Saturday, January 29, 2005

a few of my favourite things
Which is a quaint way of saying this will be a post about everything and nothing.
1. Sometime mid-week I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I should take swimming lessons! So I did some googling and booked myself an adult ‘improvers’ class for next Wednesday evening. My mum taught me to swim front crawl and backstroke as a kid but I’ve never been a strong swimmer or mastered breast stroke. I love the water and enjoy swimming but always feel too ashamed of my dodgy technique/lack of stamina to go to the pool. Hopefully, lessons might change this.
2. I finally cracked. Cleaner G went to Miami months ago and I hate spending my weekends cleaning – or rather thinking about cleaning and then doing something else instead. New cleaners start on Monday.
3. The seated row machine. My posture is terrible and I’ve never known quite what to do about it, but under Frankie’s tutelage I am mastering the seated row machine as well as standing with my shoulders flat against the wall for a few minutes each day. Hurrah – my shoulders are getting less rounded.
4. A salad of spinach leaves, carrot, dried apricots and mixed nuts in a yogurt and tahini dressing. Discovered by accident this week that this is an outstanding combo.
5. Fridays. Self explanatory really.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

knickers in a twist
TA left the heating on all night (naughty TA!), but insisted that he’d turned it off before turning in, consequently, I laid awake sweating all night wondering why I was so hot and ended up getting up at 5.40am in disgust. I was at the gym so early I had time to workout, have a sauna, take an extra long shower, dry my hair properly and still be early for work.
Unlike some ladies (mysteriously it’s never the skinny ones) I’m not one for hanging around the communal changing rooms naked for any longer than is strictly necessary – I get my clothes on as quickly as I can – which might explain why later on this morning I nipped to the loo only to discover that my knickers were inside out. Most annoying.
I don’t care what the other ladies will think of me (sadly, it’s just like school changing rooms in there – the girl with the best scanties wins the respect and admiration of everyone else in the room) that’s the last time I take tiny, lacy pants with me to the gym because the inside-out-pants mistake happens every single time. There must be some kind of universal law about it, probably written underneath the one about toast landing on the floor butter-side down.

Monday, January 24, 2005

gym slipped
It might’ve escaped your notice, but I haven’t been blogging about Frankie the wonder trainer recently (new readers – Frankie is a personal trainer, not my favourite sports shoe). I’m afraid that’s because I’ve been avoiding the gym for the last few months – eek. Anyway, New Year, new start and so on: this morning I had a 7.45am showdown booked with Frankie. I woke up at 5.50am, in a bit of a panic; I’d been dreaming that today was my first day as a trainee police officer! The alarm went off a few minutes later and I pulled on my gym kit. TA got up too which made things easier, but I still grumbled, “I don’t want to do this, what’s the point, it’s too cold for exercise…” TA, of course, was not sympathetic.
I gritted my teeth, was out of the house by 7am and on the treadmill by 7.30am. In the mirrors I could see Frankie was with another woman – the cad! – so I kept trundling. Frankie threaded his way over to me and did a full-on double take. “What have you been doing?” He exclaimed, “Where’s your belly gone!” I demurred, “I’ve lost a bit of weight, I haven’t been coming to the gym but I have stopped eating cakes and pies.” He was gratifyingly dumbfounded. “You’re the first person who’s really noticed,” I said. [TA doesn’t count since I’m always grilling him on whether I’m thinner or fatter]. Frankie was so astounded that he insisted on taking all my measurements again. I was beginning to think I must have lost at least a stone, but sadly no – still got a good few pounds to shift.
Frankie took me to the rowing machine – my first ever rowing session. It was brilliant! I kept thinking: why ever did I stop coming to the gym? The endorphins flooded my system and, while I was pretty annoyed that my fitness level had fallen, I felt brilliant.
Early night tonight, gym tomorrow – promise.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

ethical news, paraphrased
I was immensely relieved to read Birdy’s ruminations on lentils the other day, glad to know I’m not alone.
It was Sunday, I was talking to TA and we were walking home from the farmers’ market and about to pop into the newsagent’s to buy the Observer (featuring Food Monthly, which I adore), when I unburdened my soul.
Me: ‘Sweetheart, do you think I should buy a paper today? It makes me feel all dirty and sordid.’
TA [starts laughing]: ‘Eh?’
Me: ‘Well, I like reading the newspaper and I think it’s important to pay for the journalism, especially since I read my news online all the rest of the week, and of course I always recycle the newspaper when I’m done, but the sight of all the different sections of newspaper scattered around the sofa makes me feel queasy. I don’t even read half the sections and then there’s the plastic it’s packaged in. I just don’t know what to do for the best.
TA: ‘You think to much, now, go and get your paper!’
I was talking to TA last night over dinner.
Me: ‘Have you any idea how complicated my thought processes are before I decide to buy some food?’
TA [sensing he’s walking into a trap]: ‘No, do you have complicated thought processes before you buy food?’
Me: ‘It all starts with a few simple premises: 1: organic, 2: produced in the UK, 3: seasonal and sold by independent shops/buying direct are good, while lots of 4: food miles, 5: processing, 6: additives and 7: supermarkets are bad. But then it’s the nuances that get me. Take last week as an example. We bought the majority of our food from the farmers’ market (scores highly on 1-3), but we needed to get a few bits and bobs elsewhere so I went to Sainsbury’s (7 – eek) thinking at least that’s better than Tesco’s or Morrison’s and bought Brussels sprouts (2 but not 1) and lemons (1 but not 2). Finally, I worry that you’ve noticed that we’re essentially surviving on different combinations of protein with spinach, carrots, pumpkin and beetroot and are wondering why it is we never eat red peppers anymore.’
TA: ‘No I hadn’t noticed, I just eat what you put in front of me.’
Housemate C [after being briefed on discussions]: ‘My thought process is: “Have they got carrots?”. Are you going to blog this then?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

why is January so very, very long...
And cold and dark? Bah, it was okay when I was tucked up at home reading Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall books, going for walks through town and around Regent’s Park, recovering from Christmas and generally enjoying myself, but now I’ve had enough of it. Roll on spring. Which reminds me of a little poem my dad recites:

Spring has sprung, the grass has rizz
I wonder where dem birdies is?
Dem birds are on the wing – but that’s absurd,
Because, of course, the wing is on the bird!

Dads eh?
Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts on TA’s behalf. The two new symptoms are now being treated, are not as serious as the NHS Direct doctor would have had us believe and are in no way connected with the family disorder that he is still undergoing tests for. Phew.

Friday, January 14, 2005

all the news that's fit to blog
Many have written on the paradox that is blogging in public - the more people you know who know your blog, the less you can write - well, I'm feeling it right now and I hope that TA will not mind what follows, obscured as it is in code. For those of you who have met him, please, no friendly backslapping enquiries.
TA has been on-and-off poorly for the last two years and, while he's still having tests done, we pretty much thought we knew what the problem (TP) was. Our suspicious were founded on a knowledge that several of TA's relations have been diagnosed with TP - it was still a scary prospect (treatable, but not curable), but we were waiting for test results to confirm his self-diagnosis and fairly calm. Last night changed all that with TA suffering a couple of new and nasty symptoms which didn't fit into the pattern for TP. Was this something unrelated? Were we facing a new and terrible life-threatening disorder (TLTD)? A call to NHS Direct and several calls from them to us has done little to reassure either of us. Which might explain why my digestive system has decided that jettisoning everything at 3am is the way forward, if only it hadn't started pulling this trick the night before the first signs of TLTD were observed. What a sorry pair we are. And what bloody ironic timing, eh?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

So, lots to tell you!
Some newish readers might not be aware that TA – love of my life, light of my heart – stands for the animator. In recent times there hasn’t been much going on to justify this nom de blog, but now there is. TA has been offered five weeks of work at Hensons (yes, the Muppet people) and starts on Monday. Their office is in Camden, a mere 30-minute walk from Badger Mansions, and there’s a good chance that once the five weeks are up there will be more work for him. As he says, whatever way this goes, at the end of this five weeks he’ll have to ensure that he capitalises on this experience. Of course he’s had to tell the college in Kent that he can no longer work there, but since he won’t miss the students or the two-hour commute and the money isn’t very good this wasn’t such a hardship. His fellow lecturers were very supportive and happy for him, which was really lovely of them. Perhaps, just maybe, 2005 will be a better year than the last two have been for us.
My news is not so happy; I decided over Christmas to withdraw from college. Lots of reasons/excuses and if we were sitting on the sofa in Badger Mansions drinking wine I might elaborate, but at the moment I still feel a bit of a failure about it, as well as mightily relieved, so I’d rather not try to explain myself.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

guests and pests part 3
TA let me get in the door and offered me a cuppa.
“Now then,” he said, “don’t fly off the handle or anything, but...”
As he uttered those words I left the handle far behind and began orbiting planet panic.
“Sometimes my eyes play tricks on me, but I think I saw a mouse. Over there. Running.”
After much discussion, covering such diverse subjects as: can mice climb stairs or do you think they get in the lift; what colour was it; are you sure you really saw a mouse; how many does that mean we have (you never just get one mouse - they hunt in packs, surely); what are we going to do; if we get traps then you have to empty them; how does a mousetrap work anyway; and are you really sure you saw a mouse.
To cut a long story short, because I’m getting bored of all these installments and have lots of other more up-to-date things to blog about, maybe, here’s the rest of the story in list format:
1. I bought a non-lethal whistle-emitting device that is supposed to make mice run away.
2. We have not seen any other whiskery, rodenty-type creatures.
3. S&K enjoyed their visits to Wales and the Czech Republic, bought lots and lots of cheese, butter, jam and other things that S could eat and even cooked on the odd occasion that I would let other people into my kitchen. (My mother is territorial about her kitchen and I swore blind I’d never be like her, but lo! I am.)
4. We all had a lovely Christmas the guests were not pests and hopefully we had no pest guests hiding out.
5. Christmas dinner – my first as cook – was, even if I say it myself, a triumph.
6. I got an amazing number of brilliant gifties, including a cross stitch tapestry set featuring two beautiful badgers; the perfect apron; Elizabeth David cookbooks and a pair of pink ugg boots.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

guests and pests part 2
I ushered my guests in and covered my bewilderment by immediately getting into Delia mode. As luck would have it we had already planned to have a meal that S could eat - roast pork belly and roast veggies - and the meat was defrosted and ready to go.
After S&K were settled in the living room and had warmed up and I had a restorative glass of wine in my hand, I gently began to probe them about their plans. It turned out that somehow we had got the wrong end of the stick entirely. S&K were staying with us for two nights before going to Wales for a few days to buy slate bookends (like you do) then they'd be back to drop off some bags before going to the Czech Republic, finally, they'd be back at ours on the 22nd and then stay until the 4th of January. Still an hour or more until TA comes home...
Conversation then turned to S's dietry requirements. In my innocence I had assumed as lonng as there was no gluten in his food we'd be grand, but I was wrong. I had never before considered the evil that is cross-contamination! If I were to touch a gluten-containing foodstuff and then touch something on a plate containing food S would eat then I might have contaminated his food and he would no longer eat it. S needed his own butter, his own jam - at home he has his own toaster. The mind boggled. I swung between feeling intense pity and intense irritation (I'm not a very giving soul).
I ring TA - get your arse home right now. Get a cab from Waterloo if necessary, but get here as fast as you can - please.
Finally, TA makes it home. We eat at 9.30, it doesn't make S poorly. Perhaps I can do this I think. I take the following afternoon off work, stock up on soya milk and gluten-free foodstuffs, cook the guests kedgeree for lunch and show them the sights. The next day they are gone. Like a whilrwind they came, they swept everything up, deposited some junk and departed.
A day or two later I was just beginning to relax, but TA had some nasty news for me...

Friday, January 07, 2005

guests and pests part 1
So, part of my mad busyness was to do with our guests' arrival before Christmas (and extended stay). Guests were schedulled to arrive on the 18th of December and leave on the 4th of January. So on the 8th of December I meandered home slowly, not a care in the world. I stopped off at the local cheese shop and pottered about, in fact I only left as they were closing a 7pm...
As I approached Badger Mansions I saw two ragamuffin types with piles and piles of baggage. Blimey, I thought, I wonder who they are waiting for? I walked past them and up the steps, but I was stopped in my tracks by an antipodean twang...these were our guests! And they'd been on the step for three hours! Final exclamation mark ahoy - and one of the guests was a coeliac and lactose intollerant and we didn't have any gluten-free/lactose-free foods in the house! To add insult to obvious injury, TA wasn't due home for another two and a half hours. PANIC. What to say to two virtual strangers for two and a half hours and have we got any appropriate food in the house?
- cliffhanger alert -
tune in tomorrow to learn how our plucky heroine copes.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

reaching resolution
  1. be nicer to TA (stop telling him to get a job)
  2. look for a new job (for me)
  3. write more: here, there and everywhere
  4. stop feeling guilty
  5. make new friends
  6. lose a few pounds
  7. save a few pounds
  8. make more time for glamour
  9. read broad and deep
  10. think more philosophically