Thursday, November 30, 2006

a hat full of Skye

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

slush puppy
Sorry. Seriously, I swore I wouldn’t turn this into a Skye sycophancy repository, but the truth is if I become any more maternal I’ll spontaneously start lactating. I’m suffering all the classic symptoms of proud parent/terrifying crush: Skye is my wallpaper, my IM picture…my north my south my east my west / my working week, my Sunday rest. My only consolation is that TA has it worse, far worse.
Last night we ate dinner camped out in the kitchen, watching him bound around joyfully and stayed up much later than usual on poo watch.
Me: [nuzzling him with my nose] He smells so cute!
TA: Er, I think that might be flea powder.
TA got up in the night ostensibly to “check” on him, but in reality to wake him up and sneak a cheeky five minutes of play and cuddle time. Then we were up at six just to look at him – cooing at him and each other. TA’s voice has become soft and buttery and he’s constantly on the lookout for opportunities to praise the pup.
TA: [spotting a widdle on the newspaper] Good boy, Skye, good boy!
Every poo the pup manages to squeeze out (all on the newspaper – GOOD BOY!) has been greeted like the treasure of Sierra Madre. He’s calling me every couple of hours to give me an update on number of poos done and meals eaten – just like in the game Black & White (one of my top-five computer games, the others being Tetris, Jawbreaker, SimCity (the first one) and, and; okay then, one of my top-four computer games). Life as we had known it up until yesterday has completely ground to a halt.
I’ve got just enough consciousness to realise that this is the utterly irrational behaviour I find so infuriating in others. I know I’m being completely ridiculous; I know my co-workers are just humouring me with their polite enthusiasm for my e-mailed photos. However, as soon as my eyes drift across to my second screen and catch a glimpse of those little ears, that cute-as-a-button nose and that adorable white fluffy head with his just-like-his-dad Mr Magika hair, I melt into a puddle. I’ve got it bad, very bad and all this after barely one day. And it doesn’t help that work is on one of its seasonal lulls so I have very little to distract me from drooling at my second monitor.
My parents, usually bastions of restrained reason, are no help whatsoever; they are gleeful at the prospect of little paw coming to stay with them when we go down for Christmas. If ever a pet could take the place of first grandchild, this pup could.
If I were you, I’d avoid the UB for the foreseeable future until the madness passes. I’m looking forward to a time when he loses some of that impossibly large helping of cute and becomes just another slightly scruffy nondescript smelly little rat dog (although I made TA promise to groom him every day, so hopefully not too ratty and smelly). I’ll probably still be inordinately fond of him, but with any luck the passion won’t be quite so all consuming. Come to think of it, that’s quite a good description of how I feel about TA these days!
For those of you who’d like to see some photos, I’ll see if I can upload a couple…

Monday, November 27, 2006

max deefur bobbins dingo badger skye, oh my!
What on earth have I said yes to? TA is on a train as I type, heading down to deepest, darkest Kent.
Last week, as TA walked me to work, we had a lighthearted conversation about how lovely it would be to have a little monkey-ferret-rat dog. We put on our best Father Larry Duff voices and said how it had always been “an all-time favourite fantasy” to have a puppy “running all over the place”. (Trivia fans - "Plague" is my all-time favourite episode)
I’ve been pining for a furry companion for ages and have been trying to persuade TA that a cat would be ace. Not that either of us would describe ourselves as cat lovers, but let’s face facts – the sett does not have a garden and only really has room for two humans, squeezing another body into that confined space would be tricky – a tiny cat was really the only option. Also, presumably, TA will not be at home full-time forever – at least a cat can be left for hours at a time. So it was that Saturday came as a bit of a shock.
I was reading the Guardian on the sofa and minding my own business when I noticed that TA was sending e-mail. I thought he was replying to news from his family, so I asked who he was writing to.
TA: Sharon.
Me: Who’s Sharon?
TA: A Westie breeder. She’s got some puppies.
Me: ???
And so it was that I discovered that TA was planning to sell his snowboarding equipment, his rollerblades and camera to buy a West Highland White puppy and call him Max.
To say that I was hurt would be something of an understatement. I felt a whole host of conflicting emotions – disbelief, shock, betrayal, anger, excitement, stress, pressure… But I could see the light in his eyes already, the way he pricked his ears up, I could imagine the hours of joy and so it was that looking at TA – his eyes shining – I couldn’t take that away from him, even though I was filled with misgivings. TA, for his part, said that it was the only thing that he could think of that might make him feel a little better and I could see it – his whole face was glowing.
On Sunday I got up very early and began researching the needs of our very own little monkey-ferret-rat dog. Later we went to the evil empire and bought puppy preparation supplies.
Me: But what’s wrong with “Deefur”? I’ve always said my first dog would be called Deefur: Deefur dog.
TA: No. No comedy names.
Me: [later] I’ve got it! Genius! Bobbins! Bobbins the dog!
TA: No. We are not giving him a comedy name. They are noble, proud dogs with a varminty look.
Me: [later] What about Dingo?
TA: [weakening] That’s not bad…
Me: [stupidly] A dingo stole my baby!
TA: No. No comedy names.
Me: Badger?
TA: It’s not a bad name, but not for a Westie.
Me: What about Deefur? Or Bobbins?
TA: [sighs] No.
Me: But I don’t like “Max” and you’ve got all your own way – you’ve decided to get a dog and you’ve chosen the breed, the gender and even the name. It’s not fair.
TA: What about something Gaelic?
Me: Eigg! Eigg the dog!
TA: Hmmm…[gets the road atlas]
And so it came to pass that the decision was made; somehow we are going to fit a pupster in the sett, a pupster called Skye.
Skye-Pup the Dog of Tomorrow is being collected – all being well – at 11.30 this morning. TA, equipped with a tiny knapsack, a fluffy towel and the look of a proud, expectant father, is on his way. He’s promised to call as soon as he gets back to the sett.

The dingo has landed.
TA: [breathless with excitement] He's done a widdle on the newspaper, had some lunch and settled down.
Me: Is he happy?
TA: He's wagging his tail a lot. He's wagging his tail now!
Me: I'll try and get home early...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

All change! Today was moving day at the office – I’ve worked here for two-and-a-half years and have sat at five different desks in three different offices. At least today I was only moving from one side of the office to the other; no big deal, or so I thought.
My closest friend at work has had a complete meltdown, it seems that asking her to move desk the week after her mate did a runner to South America was asking too much. She refused to join us for lunch today, which is totally out of character. If it wasn’t for the fact that her Shuffle is still on her desk I’d think she’d decided to do a flit too.
My new desk is in the middle of a whole set, meaning that now many people can see my screens (I have two, like the greedy id girl TA claims I am) – I’d like to say that my unease is due to the desk’s inherent bad feng shui, but I’d be lying. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that people will see what I’m doing and that means that I’ll have to start doing work (or at least pretending with more emphasis). Also, my desk now faces a television screen that shows BBC News 24. Thankfully, it is muted…but still I can see it flickering on the periphery and my eyes are constantly drawn upwards. Oh dear. Finally, I’ve got into a routine of calling TA at lunch time when my team mates head out. I’m worried that my proximity to new neighbours, including one of the senior management team, won’t allow this freedom.
It’s not quite enough to make me polish up my CV yet. Not quite, but nearly.

Friday, November 24, 2006

festus, festum
Thanksgiving is a lovely idea for a celebration, don’t you think? The pagan in me appreciates the ritual of recognising the harvest’s bounty, while the old-soppy in me likes the thought of sharing warmth and love with my nearest and dearest. And yet the work event has left me feeling rather sick. The excess was/is shaming. The decadence seems too selfish – perhaps since it is not part of my native customs, I’m left feeling uncomfortable with the wasteful greed. Would I feel the same way about my family’s Christmas if I wasn’t blinded by tradition?
This has left me thinking. Since I’m not celebrating the birth of my saviour on the 25 of December, I would like to introduce some meaningful ritual to the feasting. Yule –I’ve learnt from Wikipedia — is etymologically related to yellow: it is a winter festival of light. It is a time to recognise the necessity of death for rebirth; to sacrifice in order to survive.
It seems to me that perhaps the Western world is all about the feast without the sacrifice, which leads me to ask myself how I can bring sacrifice into my winter festivities. I think I’d like to ask my Christmas companions to bring something with them to the table – a song, a prayer, a poem — something to share. I think I’d like to find a way to share our good fortune.
The only trouble is, it all sounds so false and grating doesn’t it. How can I strip it back? How to extract the meaning from the tarnished tinsel?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

in which much excitement happens, only I’m not excited
I’m suffering from an attack of the blahs. I’ve got things on the go and have been doing interesting things, but somehow all I can muster is the sound of a balloon slowly deflating. A balloon half-full of stale lung air and spit condensation that is slowly sticking to itself as the air imperceptibly leaches from its knotted end. This is not what you want when work has finally calmed to a standstill, leaving time for extracurricular fun, games and adventure:

  • Last weekend I went for a long walk around the outskirts of Oxford. The book said that it might be muddy. In the end A1 and I took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers and waded through knee-high and exceptionally cold water; it was the only way we were going to get home before midnight (A2 chose to wear sodden boots instead). We finished the walk in the dark, meandering along pavements thronged with too-clever-for-their-own-good youngsters dressed up for a night of debauchery. The bastards.
  • On Monday one of my favourite workmates quit in a spectacular fashion: by e-mail stating that by the time his boss was reading it he’d be halfway to Guatemala.
  • Last night I got taken to the Palace of Westminster by a colleague to meet her friend Tony Benn. That was spiffing. He’s just as you’d expect and the inside of the seat of government is pretty cool too.
  • Tonight we will be in the pub with the German techno goth contingent pretending to be people we’re not – yes, FateStorm game testing is back on the agenda.
  • Tomorrow, this office being an outpost of the US of A, we’re having a potluck Thanksgiving lunch. I have decided, after much agonising, to make a Casa Moro recipe: warm pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini.
  • Tomorrow TA finds out whether or not he’s going to be sent for a special stay at a special place for special people!

So much that I could obsess over, write about and describe, but instead I find myself whining my new catchphrase.
“Don’t wanna!” I say to TA as I try to drag my leaden, lumpen limbs out of bed. “Don’t wanna,” I moan to myself as I think about writing. Don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna.
“What do you wanna?” asks a bewildered TA.

what I wanna: option A
A smallholding with geese, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens; a vegetable garden; a library; an open fire; an aga; a radio permanently tuned to Radio 4 with perfect reception and extra helpings of the Now Show; a well-stocked cellar and pantry; size 10 hips; a pushbike with one of those ace little trailers...

what I wanna: option B
All the pork pies I can eat, washed down with all the red wine I can drink; consumed from the comfort of my own bed with a limitless supply of good books to read. Pillows. Chocolate and cakes and white bread. Cheese. Sleep. Gin. Sex. Inertia.

TA says I have the most well-developed id in the world; that I’m a simple soul, really only concerned with feeding my desires. It’s hard to disagree.
It seems that no matter how long I sleep or how I try to pep myself up, I can’t escape this soggy balloon state. And so as I trudge through the list of things I have to do, the mantra thrums through my cabbage-sludge-filled head: I don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna.

Friday, November 17, 2006

cook off
It seems I’ve started a war of attrition. This morning the office matriarch (a Robbie-Williams-loving, East-End-rocking, spinning-class-teaching force of nature) entered with a fanfare. “I’ve made falafel for all of us. Took me bleedin’ ages – I had to put the chickpeas in my juicer. This cooking without packets business takes hours – it’s all the chopping.”
I sunk down in my Aeron (the Rolls Royce of office chairs, apparently) and tried to keep an even lower profile than usual. Sweets aren’t really my forte, I’m actually better (I think) at savoury dishes, but I shan’t be sharing any more glut with the office.
Speaking of cooking…the nights are drawing in the mornings are getting darker and that can only mean one thing: Christmas is coming! Last night, over dinner, TA and I started plotting. As a side note, things on that front are calmer at the moment than they have been for a while – it’s wonderful, like a break in the cloud.
I’m planning to do the full Fearnley-Whittingstall with a few mods of my own. It will definitely and deliberately be an easier menu than last year (I nearly lost the plot and swore never again – now, of course, I’m eating my words!). So, we will most likely have: goose three different ways (stuffed neck, confit and roast), oven roast root veggies (probably Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, parsnips and beetroot), sauté potatoes, prune and chestnut stuffing, blackened Brussels with garlic…and, as an alternative to my mum’s Christmas pud (mainly for TA’s benefit), lemon meringue sundaes.
Any suggestions for the Boxing Day menu?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

war child
Sometimes I feel out of step with my contemporaries. I’ve come to realise that at least some of this comes from having older parents. My father’s brother and brother-in-law fought in the second world war; my mother’s family moved to the Isle to escape the blitz while her father stayed in Woolwich at the barracks. I seem to have inherited more of that generation’s “waste not, want not” attitude than most 29-year-olds.
My place of work supplies fresh fruit for us worker bees. I think the groceries are delivered once a week, unless extra fruit is needed for client meetings. Sometimes the admins seem to hide fruit, only for it to reappear later in the week; while this works well with oranges and apples it can spell disaster for the bananas (usually the most popular items in the fruit bowl).
At the end of last week there had been a bananalypse of quite astonishing proportions. On Friday I surreptitiously put five overripe bananas in my “bread bin” (over-desk storage) ready to take home for smoothies and/or cake, leaving a few other blackened specimens just in case someone else had been saving them up. Unfortunately, although I remembered to take my trainers and the bottle of wine I’d been given home with me, I left the bananas in the bread bin and this is where they stayed until Tuesday, since I worked from home on Monday.
Yesterday morning I transferred the pungent, squishy fruit to my rucksack and hoped no one noticed that my desk smelt of banana. In the evening I realised that there were still a large number of battered bananas in the bowl. I added the worst-looking ones to my hoard and hoped no one saw that I had a rucksack literally bulging with bananas. I felt a sick shame about “stealing” the fruit and fervently hoped nobody witnessed me scuttling from the kitchen to my desk with a handful of booty.
When I got home I set to. Listening to Ruth sob to David, “it wasn’t an affair!” while David, full of self-righteous anger, replied “You’re in love with THE COWHERD!”…I started multiplying the amounts in recipe I’d found on t’interwebby (ten bananas, 1.2kg of flour) and improvising (600g dark brown sugar, 600g of homemade butter). It was only after I’d managed to fill two mixing bowls full of cake goo that I realised that I was going to end up with a lot, lot more cake than two people can eat.
I’m not someone who brings things in for their co-workers. In fact it’s not that kind of office. And I’m not particularly sociable with the extended team either – I try to keep a lowish profile other than doing my job. So it was that I got very anxious about explaining how ten black bananas disappeared from the kitchen only to be replaced by an enormous cake.
In the dark, sweating, I woke TA up to ask: should I send mail with the subject line “yes, we have no bananas / we have no bananas today”? Do you think they will get the reference? He thought that my – young, mainly non-Brit – co-workers wouldn’t know the song.*
After TA reassured me this morning that the cake was fine for sharing, I took the second, better-looking specimen with me. I placed the cake in the kitchen with a note saying “banana cake – dig in, please!” The gannets didn’t need to be told twice and my modesty seemed false within thirty seconds (loud shouts of “who is the cake fairy?” reverberated around the open-plan office) so I sent e-mail titled “gone bananas” explaining my largesse.
Although the thought that someone not only repurposed the past-its-best fruit but also managed to do so on a school night when all right-thinking people should be tucked up in front of the telly met with general bemusement, it seems that my banana theft has generally been thought of as “a good thing”. I shall now feel free to import some of my family’s other thrifty traditions into the office – soon I’ll be rinsing the milk bottles with a drop of water and adding that to the milk jug too (just as soon as I persuade everyone to use a milk jug).

*I’m coming to the conclusion that I have a unique musical heritage. I listened to a programme on Radio 4 all about WW2 soldiers’ songs the other day and was heartbroken that “Saying goodbye to my hoss” wasn’t mentioned. Perhaps I should do one of those neato webcast thingamyjigs so that everyone can learn the genius of that song?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

not very tolerant; relates to people in the abstract
I had to take one of those starsign, freud and bollocks personality tests for work. In fact I've taken it twice now. I'm a blue-red, apparently with a bit of green but not much yellow: I'm analytical, bossy and antisocial. In the automatically generated blurb two points stood out as - TA said - tee-shirt worthy. It claimed, much to TA and housemate-C's amusement that I am not very tolerant of others and relate to people in the abstract.
I got all riled up today, evidence of my lack of tolerance/belief that people should be an abstract concept:
  1. People who constantly use multiple punctuation marks in e-mail. I recognise that sometimes a situation calls for three question marks, but if you always send me one-line mail with three or more question marks following a standard query I am going to think you are either constantly tetchy or mentally deficient or both.
  2. People who sit on the bus with hot bottoms. I'm talking high temperature here, not TA bottom hotness. I hate sitting in somebody else's bottom heat. It makes me feel queasy when I innocently sit on a bus seat only to find it's hot.

It's not normal to have this level of disturbance about extra question marks and residual body heat is it???

(I'm trying them out for size)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

the joke gene
TA likes doughnuts from the Evil Empire, but he only likes them on certain days. He has a theory that there are days that a Jamaican cook works at the Evil Empire. The doughnuts are denser, more "fried" somehow. He tries to only ever buy the "Jamaican doughnuts".
Me: Are you having pudding? [Plotting to indulge in an anniversary treat: red wine and dolcelette.]
Me: What pudding?
TA: Doughnuts
Me: Jamaican?
Me: Or did you buy them from the shop?
TA: [Groan]
Me: [Rocking back and forth in my chair] Ha, ha, ha, ha!
TA: You should call your father and tell him.
Me: I know. Ha, ha, ha! I will!
This morning my mother sent me e-mail: "your father is still chuckling".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

all the vows I never made
The inevitable alarm went off this morning as it does every morning and my morning battle began. Can I make myself leave the warmth? Perhaps, but only with the lure of fresh coffee and the Today programme. Can I be bothered to wash my hair? My feet followed their familiar morning dance without troubling my brain for instruction. I was rinsing away the Aveda Shampure (a reassuring decadence and one I sacrifice haircuts to fund) under scolding-hot water before my brain went from hibernate to active duty.
I do love a good, rough towel – I like to slough off sleep with vigour. Moving with fresh purpose, I turned on the radio and checked on the coffee. Today is a good day. Today is a surprise, it’s good to still be in the race; there have been times recently when I assumed we wouldn’t be.
Humphrey Lyttleton’s voice! Can it be? No more Quote sodding Unquote on Monday nights! I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue. Thank the sweet baby Jesus and all the angels. The coffee is ready, the banana was lovely, my yoghurt creamy. I take TA his cup.
“Happy anniversary, sweetheart.”
He looked up and smiled, “We got here after all.”
Some promises are left unspoken, but are no less binding for that. There is no ring, no witness, no service that could bind me as tightly to TA as living our love for each other each and every day has done.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

tell me on a Sunday, please
I have a rubbish singing voice: terribly weedy and thin, limited range and I find it difficult to hold a tune without going flat. But I love to sing, love it, and when I was growing up I’d sing two or three songs all the time, songs that I felt my voice didn’t strangle: Tell Me on a Sunday, Coventry Carol and Who Wants to Live Forever were my torch songs.
Do you know Tell Me on a Sunday? It’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber monstrosity with clunky yet affecting lyrics by Don Black. I hadn’t thought of it for years until last night lying in bed next to someone I love more than...more than I know, someone who quite seriously wants to leave. I’d stayed up late, well 9.30pm, rereading the last few pages of the VW biography. In the aftermath Leonard Woolf wrote himself a note – one can’t help turning the page, even though one knows one has reached the end. I remembered how bleak I was the first time I read the final words. I reached the end and turned the page.
I wrote in my journal while I waited for TA to come to bed. We talked for a while.
Me: [shaky voice] ...if you want to leave I'll understand.
TA: [silence]
Me: [understanding and fearful] But it’s not me you want to leave, is it?
TA: [silence]
Me: It’s life, isn’t it?
We held each other in the dark and then TA rolled over and slept. It’s his only relief. Tears and snot snaked their way into my ears.
I'd like to choose how I hear the news
I rehearsed the lines in silence; weighting them with more emotion than they can carry.
Let me down easy
No big song and dance
No long faces, no long looks
No deep conversation
I know the way we should spend that day
I remembered that episode of Nip/Tuck where the good guy helps his dying-from-cancer lover to kill herself. They hold hands; she takes a cocktail of drugs and puts a plastic bag over her head. It looks peaceful, she smiles. I tried and failed to write my own clunky yet affecting lyrics...
Don’t slit your wrists or jump in front of a train
Don't want to know who's to blame
It won't help knowing
Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going
Don't leave in silence with no word at all
Don't get drunk and slam the door
That's no way to end this
I know how I want you to say goodbye
Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze
Tell me on a Sunday please
Let me hold your hand and watch you go.
The snot and tears became a river and I crept into the bathroom to clean myself up. Returning to bed, I tried to get a grip. And I felt sick. Sick that while thinking through my emotions I could already be writing them down for you to read. I concentrated on calming my breathing and reached an epiphany of sorts. As TA would say with a smile on his face, “Yes, but it’s not about YOU!”
When under pressure I revert to the beliefs and certainties of my childhood as a sop. I prayed to my grandmothers – please help him find a way out of this impossible maze. Please find his guardians and help him. I breathed deeply and visualised his chakras in sequence, tried to encourage his kundalini strength to rise.
I slept, finally. And then I woke from a work anxiety nightmare, got water and slept. And then I woke from a TA anxiety nightmare, sweaty and shaking, what it was I don’t remember now. Reaching out, I knocked the empty water glass by accident and woke TA.
We whispered in the dark and I explained how I’m self-dramatising instead of living these emotions – is that normal? – and how I recognise that it’s not about me.
TA: That sounds like a good UB post.
We talked some more.
TA: [bewildered] We put animals down.
Me: I don’t want to you to put yourself through this for me, but I haven’t given up hope that you’ll find a way out.
He slept and I was left thinking that my thoughts are like iron filings caught between two competing and repelling magnets of stress: work and home. Sometimes one magnet is more powerful and all the fillings are pulled to its pole, but at the moment they are exquisitely balanced and that balance allows my thoughts to range far and wide, safely repelled from both North poles.
As predicted, I only felt close to sleep after the alarm had gone off.

Friday, November 03, 2006

slammed, swamped, in the weeds, looking happier than I've ever seen you at work
These terms have all been used to decribe me this week. Evil Corp has decided to run its two biggest events for the region in one week, resulting in me being "slammed", "swamped" and "in the weeds" with work coming out of my ears and blood literally pouring, well trickling at least, out of my nose.
To add to my joys, my scary uber boss has been in the London office all week and it was she who said I was looking great - in fact she remarked on it two or three times - first it was my hair, then my clothes, then my figure until she finally plumped for "looking happier than I've ever seen you at work". Why, she enquired, am I so sparkly?
"Well," I said, "I'm busy - I like being busy." (Don't we all like to be needed?) I explained the two major events in one week excitement and various other demands on my time.
"But tell me about you," she said with American touchy-feely HR empathy. "There's got to be something going on with you."
I hesitated, how does one explain to an uber boss about relationship gubbins, happy pills and suddenly reaching what TA and I refer to as "the zone", whereby sexy Swedish women who look like a vampy Uma suddenly find me irresistable? One doesn't. I mumbled something about being in a difficult place relationship-wise and throwing myself into my work.
Then we went out - as a department - for lunch and I managed to accidentally get trashed on red wine, meaning that yesterday afternoon passed in a happy blur and I got a surprising amount done while not losing my temper with everyone.
Expect posting to be patchy until event season ends.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ritual of the night
Even though I’d – at best – describe myself as an agnostic pagan, I’d like to respectfully mark the death of summer tonight. TA is out with a friend so I’ll be home alone. I’m thinking of something patchworked together from a few different traditions: candles, prayer, a spiritual cleansing of each room and myself; perhaps an offering to the ancestors and some music. I’d always intended to “clap out” the rooms of the Sett in true Feng Shui fashion, but somehow never got around to it so perhaps I’ll do that too. Any suggestions?