lunch time than the excitement and relief of finally, finally resolving the whole we need to live somewhere where my sanity will be maintained issue, but still. Phew. Really. TA and I... WE OWN A (our) HOME.
My gob is smacked, my ghast flabbered.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

F.A.B.
Thunderbirds are go! We have exchange. We have the instruction from the vendor to his solicitor to complete today. We have one tiny midge in the cold cream - something about the land registry - but apparently this is not enough to stop us completing today. Woo to the power of hoo! Never, in all my life, have I been so excited by the prospect of enormous quantities of debt. Never, in all my life, have I been so excited about moving to a small one-bedroom flat in need of some refurbishment. I feel like bursting into song a la Karen Carpenter; feel free to join in: Such a feelin's comin' over me / There is wonder in most everything I see / Not a cloud in the sky / Got the sun in my eyes / And I won't be surprised if it's a dream / Everything I want the world to be / Is now coming true especially for me / And the reason is clear / It's because you are here / You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen / I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation / And the only explanation I can find...
Unlike Ms Carpenter though, I expressed my excitment by impulsively snacking on a banana.
sometimes only bullets will do
I feel like I'm being bombarded at the moment...
  • Our living room is full of boxes, somebody else's boxes, two somebodies to be exact. Our replacements are moving in to the Palais on Thursday come hell, high water or Sett purchase delays.
  • My father calls - he is too old to hire a transit van, how are we going to move our inherited furnishings from deepest darkest stockbroker land to the Sett? TA turns pale at the thought of driving, I turn pale at the thought of TA driving.
  • Estate agent swears blind that we will complete tomorrow.
  • Solicitor e-mails to inform me that the vendor's solicitor says we won't complete until 6 Dec.
  • Estate agent says vendor swears blind we will complete tomorrow, not only that but the vendor's solicitor has told him we will complete on schedule tomorrow.
  • Solicitor says the vendor's solicitor now says 9 Dec is the earliest we can complete and thinks that somebody is lying to the estate agent.
  • Estate agent says I've got two sets of keys, the place has been professionally cleaned, I'm taking TA to inspect, we will complete tomorrow.
  • Solicitor sends the legalese e-mail equivalent of a sarcastic "yeah, right mate - dream on".
  • TA calls, he's on his way to inspect the Sett.
  • To be continued...(hopefully)

Friday, November 25, 2005

making my heart sing
I’m at that point in my day where caffeine saturation has hit optimal levels and my brain is fizzing like a sherbet-dip-coated sparkler. I was browsing the science section of The Guardian – work is slow today – when I read this. What a beautifully elegant idea.
I had an informal chat with the hiring manager about the writing job and, although I’m not a suitable candidate for the current position, which is fairly senior, we’re looking at ways for me to transition to the writing team. I recently signed up for the company pension and feel as though I’ve committed to staying here for a few years – it will pay the mortgage, the maternity leave benefits are good, I appreciate the flexible working options, I like my team mates. And looking for a new job is such a pain in the butt. I have mixed feelings about this, particularly since from a career standpoint I’m not really going anywhere, but stability is not to be sneezed at.
TA is looking for a job. He goes in cycles and at the moment he seems to be in a good place creatively. I think that these cycles are getting shorter though – when he first took redundancy he entered a long period of working very hard followed by a seemingly endless period of bleakness – I constantly check for signs of an impending crash, but (touch wood) the bleak spells seem to be shorter and shallower these days.
Finally, of course, the imminent move to the Sett has raised my base happiness bar. Phew, it’s been how many months in the making?
moving on up
We’re moving! Next week, Tuesday to be exact, we will finally get the keys to the Sett. Can you Adam and Eve it? I must admit that I cannot quite get my head around it. Yesterday we paid the solicitors’ fees (eek!); we will exchange contracts on Monday and visit the Sett to ensure that the tenants have vacated before completing the following day. TA wishes to avoid hiring a van, instead he proposes to use his rucksack to transport all our worldly goods. A rucksack. Can I remind you that we have, amongst other things, a multigym, bedroom furniture, a freezer, an enormous PC… I can’t see a rucksack, no matter how big, being up to the job. Nevertheless, TA keeps trying to persuade me that this is the way to do it, despite the fact that he’s going to be on his own for the majority of the move (I’ll be at work).
In other moving news, there’s a job on the writing team at work that I am toying with applying for. More money, more interesting role, more status. Not sure if it is a happy team, not sure if I’d be any good at it. Is this a direction I want my career to move in?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

creating a passion pearl from the grit of everyday life
There are people I admire – people who seem to have followed their own path, knowing that this is their birthright, and in so doing created their own world or changed the world of others – Tori Amos, Jeanette Winterson, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall, Peter Jackson and, to a lesser extent, Simon and Wendy. Eight years ago, Simon and Wendy bought a near-derelict castle in the Lake District wilds. They said goodbye to their London lives and drove to the hills. It was a gamble of course, but one that paid off handsomely. Augill is beautiful and, as we discovered, they have been able to ease back a little and relax into the role of village royalty.
TA and I spent a night at Augill Castle four years ago celebrating TA’s birthday and we were excited to be going back for two nights to celebrate three years of marriage. The weekend was good, really good – it was wonderful to relax and spend time together, wonderful to walk down frost-encrusted footpaths, wonderful to feast on pub lunches, three-course dinners and decadent breakfasts. However, as Hallmark wisdom tells us: you cannot step in the same river twice. I was impressed and awestruck by how much Wendy and Simon had achieved and, as a spectator, pleased for them that they had managed to arrange their home life so beautifully, but as a guest at their castle I was disappointed that they had stopped going the extra mile, that the food was merely good rather than superb, that the luxury had been scaled back slightly and that they seemed ever so slightly disengaged. It was an incredibly expensive weekend away – money I do not begrudge spending but that is hard earned – next time we’ll go somewhere new. Seeing close up how others have realised their dreams, I was left ruminating once more on my own aspirations and how to bend the world to meet my desires. How do these people do it, what is the thing that drives them to achieve? I don’t have the answers yet, but I’m hopeful that I’ll solve the puzzle soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

and relax
TA sometimes walks me to work, occasionally we even manage to have coffee together before the demands of the convicted monopolist require that I am chained to my desk in the sadomasochistic fashion that is all the rage in the world of PR. But I digress… This morning as TA and I walked along the Thames, he expanded on an idea he had aired last night.
“Panacea,” he said, “panacea is definitely part of the Lisa lexicon. As is deprecating, that’s another word I’ve started to use thanks to the Lisa lexicon.”
I mulled this over for a few steps before asking: “Is ‘lexicon’ part of the Lisa lexicon then? And why do I get the distinct impression that these are the words that I use that you think are a bit, I don’t know, self-consciously snobby?”
Apparently ‘lexicon’ is not part of, what by now TA had preemptively trademarked as, the Lisa Lexicon – so that I could hear the capitalisation and mockery.
“Saucisson,” he said, chuckling to himself. That’s another one from the Lisa Lexicon™.
At this point I was conflicted, engaged in heated denial while simultaneously remembering that a blogging pal listed sausage as her default word and suddenly I was sad – I’ve missed updating the UB – thinking of all the things I had stockpiled to write about: the insanity of the evil empire running two major international events at the same time and expecting the same level of service as if they had only one event on the go; the Sett! the Sett!; ex-housemate D’s suspicious reappearance in the life of TA’s sister; our third wedding anniversary and our planned celebrations (postponed thanks to the demands of the evil, evil American software company that must not be named).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Work continues to interrupt play. Perhaps next week will see my sanity return...don't hold your breath though!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

fair and fowl
So, Saturday. We were up and out early and off to London Bridge train station. I left TA to get tickets while I picked up a newspaper and a twix, since the boy had not managed to get up in time to have breakfast. TA gave me my ticket and I was a bit disturbed at how much it cost. I asked - did you use our railcards? He had forgotten. Bugger.
We were on the train - a fast one, a miracle - from Waterloo when the ticket inspector came through and, after looking at our tickets, said you're changing at Woking with a questioning tone. Closer inspection showed that TA had bought tickets to Wokingham instead of Woking. No idea where that is, but believe me tickets from Waterloo cost quite a bit, specially without a railcard...
Our day with social Uncle K and his dry, ever-so-slightly-acerbic, wife F passed off as well as it could considering. Considering he is trying to hide reservoirs of bitterness about having to serve the charities' solicitors. Considering he's nursing a pit of grief for the loss of his last remaining sister.
They drove us over to my aunt's house and gave us the tour. In every room K said take this and, holding up various objects, what about this? So it was that we agreed to take tables, chest of drawers, a sideboard, an iron and ironing board, glasses, cookbooks, rugs, speakers...and probably many more things I can't remember. And were forced to regretfully turn down a twin tub, a sewing machine, clothes, bedding, two bicycles, garden tools, pot plants and many more things I can't remember.
On the way back to Woking we stopped off for a pub lunch and at one point I almost let the cat out of the bag about the illicit contents of a certain thank you card, but after a frantic hand squeeze from TA I restrained myself. After lunch they drove us back to the station.
We had scant minutes to catch the fast train back to London. I leaned through the window and handed Uncle K the card, which he passed over to F. TA called back as we crossed the road - just remember K, you did ask. His reply was faint as we were entering the station: I'll smoke it tonight shall I?
On Sunday we went to the Farmer's market as usual but, unusually, we bought a Guinea fowl. The time had come to test drive Hugh F-W's salmi recipe! It was a revelation - imagine a moist, dense, intense, turkey-flavoured chicken smothered in a meaty, creamy and chestnutty sauce and think of it served with creamed sprouts (topped with crispy bacon) and lovely carrots. Oh my! I'm in love with Guinnea fowl - it's the new everything. It's brilliant. Dinner was marred by one thing only - a niggling doubt about the advisability of giving an aged relative a fairly substantial amount of "strong skunk", as our friendly dealer termed it, along with cooking suggestions.
I got an e-mail from F on Monday, which I opened with trepidation. It said how nice it was to see us and thanked us for the card and contents, apparently K said it could well prove to be the high point of his life.
So that's good, isn't it.
I have a lengthy post planned to mark tomorrow, which is an important day in the world of Mr & Mrs Badger, but I don't know yet if I'll get the time to write it. Watch this space, as they say.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I'm snowed under at work today - and likely will be for the rest of the week - but I'm definitely going to tell you about my visit to see uncle K at the weekend and our Sunday cooking adventure soon. Just as soon as I have time to come up for air. Promise!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

smoking in Woking
As thank yous go, this is an odd one and I hope that it will be received in the spirit in which it is being given. Obviously, the whole inheritance of furniture thing is awkward for all involved. We are very grateful though and want to give my aunt’s brother (my father’s cousin’s widow’s brother) something to show our appreciation.
The other day when we were there for lunch uncle K mentioned that he wanted to try dope. He was – I think – a little disappointed that TA and I didn’t regale him with stoner stories. TA doesn’t have any and the two or three I have are quite dull, but at the same time are not suitable for sharing with my parents. Neither of us is very good at being representative of the hip, young and trendy. On the train home TA and I began to hatch a plan.
Last night we met a friend of TA’s in the pub and scored some weed, which we will give to uncle K when we go down to inspect the furniture this weekend. We’re a bit apprehensive – perhaps uncle K wasn’t being serious? – but hope that he’ll be pleased.
quickstep
Some progress and continued frustration - welcome to the two-steps-forward-and-one-back of Sett purchasing:
  • Following a sternly worded e-mail to the managing director and a pretty angry-voiced telephone conversation, the estate agents have agreed to give us a couple of hundred quid towards our legal fees to say sorry for messing up.
  • Solicitor has now confirmed that the vendor is allowed to sell the property. (Well that's a relief isn't it?)
  • Estate agents have agreed to "kick vendor up the arse".
  • Solicitor still needs to receive papers from the freeholder, a good indication of the tardy service we can expect once we move in, apparently.
  • Estate agents have confirmed that tenants will not be vacating the property before 28 November.
  • We have signed all the necessary papers and given solicitor the deposit, however, exchange has yet to take place.
  • Solicitor had not realised that property was exempt from stamp duty, causing me to have a minor cardiac at the thought of having to pay out another few grand.

Why can't things be easy?

Monday, October 31, 2005

advent
A month earlier than is usual, I find myself with a four-week countdown. Tomorrow we will sign the contract on the Sett. I’m trying to nail down a completion date today; likely it will be the 28 November, which is when the stubborn tenants will leave.
We have arranged to stay, or at least pay rent and keep the room, at the Palais until 1 December. It is like living in the eye of a hurricane – all around us things are swirling and being uprooted but – for the moment at least – we are calm. Housemate M has left the building and taken her plastic shoppers with her. Temp Housemate has decided that her boyfriend, the commercial pilot, should move in with her. Temp Housemate is between contracts right now as is her boyfriend but, since we will cease to be landlords on 18 November and TA’s sister will take on the mantle of responsibility, I’m not going to worry about their ability to pay rent and bills or the legality of endlessly subletting rooms.
A moment of Googling tells me that the colours of advent are purple, colour of royalty, and the blue of the night sky. And, as flippant or irreverent as this may sound to those with deeply held beliefs, I do draw a number of parallels with the following explanation:
“Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world…It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!”
There are a few other areas of our life that TA and I would like deliverance from – the tyranny of unemployment, the tyranny of struggling with money, but as the season requires we are remaining hopeful that this deliverance will come to pass.
Finally, I’m very much looking forward to lighting an Advent candle in our new home – I love the festive season, bringing light and love to dark, cold nights. Celebrating family and marking the year’s end. My own celebrations and rituals encompass many sensual pleasures. Rereading the Dark is Rising sequence. Listening to the BBC’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings on cassette. Drinking cocoa. Scuffing through the dead leaves and enjoying the smell of leaf mould. Pretending to hibernate under our wedding blanket. Cuddling and holding hands. Pumpkin soup. Mulled wine. Spices. Ugg boot slippers and velvet skirts.
Come February I shall be heartily sick of the cold, bleak damp that London exudes, but right now I welcome it and the way in which my world slows and the mind focuses on home and hearth.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

in a pickle
I was going to title this post "expletive deleted”, but then since I’m still spinning and fuming and – albeit quietly under my breath – swearing it didn’t seem appropriate. If the path of true love never did run smooth what did the path to house buying never do? Yesterday I was confident that contracts would be exchanged this week and, with completion following two weeks later, we’d be in our new flat with a week to spare. Fool! Complacent fool!
It turns out that the tenants in the sett-to-be were not given their two months notice when they should have been (blame can be apportioned equally between vendor and agent), even though I was assured that they would be. As a result, we will have a ten-day period of homelessness – ten days of transience for us is not that big a deal, but finding somewhere to store all of our belongings is a major, major problem. Not to mention, now instead of one period of upheaval we are looking at two as we move everything once into storage and then again to the sett. I’d like to think this is a family-friendly (for the most part) place. So I ask you to imagine the air turning blue for an extended period of time, rather than actually transcribing my thoughts verbatim. I don’t believe it!
Anybody got any bright ideas?

Monday, October 24, 2005

plat du jour
Where on earth do I start? Flat, food, family – I have thoughts whirring in my head about all three right now, sort of like gumbo: a bit fishy, a bit spicy, with lots of unidentifiable bits bobbing around. So then, the flat. Well, Rebecca – our solicitor – has completed all the requisite searches and we might just be on track to exchange contracts this week. Can you believe it? Finally at the ripe old ages of 33 and 28, respectively, TA and I are going to be homeowners. I’ve got to admit it’s giving me the heebie-jeebies, which is silly given the lengths we’ve gone to get to this point. Also, I keep wondering if my relationship with my home will change – will I get better at keeping the place clean and tidy, will I develop a sharper design vision? – somehow I doubt it, but I’m kind of hopeful.
Related to the subject of the flat is the family stuff that’s bubbling and simmering away merrily. Yesterday TA and I met up with my parents, deceased Aunt’s brother (long story, she was actually my father’s cousin’s widow, so her brother isn’t really a relation, except that he certainly feels like one) and various other extended family members for a bit of a Sunday lunch knees up in Woking. It was a bit awkward because, well it just was for reasons I can’t quite put into words, but it was also really lovely.
The uncle who isn’t really an uncle was very jovial and welcoming – offering glass after glass of various alcoholic beverages along with lovely food and cheery conversation – and then halfway through the afternoon the sales particulars of aunt’s house were produced and we were asked to flick through the brochure and see if there were things we wanted. Essentially, they want us to clear the place as far as we can so that her belongings don’t go to waste. So the new flat will have two beautiful room-sized rugs – possibly kelim or similar, hard to tell from the photos – which means that we’ll be able to take up the carpets sooner rather than later (the jury is still out on whether we’re going to settle for laminate or live large with reclaimed wood – no prizes for guessing which I’d rather do). TA will get a ‘new’ desk – this is wonderful since his current desk is quite literally on its last legs and although when we bought it it was the right shape for the space (it’s a corner desk) we’ve moved twice since then and it has not travelled well. Also, frankly, why keep Argos flatpack laminate nasties when you can replace them with 1950s-era real wood lovelies? The kitchen and our linen closet will suddenly become fully stocked. We may get ‘new’ white goods, I’m not sure yet since we asked the vendor to leave the washing machine and fridge. Our new living room will benefit from a high-quality three-piece suite – or possibly just the sofa, I’m having difficulty imagining fitting a sofa, two chairs and a desk into a small living room. We will have a dining table and chairs – which means that we’ll be able to sit down to dinner properly instead of balancing our plates on our laps (a practice I abhor). Depending on what happens with our bedroom – we both have our hearts set on proper built-in wardrobes, but I haven’t a clue how we’re going to finance such an extravagance – we may take a wardrobe or two as a stopgap measure. Phew! I’m being dull aren’t I. All you really need to know is that through a supreme stroke of luck, it appears that our new home will be furnished with some very high-end pieces of furniture; not perhaps what we would have chosen (and certainly more than we could have ever hoped to afford), but classic and enduring – saving us hundreds if not thousands of pounds. And, since TA and I eventually plan to rent the flat to city workers, timeless good-quality furniture is no bad thing. Can timeless, good-quality furniture ever be a bad thing?
There are more entwined thoughts on the flat and family – more precisely the advisability or otherwise of starting a family in a one-bedroom flat – but these have not entirely come to the surface of the gumbo yet. I think it’s best to leave them undisturbed and unexamined to cook a little longer.
The final F was food. TA and I are going to stay with my parents on the Isle of Wight at Christmas after all – mostly at his instigation, since he has been having his own thoughts about family, its fragility and the passing of time (funnily enough, he fails to see how this might apply to his own parents). Also at TA’s instigation, we have told M&D that we will cater the day, including all the shopping (but excluding making the pudding, mince pies, sausage rolls and other long-range seasonal delicacies) as our Christmas present to them. We thoroughly enjoyed cooking for our friends last year and, anyway, the thought of traditional turkey and boiled sprouts leaves both of us rather underwhelmed. TA and I sat up with the recipe books on Friday night in a fever of anticipation. I’m so excited; I just have to share the news of what we have planned with someone (we’re keeping it secret from my parents). So here is our plan! At around midday we will convene around the fire for chilled champagne, cranberry royale and amuse bouche of smoked salmon blini, Kalamata olives and mixed nuts. After, say, half an hour of chatting and relaxing we will move from the living room to the dining room to sit down at a sumptuously laid table and pull the crackers – for the Americans in the audience, crackers are an integral part of Christmas celebrations and, in my family, it is compulsory to wear the paper hats throughout the meal and tell the corny jokes before digging in.
For a first course, we have settled on a Salmi of Guinea Fowl with Roast Chestnuts – this is a Hugh FW recipe and, since neither of us have ever eaten, let along cooked a guinea fowl before, TA and I are planning to have a trial run next week. I’ll be sure to report back on our verdict. This course may change – TA has been petitioning for roast pork belly, but I’d like to serve some kind of bird to atone for the lack of turkey.
Do you remember the bottle of claret I scored from my grateful employers? Well I’ve decided to save it for Christmas day – it came from Fortnum and Mason after all. So, we will have the choice of Claret or Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany roast beef (which will be bought from our favourite beef stall at the farmers’ market just like last year – I can’t remember the name of the joint, but we were told it is the Rolls Royce of joints and I seem to remember it featuring in Hugh FW’s MEAT book) cooked quite rare and all the trimmings. And we’re planning quite a spread of trimmings! Yorkshire puddings are a no brainer as are lemon and rosemary roast potatoes. I love pumpkin mash with spicy onions (a Nigel Slater recipe from last year’s Guardian Christmas feature) and, for my parents, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels sprouts so we will be serving creamed sprouts with bacon (another Hugh recipe). The final vegetable dish will contain glazed carrots and honey-roast parsnips. All of this will be lubricated with freshly prepared creamed horseradish and “nice gravy”. Nice gravy is quite a legend in my family as each year my paternal grandmother would compliment my mother’s gargantuan Christmas spread, her Herculean labour (with meals on wheels for the three old men and various aunts and cousins staying in our little bungalow, my mother often cooked for twelve or more), with the immortal words “nice gravy”. My mother has a similar weakness for inappropriate compliments – any new outfit I model for her garners the response “it looks nice at the back”. Anyway, to ensure the niceness of the gravy I have plans to make the beef stock before we travel to the Isle and transport it as a block of beef-flavoured ice in a cool bag.
Once the savoury delights have been despatched, TA and I will clear the dishes and give everyone the chance of a breather before serving a dessert wine – probably a Tokaj – and white chocolate mousse with cranberries or (but knowing my family AND) Christmas pudding (made by my mother) with brandy butter (made with great ceremony by my father).
The final insults to our digestion will be a selection of fine British and French cheeses served with Port followed by coffee, Godiva chocolates and a selection of liqueurs for those of us who like our coffee fortified!
Traditionally, if we finish lunch before 3pm we then watch the Queen’s speech before opening our presents. However, I doubt we’ll manage to finish this lunch before 3pm, even though I’m going to be fairly strict with the portion sizes of the opening courses. Are you excited for us?

Friday, October 21, 2005

the beautiful game
TA and I met two friends in the Southwark Tavern's dimmest, darkest, quietest booth last night. Once we were comfortably ensconced, I spent the next three hours pretending to be a feral 20-year-old girl called Mando, with a giant badger for a familiar, who was exploring a deserted city as one of a motley bunch of adventurers. Yes, we've begun game testing TA's creation again. And, really, it's going okay. I don't think I'll ever be absorbed by it like TA and his cronies are, but honestly it's not a bad way to while away the hours - and I sure enjoy the bar snacks and wine!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

odds, sods, and housemates
Just to recap for those of you who have been asleep at the back, the Palais is currently home to:

  • me, your gracious hostess and token English person
  • TA, my long-suffering husband, love of my life, light of my heart, the only Australian I'm actually happy to live with
  • Housemate J, otherwise known as sister in law (SiL) or TA's sister - an all-singing, all-acting future star of the West End. Other distinguishing features include an interest in aromatherapy and counselling. Currently dating someone after ditching ex-Housemate D (a two-timing, odious, cretin who is currently starring in Woman in White, possibly the worst of Andrew Lloyd Webber's many assults on the reputation of musical theatre).
  • Housemate M, occasionally called Bonnie Langford or the ginger one - an all-warbling, all-dancing whirling dervish, multiple-audition-failing former chorus girl from the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Temp Housemate, also known as Suddenly-and-with-no-Warning-Perm Housemate, a rough-and-ready (with the emphasis on the rough) Aussie lass who works with, from what I can gather, mad people and is dating a commercial pilot. A side note, it was she who unleashed the plague of fruit flies.
  • The Palais has three double bedrooms and Housemate M, whose replacement is Temp Housemate, seems to be shuttling between J's room and Temp's room (which itself was formally M's) depending on which of them has a boy staying. Are you getting dizzy yet? And have you noticed something odd? How is it that M and her "replacement" are in residence at the same time? Indeed, that very thing has been puzzling me.
    All of Housemate M's worldly goods were packed into enormous plastic shoppers (the stripy ones you find at pound shops - dollar stores to you yanks) at the weekend. These shoppers were left in the hall, by the front door, in the living room... Woo! I thought, Housemate M - bane of my existence, most annoying of the annoying - is finally going to leave the premises and perhaps we'll have some peace. BUT NO, she's still here and so are the shoppers! Every morning hope returns - perhaps today is the day she'll depart for her new home (since the lease was signed days ago), but every evening the heart sinks like a discarded trolley in a stagnant waterway as my eyes spy the malingering bags.
    All of which makes me even more eager to assume the soubriquet home-owner as soon as is humanly (and legally) possible. Housemate J keeps sending TA text messages asking "when are you leaving?", how's that for sisterly love? We have another five weeks left of our notice period, but it seems J wants us out sooner. Meanwhile, the completion of the legal niceties for our purchase of the Sett are gathering pace, but seeing as we started at snail's pace that isn't saying all that much. Will we meet our deadline or be homeless for a few weeks, who knows?

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    cupboard love
    Cupboard love – meaning being sweet because you want something – is an expression my mother used a lot when I was growing up and now I find myself wondering if it is well known or a bit of an “Isle of Wight-ism”. Regardless, I am frequently guilty of having cupboard love feelings.
    Recently my aunt died after a long and drawn-out illness and I felt so ashamed – mingled in with the grief was a feeling of quiet expectation. It was terrible, I felt that my grief was polluted and I was sordid for even thinking that I might inherit a little money that might help with the new flat. I fought against this hopeful expectation and hated myself for having it, but still it lingered and entwined itself around my ankles like an affectionate cat, just waiting for me to trip up. So it was that when I heard what was in the will my heart leapt and I felt unburdened.
    My wealthy aunt, with no children and few relations, had left everything to the RNLI and the National Trust. My mother shared the news with trepidation, saying that she knew how welcome a little money would have been. It was wonderful! The RNLI deserves support and visiting National Trust properties had given my aunt a great deal of pleasure – the donations were a fitting memorial to her and I could miss her without feeling guilty about looking forward to an inheritance. And so what if that meant that buying the flat – or, strictly speaking, furnishing it – would be made more difficult. Frankly, why shouldn’t something like that be a bit of a struggle; there’s no reason why that should be made easy for us. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t have anything to remember her by – and if I’m honest I truly coveted the fabulous chessmen that I’d lovingly gazed at in her sitting room, despite the fact that I play rarely and badly – but I genuinely thought that the work of the RNLI was the best tribute.
    Mum called on Saturday. My aunt’s belongings – furniture, kitchen appliances and so forth – had been valued (as every part of her estate must be so that the RNLI and National Trust can get their dues), but because she had cut the labels off the furniture (removing the fire-retardant information) the suite was unsellable. The man from the auction house said he’d give £200 and take everything, but my aunt’s sister in law said no thanks. Sister in law rang my mum and told her that TA and I could have the lot – whatever we wanted – for the new flat. She also asked if there was anything in particular we wanted and mum told her that my aunt had promised us the chessmen (apparently this is true, who knew – certainly I’d never shared my envy of and desire for the beautiful chessmen).
    My aunt was “comfortable” as they say in the stockbroker belt, and her house was tastefully (and expensively) furnished; she was a compulsive cleaner – everything was kept absolutely immaculate. She was also a cordon bleu cook and I’m salivating at the possibility of raiding her kitchen for pots, pans and everything else. I’m thrilled and excited to be the lucky recipient of free stuff (items that are better quality than TA and I could possibly afford right now) and astounded that an object of lust will now take pride of place in my new home, but, but… The guilt is back. In spades.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    It's just been one of those weeks. Work has been high-pressure hectic, I was ill, the cold war is continuing unabated, the house is (hopefully) progressing (albeit slowly), I have a to-do list as long as my arm and growing, I had a rejection letter through from a job application that had taken me a whole day to complete, TA's hernia is still hurting him... It's just been one of those weeks.
    However, the weekend looks set to be a blinder with lots of social activities planned and at least I have scored various treats from work (the highlight being a boxed bottle of Fortnum & Mason claret) in recognition of the crazy demands they have placed on me. This evening we are having work-sponsored pizza and beer.
    If I sound a bit "crispy fried" (this is agency speak for burnt out) I think it's because I've had far too much caffeine, sugar and stress already this morning. I wrote a rushed post yesterday and deleted it as too dull, but since I can't do any better today this will have to do.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    cold war
    The Palais has become very quiet, full of whispers and scuttling. TA and his sister aren't talking; no one except TA is talking to me and I admit I'm returning the favour; and those who are talking to each other are doing so in hushed tones, suddenly falling silent when someone from the other side walks in the room. It's immensely silly and quite enjoyable or at least it would be if TA and his sister were talking, which they're not.
    I've never seen TA this riled up about anything, although being TA, his being riled up manifests itself as withdrawal and a particularly muscular form of quietness. Usually if I've really upset him this gets directed at me for a day or so - but it drives me potty and I end up shouting at him until we resolve whatever caused the falling out. TA's sister is made of sterner stuff it seems. In fact it's entirely possible that, since she's cut from the same cloth, she too is doing stealth assult. Muggins here feels caught in the silent crossfire. I have my own grievances with sister in law but feel gagged by the all-pervading lack of speech. It's dumb. In all senses.
    What worries me is that I only have part of the story. I really can't figure out why they are not talking - I think perhaps SiL took an ill-judged swipe at me to TA. Now, let's face it if somebody slags off your partner it doesn't matter how close you are or how justified the criticism, you are going to leap to their defence. That's been the story here all along. One of the housemates does something to upset TA, he withdraws and tells me (only me) about it, I go in with all guns blazing to put the situation right so that TA is no longer upset...and get branded the unreasonable troublemaker for my efforts. Finally, the housemates have rebelled and become openly nasty to me and TA has become incandecent with rage, wanting to protect me and leaping to my defence in a way that he'd never do for his own benefit. (The funny boy told them that if anyone upset me their belongings would be out on the street in minutes; how's that for a misplaced sense of chivalry?) But if that's the case what is it SiL said or did that set TA off? And can't the pair of them see that they are only punishing themselves?
    For the last two days I've been saying gently "Please talk to your sister" and "Why don't you talk to your sister?", but to no avail. TA said he probably won't talk to her until after we move, when he'll be able to forget how angry he is with her. However, I'm not sure I can handle six weeks of the muted offensive, even if I'm not in the firing line. And I'm annoyed that I have been cast as a supplicant for SiL when she's sulking at me too and... well you get the idea. Crazyness, the whole thing is bonkers.
    Anyway, the good news is that we have signed draft contracts, handed in notice and *hopefully* will be on our way very soon, either that or we'll be homeless.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    cheese
    Where to start? In a moment of madness strolling through Covent Garden while TA was in Montreal I signed up for an ‘experience’. A friend and I could go to a studio for an afternoon of pampering – champagne, facials, hair and make up and a photo shoot where we could have a variety of pictures taken in up to five outfits. Exactly. What on earth was I thinking?
    Thursday was that day. TA was my friend and I had told him that he would need five outfits for his birthday experience. There’s some back story here – I hate weddings where hours are spent on photos; always the photos seem to be more important than the experience, as a result we don’t have any wedding photos and we’ve always said that it would be a good idea to get some wedding outfit photos at some point. Of course he guessed in advance what it was (git) but at least that meant that he’d be prepared. Only he wasn’t, and much time was spent yesterday morning agonising over outfit choices and ironing shirts.
    We had to get a taxi to the studio. They had told me to arrive 20 minutes before the official start time to enjoy a champagne reception. We arrived on the dot of twelve, our appointment time, and I was anxious not to miss out on the “free” champagne I had been promised. We sat on a couch in a warehouse-type area waiting for our experience to start. I got a glass of bucks fizz, the orange juice doing nothing to disguise the ropeyness of the fizz. And then it began. I was whisked away to a chair – what kind of thing was I after, I was asked. Natural, I said. Please keep it very natural. Having ensured I could see nothing by placing pads over my eyes, the beautifiers got to work. I could hear TA getting similar treatment in the chair next to me – face mask, cleanser, toner, hand massage, he even got a rather nice manicure. TA had powder liberally applied to his face and I, well, I wasn’t altogether sure what they were doing to me but it seemed to involve a lot of wet brushes. When they allowed me to look in the mirror it became evident that I’d been photoshopped and someone else’s head had been stuck on my shoulders for comedic effect. I’m not sure who this head belonged to – a Vegas showgirl, page three model, a particularly minging lady boy? – whoever it was (and the new head clearly belonged to someone at least ten years older than me) I wish they had left my face alone as I didn’t think it was funny. English manners prevented me from saying anything more than “that’s natural?” and “thank you so much” to the woman who had performed the photoshop face swap. I stumbled back to the couch and let TA persuade me that under lights the fright mask would transmogrify back into my face and look very natural.
    We went upstairs and met our photographers. Oh dear, I’d made a booboo it seemed. Although it was clear that we were a couple we couldn’t have a couple’s photo shoot. I stamped my foot until they compromised and they agreed to do a decent number of couple shots split between the two photographers. First off we did our ‘casual’ look – TA in a tee-shirt emblazoned with a funky monkey and cords, and me in a jumper and jeans – then we went back to the changing room to get our wedding finery on. TA zipped me into my corset. He opened his suit bag to get his dress shirt, but it became evident that both shirts were still hanging in our bedroom. I thought it hilarious, but having come all this way TA was really upset. I was sent to enquire about the possibility of borrowing a shirt. Meanwhile, the changing room next door was playing host to three very large ladies in black sparkly outfits and an anorexic girl wearing a dress that didn’t cover her skinny rump who was being told to get a move on by a rude photographer. In the end there was a shirt for TA and the shoot went as well as these things can.
    We were ushered into a room and the photos were projected on to a white wall. Let’s just say we are not the most photogenic of couples! We escaped at around 4pm with our dignity just about intact. And, after going home and freshening up a little, went out for an early dinner. The day of treats ended as it began with a plate of cheese and some biscuits.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    sixteen candles, twice
    Happy birthday, beloved - here's hoping this is a year when your dreams come true.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    the meal of glass and other tales of cooking triumph
    Last week we roasted a chicken – I say we because TA started the process, he followed Jamie Oliver’s instructions to the letter, every one of them except the bit where it said put the chicken in a preheated oven. TA, ever one for originality, put the chicken under a preheated grill, covered in foil, breast-side down. Hunger eventually drove me to the kitchen where I discovered his error(s); the chicken was eventually ready at around 10pm that night. I was not happy!
    I made a chicken curry with the remaining meat the following night and TA had the leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a bit crunchier than he remembered from its previous outing; chicken bones? He crunched on happily until he noticed a fragment of glass on his plate. We cannot figure out how it came to be in the curry, the rice or the tub of leftovers and TA spent a day or two with stomach ache saying, “One of the best ways of killing a person is to feed them glass you know.” Great.
    This morning I unexpectedly found myself with 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work. I chopped carrots, leeks, half a swede and made a sausage casserole for the slow cooker. We keep the slow cooker in our bedroom to avoid imposing on the housemates as it takes up a fair amount of work surface. (You can see where this is going can’t you?) I carried the pot into the bedroom and was in the middle of asking TA to set it up – a towel on the carpet and on top of that a slate to protect the floor from heat and the chance of spitting or splashing – when my wrist knocked against the door handle and the pot slipped from my grasp. Tomatoes, oil, veggies…all over the once-upon-a-time cream-coloured carpet and, at my feet, a broken slow cooker.
    Please rewind. Please rewind to before I dropped the pot, before I unwittingly fed my husband glass, before TA mis-cooked the chicken, before we moved to the Palais. Either that or please fast forward. Fast forward to a time when we are settled in our new home, when the mornings aren’t a whirlwind of trying to do ten things at once – dancing around housemates and queuing for access to the fridge, the bathroom, the cupboards. Because right now everything feels as though it is slipping though my fingers.
    Looking on the bright side, e-mail from our solicitor tells me that she has “got most of the papers, will be going through them and providing [me] with [her] report shortly” – just as well since today is the deadline for handing in our notice if we want to leave on the same date as Housemate M. I can’t wait to start the six-week countdown. Although, note the worrying use of the word “most” in the above sentence.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    joyful, joyful or sorrowful, sorrowful?
    I thought, yesterday, at least I'll be able to write about... The crisp blue sky, cold hands finding warmth in the clasp of TA's, walking along the river, shopping at market, cooking (and eating) pies and celebrating the turn of the season by reading cookbooks and thinking of Autumnal delights (safely ensconced in our room, pretending the rest of the flat doesn't exist). I thought there's no need to mention the invasion of fruit flies that Temp Housemate unleashed on us by not bothering to throw her rotting fruit away and then making it worse by overstuffing the kitchen bin and leaving it lidless (we have waste disposal, but will she use it?). Neither will I dwell on the distinct possibility that our flat purchase is about to fall through (the vendor's solicitor still hasn't sent our solicitor the paperwork); even though it was choosing paint colours and planning wardrobes that kept me sweet tempered enough to just about prevent myself going thermonuclear when I discovered that M&J had attempted to sublet our room from under us, despite the fact that TA and I are the only ones on the lease. I won't bore people with the sad state of the bath thanks to Temp Housemate's inability to rinse the hair she's shaved off down the plughole (I clean it every time she has a bath, but somehow it's difficult to keep up) or the state of semi feud we find ourselves in because I had the temerity to clean up sister-in-law's mess in the kitchen. Really, there's no point using the UB as a soapbox to proclaim my belief that unless all dishes have been dried and put away and the draining board wiped down then you haven't really cleaned up after yourself. And certainly this is not the time or the place to milk the bile that collected in response to discovering that Temp Housemate had been watching The Bill three(?) times a week even though we don't have a television license. No, I shall write purely about happy things. I shall not mention that Temp Housemate has invited her boyfriend to stay for a week even though Housemate M, in whose room they are staying, is back on Wednesday. And certainly, I'm sure no one wants to know that Temp Housemate now seems to have become de facto Perm Housemate, without a deposit, a lease update or anything approaching a conversation to ask TA and me if it's okay.
    I was totally committed to only writing about berries and nuts and celebratory goodness, if only to relieve the doom I feel every time I approach the front gate of the Palais. But then, guess what, this morning TA - who has been the rock my sanity has been holding on to by a fingernail in this deluge of disaster - told me that the mystery pain is back and that he's going to need to see a doctor again. He thought last night he could feel a lump - a hernia? - but locating it (by prodding, no doubt) made the pain unbearable. And where is there for all these thoughts to go? If it wasn't so bloody awful it would be rip-roaringly funny. And, selfishly, I'm not sure I can be strong for TA now; in fact I need him to continue to be strong for me. So you'll have to forgive the lack of beauty and happy appreciation of life's joys in this post, but the news that he's sick again has just about pushed me over the edge with worry and despair.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    walking wounded
    TA told me this morning that I've become cold, mercenary and nasty. Where has nice, compassionate Lisa gone, he asked in a voice that sounded lost. Meanwhile, our home life makes the thought of actually going to hell (in a handbasket, natch) rather appealling. After last week's round of intense and scary meetings, work has become dead calm, worryingly so, and I have begun the boring process of applying for jobs again. The solicitors are dragging their feet and our escape route seems to be overgrown with thorns. I keep having existential crises - who am I, what am I doing here, what would happen if I just cleared the bank account and disappeared? - and suddenly I think I understand why people just up sticks and vanish leaving everything and everyone behind to set up home on the streets of a city far away and lose their shoes and forget their lives in a soup of Special Brew and meths. I'm tired and bewildered as well as, apparently, cold, mercenary and nasty.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    lost in the post
    Sorry, believe me I’ve meant to write but you know how it is – the Palais is a zoo, work went mental, I had a crisis of confidence, TA and I were being social, I’m trying to chase the solicitors without actually taking up any of their time, which – of course – they bill me for. And for each episode – work suddenly getting all Office Space; home life turning into a badly acted, low-budget Channel 4 soap (think Brookside’s body under the patio, crossed with Hollyoaks’ reliance on a constant stream of interchangeable young starlets willing to wear revealing and wacky outfits, combined with the Antipodean quotient of Secret Life of Us); the house buying; the in vino veritas complex...I started to draft a post only to be distracted by fresh developments in the real world. I’m here and I want to write (and write well) but events are conspiring against me.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    jam
    This post was going to be the Israeli soldier story, then it was going to be a history of my love affair with drinking (the two topics are related, but not in the way you'd expect), then it was going to be a story about tadpoles but I couldn't remember if I'd written that here before...and then work went mental for a few days and there was no time for any story at all. And now all the stories have kind of got mushed up and are blocking up my brain a thought jam ready to be spread thick and sweet on the toast of your screen if only I could get the knife into the jar. And when that happens I end up wanting to write about something else entirely, I'm just not sure what.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    mooning at honey
    TA asked me to buy wine on the way home so I got three bottles thinking, 'that Free Man fella and his missus might be thirsty over the weekend and anyway it's three for two at Threshers.' While waiting for TA to unlock the front door (yes we're still sharing one set of keys) I spotted vibrant blue roses on the dining table. Stepping through the door the smell of sizzling steak smacked me on the lips. 'What are we celebrating?' I asked while grinning like that cat with the cream. Over dinner, which was lovely, I asked 'yes, but what are we celebrating?' I'd scored a blinder with the wine, which was both reasonably priced and a pleasure to quaff, and as the meal progressed at a leisurely pace began to feel expansive and even more blissed out. We talked about our days and a few more snippets of TA's experiences in Montreal were shared - trips can often be too overwhelming to explain all in one go. The engrossing topic of built-in wardrobes and converting the bed for the sett was discussed with gusto once more. Gradually I realised that we were celebrating the here and now, nothing else (which is kind of a shame because for a while there I was convinced that TA was about to admit that he'd landed a job with Sony and been keeping it a secret). Pudding was brought out - TA had squeezed and frozen orange juice and served the resulting sorbet with lemon mouse and grated orange chocolate from Lindt. I tell you, that combination was a fabulous success. Dishes were washed and night attire donned (you should click that link, it's worth it). Later we shared a whispered conversation about our upcoming wedding anniversary celebrations. The only trouble with this much celebrating of everyday life is that it leaves very little time for everyday life.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    raspberry swirl
    When making up is this sweet it almost makes falling out worthwhile. Last night I baked a pie – organic beef mince, onion, garlic, oregano and red wine-enhanced gravy encased in puff pastry. The pastry was shop bought, which I’ll admit is cheating, but what the hell it was a pie and I made it. While I was making pie, TA took care of the veggies. I like it when we cook together; it stops the chef from feeling lonely and unappreciated. And we do it well; when we’re good everything is good and preparing food becomes a ballet around the kitchen, with the dancers pausing for frequent embraces. When we are in this state of heightened awareness every shared moment, no matter how mundane or routine, has its own significance and is imbued with tenderness.
    TA and I ate pleased-with-ourselves pie and smiled at each other over ruby red glasses of Fleurie. Everything is bathed in a rosy glow at the moment, even without the influence of French grapes. We talked a little about our plans for the sett (I spoke to the surveyor yesterday and his verdict was: good little flat, will need new windows soon, kitchen a bit worn, but you’re paying a good price for it and it’s better built than I expected), TA’s plans for finding a new job and my day at work; we talked about the surprisingly good pie and really rather nice wine.
    When dinner was over I suggested that TA talk to his sister while I clear up – since he hadn’t said more than the briefest of hellos to her since returning. I tried to not let the state of the housemate-blasted kitchen annoy me and spoil my happy mood and luckily the dishwasher was able to make light work of the majority of the mess. J and TA obviously had a lot of catching up to do – he had missed the whole “discovery of infidelity thanks to searching D’s text messages” incident and D’s subsequent eviction – and after I’d finished the chores, but TA still hadn’t appeared, I got ready for bed. That sounds dull doesn’t it, but it isn’t because now I have decadent black silk pajamas from Montreal. I love wearing these pajamas – I am a goddess of the silver screen, I am the queen of louche lounging – I reclined on velvet cushions and passed the time by rereading Oscar and Lucinda. TA came in after a few chapters had been read…And so to bed, as the most famous diarist used to write.
    In the warm, melting space before sleep I heard TA say, “I think I’m falling in love with you all over again.” It’s a feeling I understand, share and cherish – it’s not that we fell out of love; it’s that we stopped noticing it. It seems miraculous and wonderful that, after three or more years of feeling pulverised by circumstance and unable to really pay attention to each other, just as we’re about to embark on living together in a home we own, we’re back to where we were when we first talked about living together. I had been so scared that we wouldn’t move in to the sett with happy hearts and that this new home would always be tainted with feelings of inadequacy, but now I know that we’re both thrilled by this return to form and now that we’ve found it will do all in our power to stop it slipping away again.
    And perhaps now we will recognise future short-term contracts that require travel as welcome and necessary – I think we both used the time apart to concentrate.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    homecoming king
    I wrangled a working from home day yesterday and even worked a little. I got my hair cut at the weekend and, with Aveda makeup, was looking glamorous in an understated ‘at home’ way. I ran round like a mad thing cleaning the bathroom (the temporary housemate* seems unable to leave the bathroom anything other than filthy every day) and made sure that the bed was made and the bedroom welcoming for a weary traveller. At around midday TA walked through the door and, to my eyes, he looked like a picture of himself; familiar and yet not – hyper-real and in sharp focus. What followed was an almost ritualistic period of re-acquaintance. Where he was I followed and when I left a room, within seconds, he was at my side reaching for my hand. We were both aware that we had some bridge building to do and talked in gentle voices, treating each other like fragile and precious porcelain figures. There was an intricate dance as space that had been all mine was ceded back to him and many, many displays of tender affection. Caresses, kisses, cuddles – it was a good job that none of the housemates were home. We talked and showed each other tokens of our time apart – my new dress was held up to admiring eyes, presents and new clothes were taken out TA’s luggage. We watched a film in bed and sipped Frangelico on ice. Takeout pizza for lunch and dinner at Vinopolis, conversation ebbed and flowed over food and wine. A good day, a precious day. We both slept well but woke tired – “I wish you didn’t have to work today,” he said in a plaintive voice. “Me too,” I almost mewled.
    * I may have not explained the revolving door housemate policy before as it’s been too exhausting to figure out, but I think I’ve grasped it now: housemate M had temp housemate to stay for a few days, then temp housemate went to Iceland and M went to Spain. Then M returned with another friend to stay for a few days, meanwhile, temp housemate came back from Iceland. On Sunday, M and friend left to tour Greece and Italy, leaving temp housemate behind for a month. Temp housemate has done little to endear herself to me – so far she has flooded the bathroom, left the bath coated in a layer of scum on multiple occasions, rearranged my groceries in the fridge, requested that I fix the modem when she was connected to the wrong network and couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get online, played loud music and generally been annoying. (Housemate D has, of course, been banished for quite some time.) So we are currently running two housemates – J (TA’s sister) and the temp housemate.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    concentrate
    So many times when I write - I'm going to admit a weakness for writing bad poetry, please don't hate me - what thrills me is exploring the dual meanings of words and right now concentrate is where it's at for me. You see - surprisingly, suddenly, thankfully, unlooked for and wonderfully - TA is home in three days' time and now, with a sense of immediacy, I realise that I'm going to need to hold on to something for dear life and it's going to mean that I need to concentrate on something difficult to grasp, something slippy and slidey, something that I don't know how to quantify or qualify let alone value, something that's difficult to pin down. And it's that contrary thing, the thing - possibly - that he fell in love with those four long years ago. That heady, intoxicating, sickly sweet concentrate of me that somehow gets diluted when he's around. That little mad bit of me that sits here typing and singing at the top of my voice - that part of me that runs down the street topless and blind (it's a long story) to unwittingly bare my breasts at Israeli soldiers, that part of me that says fuck it when things get too much, that part of me that is just a little bit mental, that part of me that I've been trying to disown and neuter for, sigh, twenty years, that part of me that is wild and exhilarated by craziness. Because that's the part of me that keeps life worth living and refuses to be ground down by responsibility and those bloody "client deliverables". It's that essence that makes me brave and willing to jump off the cliff just to see what falling feels like. And I know that's why he loves me, even though it scares the crap out of him. And that's why I love me, even though I am conflicted and scared, because it's that self-celebratory, caution-to-the-wind part of myself that creates all the best (and worst), makes living a rollercoaster, it's the wind in my hair and the butterflies in my stomach. And I've been playing safe for so long that it feels like playing dead.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    making a mountain out of my molehill of shame
    Today I learnt that the Latvian word for the mound of Venus translates as molehill of shame. As soon as I heard this I just had to shoehorn it into a blog post. Perhaps this will garner some comments? Being a whore for comments, I've been very disappointed that my lengthy and heartfelt posts of the last couple of days have garnered so few comments...so now I'm begging you - please stuff my box. Yeugh, enough double entendres!

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    my mind map looks like a two year old drew it
    Which is to say a multi-coloured scribble - possibly it's a picture of a lovely flat, possibly it's a picture of my frustrations with work, perhaps - if you turn it round a bit and squint - it's a beautiful portrait of TA and me standing together (look - those two red loops are our clasped hands reaching across the Atlantic). Of course, it could just be an accurate representation of a complete lack of rational thought, in which case we're all in trouble.This year seems to have more than its fair share of massive, terrible human tragedies - the war, the tsunami, the terror attacks, the plane crashes, the hurricane - and I've been trying to think of a way of responding that's meaningful, not mawkish.Most mornings I walk through Embankment Gardens in the final few minutes before I get to the office. In the days after the London bombings part of the Gardens were cordoned off and a covered stage was erected - inside there was a book of remembrance and some flowers. More flowers were left under a tree on the other side of the path. When I came back from the US - around a month later - the flowers had gone but the stage was still there and I began to wonder if there were plans to make the spot a permanent site of remembrance. The next day the stage had been dismantled, but the ground bore a huge scar - all around where the stage had been was gorgeous, lush green turf, but where the stage had stood the ground was jaundiced with bleached tufts of grass and disfigured with muddy earth. Day by day I've watched as the grass that was yellow has gradually returned to health. Until - at the moment - the grass is healthy enough to have started to make inroads on the mud. Soon you won't be able to tell that anything untoward had ever happened to that grass. But you see the healthier it gets, the sadder I feel because it strikes me that most of us experience these grand-scale tragedies like the grass did - they sear themselves across our consciousness for a few days, a week, perhaps even a month or two if we really get carried away with the media storm, can tell ourselves that we might have been there or have a tenuous link to the event. But sooner or later our thoughts return to their normal pattern and the tragedy's imprint becomes less than a shadow, less than a ghost. And perhaps that's the healthy way of it. Only I can't help but look at the newly green grass and feel it's betrayed us, because every time I see it I think of the families whose scars won't fade, whose hearts, spirits and flesh will always bear the brand of that tragedy, even as the next one has happened and all eyes are looking elsewhere. So you see I am thinking of New Orleans, the plane crashes, the bomb victims, those caught up in the tsunami, those caught up in war and all those suffering griefs no less crippling for not being covered on the evening news and I'm wondering how to turn that outpouring of compassion into something a little more concrete, constructive and meaningful than an absence of photosynthesis.
    (And, yes, I really must start typing my posts in Word first, especially when I write late at night and when I'm emotionally engaged with the topic. The typos have now been fixed.)

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    In a breach of blogging etiquette, I have posted the second installment at the bottom of yesterday's post to maintain the correct order.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    pumpkins and glass slippers
    Let me tell you about my 'Lady Day'. After panicking a bit about what one should wear to a designer and vintage clothing sale in Chelsea Town Hall (nb. for the Yanks - Chelsea is very much the posh nobs' end of town) I got dressed (tailored black wool skirt, grey shell with a yoke neck, black sandals), hunted high and low for an A-Z and finally set off with directions hastly copied down from Streetmap. I found said event and gleefully pottered around for an hour or so - I tried on a Victorian-style white blouse with buttons up the back, but it swamped me and a beautiful Katherine Hamnett black velvet frock coat that was sadly too small for me. I thoroughly enjoyed poking through rails of outlandish costumes from yesteryear...particularly the clothes that had belonged to a sixties caberet chanteuse - judging by the size and length of her dresses she was more she-male than female. I was tempted by neck to ankle sequins but in the end sense prevailled and I decided that this would not be the best look for a barrister friend's black-tie fortieth birthday celebrations. I was also sorely tempted by the most amazing pair of tan Victorian boots - tight lacing and a tiny but sturdy kitten heel - but feet back then were small and narrow weren't they? (They looked much better than these, but sort of the same style) The time had come to brave the King's Road.
    I'm quite a nervous shopper and, without TA to insist that I have every right to be there and hold up possible items for me to look at, I easily become disheartened, intimidated and bewildered. I'm not too bad when I know what I'm looking for, but all I knew yesterday is that black tie means posh and dressy but not a ballgown (annoying, since I already have one of those). I'm not a fan of SatC but still my mantra was - what would Carrie Bradshaw do? I'd more or less narrowed it down to a little black dress with strappy, glitzy sandals - but where was I to find these articles of attire? What would Carrie do I mumbled to myself as I stumbled in and out of boutiques. Then a ray of light - a helpful shop assistant asked, very humbly, if perhaps I was looking for a special occasion and could she perhaps help me. After I had explained my predicament she led me over to a rail I had not noticed before and pulled out what can only be described as a perfect princess dress. It was little, it was black, it said Carrie Bradshaw whimsy with its floaty diaphanous overskirt, black silk-satin ribbon that tied under the bust with a bow and a slightly ruched bodice. I tried it on and even with my heavy walking-around-town sandals, bare legs and no bust support garment I could see that this was a dress that did things for me. It was not in the sale and was, as you'd expect, pip-squeakingly expensive, but within fifteen minutes it was mine nonetheless.
    Next stop: shoes.
    I carried on down the King's Road but no joy. I had a 3pm appointment in Holborn so decided to stop off first at M&S to get some sheer shiny tights and then at the Clarks on High Holborn to see if they had a black strappy, sparkly sandal with a heel that wouldn't cripple me. And do you know what? They did! Comfy fit, glamorous detailing, not too heavy, not too precarious... But then I spotted another pair of shoes and there was just something delicious about them. Strappy sparkly sandals are a bit cliched these days aren't they? It's a look I've been working on and off ever since my first university ball. These shoes were different, the tiny heel and round toe stopped them from looking too eighties (and the fact that they were satin rather than velvet). After trying on both the champagne and the black variants, I walked out of the shop the rather amazed at herself owner of a pair of Calvados shoes.
    Next stop: Aveda!
    Thanks to my passion for Shampure, I'm a member of their loyalty scheme and they'd invited me to come in for a cut-price makeover and mini massage. As I was having my make up done the wonderful make up artist asked if I'd like to have a free wash and blow dry with one of the stylists - of course I would! Then we were discussing eyebrows - I never really touch mine apart from putting in a centre parting - and the lovely, lovely make up artist got the resident threader to squeeze me in (I paid for this bit of the day) mid-make over. Oh. My. God. The transformation was/is amazing. My whole face looks different - more angular, my eyes look more open and, quite simply, I look prettier. And although it hurt the feeling was so odd, so unlike what I expected, that I was too busy being fascinated to worry about the discomfort. I now know what a hedge feels like when it is trimmed with a chain saw; what a weed feels like when it is whacked with one of those contraptions. After she finished threading she even gave my Denis Healys a trim with scissors. Apparently it lasts three to four weeks - I think this is going to have to be a regular indulgence - it's cheaper than surgery or teeth whitening and the difference/improvement is of the same magnitude.
    The blow drying was slightly less successful in the transformation stakes than the rest of the day had been but it was still fun. He set my hair on enormous velcro rollers and created lots of glamour with soft face-framing waves and glossy body. Unfortunately, my hair just will not hold any kind of shape except for straight and hanging - it had slumped before I reached the tube.
    I'll tell you if the party was worth all this time and expense tomorrow.

    pumpkins and glass slippers (part deux)
    As soon as I left Aveda I knew I was running late – it was already nearly six in the afternoon and I was pretty sure the party started at seven. I know it’s okay to be a little late but still I was worried that I might get there so late that I’d only have time to say hello before needing to catch the last train home.
    I ran from the tube to the Palais, freshened up a little and put on my (strapless) wedding corset and new posh frock. Oh dear. In the shop the assistant had helped with the zip but now I discovered that it was nearly impossible to do up solo. I worried that the corset was adding an imperceptible but ruinous extra millimetre to my circumference, but frankly the idea of going to a party with an unsupported bust was too terrible to contemplate. I gave up on the struggle and started to hunt for the invite so that I could check the address – I turned the bedroom upside down and became frantic, but no joy. Wait! Their address was stored in my phone – all was not lost, but then I remembered that I’d left my phone in the office. I called directory enquiries and got a phone number for what I hoped was their house. The phone rang but no one answered. I returned to tugging at my zip, trying to get the thing done up – at last, success. I put on my glossy tights and cute shoes while wracking my brain – where is the invite, how can I find out where they live, how am I going to get there?
    I had to resign myself that I wasn’t going to the party. All that effort, expenditure and glamour wasted. My eyes fell on my laptop bag; it has a mesh pocket at the front and, would you believe it, there was my mobile! There was their address! I grabbed my coat, pocketed my phone and purse and headed for the door. Wait! Feck! I’d forgotten, in all the joy of spending money on me, to get the birthday boy a present. And now I come to think of it a suitable present – a very nice bottle of wine, a pair of cufflinks – would add another forty pounds to the day’s expenditure, not to mention take even more time and make me even later. I feel bad about this, like I’ve been stealing, but it had to be done. I took the Chateuneuf du Pape that TA had brought back for me from duty free when he went to the wedding in Ireland from the shelf and ran for the door.
    Tube to Waterloo and – miraculously – there was a train waiting at platform four about to leave for Kingston. I ran to the platform with minutes to spare not worrying about getting a ticket as there are usually staff on the platform to sell tickets. Nope, no one there. Okay, so there will be a ticket person on the train. Nope. I got off at Kingston and asked the helpdesk person where I could buy a ticket and for directions to the road where my friends live. His directions sounded fairly straightforward. I went to the ticket person and told her I joined the train at Waterloo only to get a twenty-pound fine for my honesty – must buy ticket before getting on the train at Waterloo apparently – I hadn’t got time to argue, I paid the fine and fumed. (I’ve been to S&M’s house twice and both times due to train problems it’s ended up costing huge amounts of money) I try to follow the directions but am lost within minutes of leaving the station. There is a car with a big aerial pulled up in what looks like a taxi rank – a minicab? – I knock on the window, but no it’s just a man sitting aimlessly in a car with a big aerial. I ask passersby for directions to the street but get lots of blank looks. I then ask where I can get a cab, get directions and head back towards town. The taxi rank is empty. I consider turning around and going home but look up in time to see a welcome orange light approaching. Desperate, I hail the black cab (a miracle since we are so far out that the streets are empty of cabs) by literally standing in the street in front of it until it stops.
    I arrive.
    S&M live in a large and immaculate Victorian town house, they are barristers and quite posh. I met Shanthini when I worked in media sales. She was taking a six-month break from her pupillage to earn some money. I was useless at telesales but she was fantastic at it, she did indeed earn money. However, in that six months we also spent a fair amount of time chatting and bonding – she’s a great raconteur and her family background is so different to mine that I was transfixed by her stories. S is Tamil and her family comes from Malaysia, her father is a pharmacist, at the time she was living in a flat on Sloane Square owned by her parents, she went to a private school – she wears her privileged background lightly and is great fun. However, I do sometimes feel a bit in awe, particularly when I meet her other posh friends and her fabulous family.
    I gave Martin his bottle of wine. A girl on the door took my coat another girl got me a glass of champagne. I was shown through to the garden where a marquee has been erected it was almost the exact length of the garden and the sides were open to show the flowers. Thankfully, I am not the last guest to arrive but already the party is in full swing. Anxious not to be a burden I ask M if S’s cousins are at the party and get ushered to their table. I met the cousins at S&M’s wedding (which TA couldn’t attend because he was sick) and had a whale of a time with them. I reintroduce myself and take in the sight of eighty posh people mingling and sipping champagne. Shanthini and her cousin Sarita are both wearing the most beautiful saris while everyone else is wearing full-on formal black tie: the women are elegant and immaculate; the men are smart and tailored. As far as I can tell, no one has resorted to Moss Bros – these are men who own their tuxedos and dress shirts and wear them with ease. I had briefly worried that I might be over- or inappropriately dressed, but actually the lovely shop assistant and the miracle workers at Aveda had ensured that I absolutely looked the part.
    I start to make small talk with the people at my table – Sarita and her husband I remember are a GP and a paediatrician, respectively; Sarita’s brother is also a paediatrican; Shanthini’s brother, Bala, works for the NHS and designs/engineers medical devices. There are two people at the table I’d not met before, Bala’s friend and his girlfriend. “Legal or medical?” I am asked. Neither, I work for a PR agency I reply sheepishly. I discover that the three of us are pretty much the only people at the party who are neither legal nor medical – he works for a film studio as an associate producer while she does something hush-hush at security firm staffed mainly by ex-SAS hotties. She’s American while he’s Scottish-Nigerian. Later we are joined by a neighbour from down the street who, it turns out, invented his own field “public health impact analysis” and contracts for multinationals, most recently Shell, that want to minimise the impact of their operations on public health. I’m glad my dress and shoes are glamorous enough to pass muster since my career clearly can’t.
    Food was served – a delightful and delicious blend of Indian and traditional English finger food – smoked salmon sandwiches vied with samosas and spicy mutton nuggety-type things (called mutton rolls by Bala). The champagne flowed. I missed the last train back to Waterloo. Coffee was brought round by the waitresses and decadent petit fours. Cigars were smoked, although not by me. The numbers thinned; eventually it was me, Martin’s friend (who was best man at his wedding), Shanthini and a friend from her law degree days. We sat around drinking brandy until three in the morning. I hadn’t planned on staying and didn’t have a toothbrush or change of clothes but by that point there was little option. I slept in the converted loft, M’s friend slept in the study, S’s friend slept in the blue room, the nursery was empty as S&M’s eight-month-old daughter was staying with her grandparents. I got about three hours’ sleep, breakfasted on strong tea and, mid-morning, made my way home exhausted but so pleased that I’d managed to go and go in style.
    After all that excitement I needed an early night and turned in at eight last night. The phone rang at around one in the morning. “Hello,” said TA quietly, “I’m sorry, I know it’s late, I just wanted to hear your voice.” I was in high spirits despite being woken up with a start and regaled him with stories of pretty ribbons and bows, diaphanous dresses, champagne and posh people. He told me about his shopping trip in Montreal - to Aveda! - and wished that he could have accompanied me to the party. I told him how pretty I’d looked but that, no, there were no photos to record the event. I cradled the phone and curled up under the duvet. “When are you coming home? I miss you.”

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    bonus post
    For the sake of argument, an argument I've having with no one but myself, here's a list (in no particular order) of women whose babies I'd like to have, were such a thing biologically possible.
    • Angelina Jolie - obvious really isn't it, I'll join the queue of thousands ready to pay homage
    • Tori Amos - "blanket friends"? yes please, not to mention to hear her caress a piano key...
    • PJ Harvey - scary, intense...oh my!
    • Tilda Swinton - untouchable, perfect
    • American K - your genes are very precious to me and I'd like to see them survive
    • Redbee - (making her first official cameo here) works of art should be immortal

    And as for men, since such a thing is biologically possible...

    • TA - it's like looking in a mirror and seeing only the best things reflected back

    How's that for validation? I genuinely cannot imagine another man I could possibly ever want to be with.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    rattlebag
    I'm in love with the word rattlebag at the moment and I'm finding many opportunities to use it. So I'm going to stuff lots of odds and ends, willy nilly, into a paragraph or two with no rhyme, reason or logic. You have been warned.
    Yesterday I got an e-mail from Bar People stating that - as a cool, sexy, hip, urban, bright young London-based blogger* - I was just the kind of girl they wanted to join their social networking site. It was my Billericay moment! A company's terribly misconceived marketing plan revolved around me! Instantly, my world was invaded by the copyrighted exclamation marks. I was a bit flattered and perplexed, since the UB is not a brightly shining star in the virtual firmament. At first I thought the concept - people with similar interests share similar spaces and, a leap of faith here, they should probably network a bit - was interesting. But then I thought about it some more and it's redundant isn't it? I mean consider this - I live in Southwark, I like to blog, I'm going to meet other bloggers, I click on to the organiser's site and there's a description of 'my' corner of London. I have yet to discover if I have anything in common with Mr Wibble...but the important thing is that the connection between us, space we share, isn't Southwark or even the Anchor pub - it's here, here and here; the hyperlink signposts and virtual homes that we visit are the geographical connections between us.
    I'm going through another high-maintenance phase. It's odd and unsettling, suddenly shaping my eyebrows seems worthwhile enough to spend time on and wearing heels might just be worth the blisters. I hope it passes quickly; I sort of feel ashamed of myself for even noticing the passing whims of fashion and yet tomorrow I'm going to go to a designer sample sale and then for an Aveda makeover and the worst bit is I'm excited.
    *Actually, they left out the "cool, sexy, hip, urban, bright young" bit of the description, the idiots.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    the post that tells you I'm still here, but not much else
    Sorry, I've been meaning to post I really have but I'm sort of all 'worded out' and sleep deprived. Luckily, the Palais is very quiet and calm at the moment with D long gone, M on holiday (I believe she's throwing tomatoes in Spain) and TA in Canada. The sister-in-law has started dating a new fellow and is quietly joyous while at the same time still feeling angry and betrayed by D. I know this because we spent a good two hours having a heart to heart last night. I seem to be having a lot of D&M conversations at the moment and, while I'm bonding with new friends and reaffirming why I love old friends, I think there's only so far the talking cure can take me.
    Today I'm going to abstain from sending multiple e-mails to TA (and reading his replies multiple times) and just forget about recent events; tonight I'm roasting a chicken, eating figs and drinking red wine with someone who makes me laugh. And hopefully as a result I'll be able to sleep properly.
    In total meta-blog-world-not-real-world news, after being encouraged by my fellow lanky lass, I've decided to sneak in here.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    well, that was a pretty crap bank holiday weekend
    TA and I continued to patch things up via tearful, long-distance, late-night calls once it became clear that neither of us could fly to the other one's side this weekend. I hung out with my friends and family, whch was pretty nice really, not crap at all...and then my aunt died. Not unexpected, a release actually, but still feel very lonely and despondent now and would much prefer to be elsewhere.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    by request
    The new place then, badger hovel C or the sett (it's got to be hasn't it, what other word is there for where badgers live?) what's it like? Well, it's a third-floor (fourth-floor if you're American), top-floor flat with the usual number of rooms (four) and a view of the Gherkin from the bedroom window (but no lift). It's not far from the Old Kent Road - which is funny because that's the road I always bought first when I played Monopoly, never quite twigging that it was a down-at-heel dive - and there is an enormous Tesco's two minutes' walk away. The development was built in the mid 1980s out of yellowish brick and is a bit toytown-ish and suburban, with all the good and bad traits that implies. The flat itself is clean, habitable, has been well-maintained and has access to loft storage. No one outside of London could begin to comprehend how rare these features are at the arse end of the inner-city housing market. I have seen some real, terrifying Dickensian horrors during this eight-month flat hunt, with higher asking prices and in rougher areas, natch.

    in the eye of the hurricane?
    The good ship that is my marriage took a thorough beating in a tropical storm yesterday. We're both safely back onboard and looking around thinking "crikey, how did we make it through that?" We're still assessing the damage, but are grateful that so far we seem to have survived relatively unscathed. TA may need to book a stay in the infirmary for a while though, which is difficult since he's literally overseas right now. All of which makes this musing about the new place bitter-sweet. *change in metaphor alert* I had cherished such intoxicating dreams about how we would live in the sett, alone again at last after years of sharing, but have now sobered up and find myself with a raging hangover and an awful lot of stairs to climb. The sett may be all that I dreamed it could be, but to stand any chance of achieving that we are both going to have to work extremely hard over the next few months.