Wednesday, January 31, 2007

picture post





training day
“Heel” is the command of the day. “Heel, Skye. Well done,” says TA and hands him a rice cake crumb as we walk past Guy’s Hospital. I’m holding the lead firmly, using it to ensure that the pupster doesn’t stray in front of traffic or under the feet of passing pedestrians. “Heel…good boy!” [rice cake] as we approach Borough Market. “Heel…good boy!” [rice cake] as we walk through Borough Market. “Heel…good boy!” [rice cake] as we pass the Globe theatre.
Me: Isn’t that enough rice cake now?
TA: No. Repetition and reward are really important for training. Carrot and stick!
Me: What’s the stick?
TA: Eh?
Me: Well, if the rice cake is the carrot, what’s the stick?
TA: You are the stick.
TA: Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Me: That. Is. Not. Very. Nice!

sister act

TA’s sister, J, is back in town after several months spent touring the Home Counties. I came home last night — all excited to see the hall, the pupster and give TA the new version of Fatestorm hot off the press — and she had unexpectedly popped in. The tour has done her good — the sparkle was back — and being out of reach of the ex couldn’t have done her any harm either. She was fully of witty theatre anecdotes (Craig McLachlan made his pecs dance in the wings while waiting to go on stage) and had been lucky enough to play the lead for a number of performances and was seen to do it well by the various producers. The show seems to have been a hit as was her previous tour. It was lovely to see her on form. Perhaps this is the tipping point. Meet my sister in law, a star. All of which made me happy, but she had sad news too. Badger Palais, as was, has degenerated into farce, with people moving in, people leaving, unfaithful air stewards and burglary. Then there was news of boy wonder (the showbiz grapevine being more effective than most) – sickeningly, he still seems to be enjoying success. Do any of you care about music theatre? If so please write in to Cameron Macintosh and other bigwigs and suggest that the girl from the chorus should be the star and that odious git should be sent back to Australia on a prison ship. Or, even better perhaps, go in your droves to any theatre where the plucky chorus girl is and cheer her to the rafters and picket outside any theatre where gitface is appearing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

we are family
We walk hand in hand with four paws trotting at our ankles; the pupster wakes us up wagging his tail and licking our faces. He’s not a child, of course, but he almost may as well be. The dynamic between us has changed: we are three now. I love it, although having a furry morning bedfellow has its downsides – I heard TA say to Skye yesterday, “where are you going? Don’t eat that! It’s not a sausage!”

colour me beautiful
Other things have changed too; yes, the hall is no longer a safe, dull, dingy cream with sludge carpet. No sir-ree. It is a violent shade of “lemongrass” green. I took some persuading (as I always do when TA suggests dark red or some other bold choice), but in the end I thought to myself as I stood in B&Q internally quaking at our colour audacity: we’ve got the next 30 years to mellow into magnolia; if we don’t like it we can paint over it; it’s our home we can do what we like; TA is an artist, I should trust his eye; oh, for goodness sake it’s only colour; it can’t look worse than it does now. The tin said Tarragon Glory 4, I think. Although, the web version looks a lot yellower and yuckier than the vibrant green we have. Almost all the woodwork in the flat is now a lovely unifying white (I’ll do the bits that were missed last time round in the living room soon and then it will all be finished - hurrah), just as well given the colourpalooza explosion going on in our tiny apartment Meanwhile, the floor is being laid today (my weekend schedule forgot to take into account the 48-hour acclimatising period for the boards).
There were several moments of panic along the way. The moment where we thought our choice of wood “style” (root oak, or some such nonsense) had been a terrible mistake as it looked oddly red against the chipboard, but I think it’ll be okay. The moment we realised that neither of us had actually checked to see if the leftover underlay was going to be enough to cover the hall; it was, just. The moment TA dropped the paint lid, splattering the pupster with Tarragon Glory (sorry, no pictures).
We finished the first coat on Saturday and surveyed our handiwork.
Me: Well, it’s certainly not dingy anymore.
TA: Did I ever tell you about my first house in Melbourne? It had a nook in the kitchen that was covered in green paper this colour it had big white daisies on it. We could never use it because it hurt our eyes. It reminded me of a mental asylum.
Later…
Me: I think I like it. Although, every time we paint a room I think we knock several grand off the asking price of the flat. Our friends will think we’re insane.
TA: It’s the kind of colour you’d look at and think “that’s the first thing I’ll paint over when I move in.”
Me, Sunday morning, emerging bleary-eyed to feed the pupster: Thank Christ, I don’t have a hangover!
All of which suggests that it looks dire, it doesn’t it looks strong and just a little bit Scandinavian, I think. I tried to find an example of what I’m thinking of – bright colour and fresh white paint, but failed. There will be some finishing touches to complete over the next few months (I’d like a mirror – perhaps like this – and a runner)…yes, in all likelihood another trip to IKEA is in our future.
Finally, we backed away from painting the kitchen Tarragon explosion and rethought. I quite like the idea of Wedgwood blue, I said. Like the Chinese plates, TA asked. No, Wedgwood blue. TA said he wanted a light greyish plum. I expressed not doubt, exactly, but trepidation. Victorian red living room, wet sand yellow bedroom, white bathroom, acid green hall and mauve kitchen…are you sure? Apparently he was.
We haven’t started the kitchen yet – TA talked me round to the idea of finishing the hall and getting the rest of the flat back to normality before deconstructing yet another room, but there are a few test patches around the kitchen just to see it against the green and next to the “slate” floor and kitchen units and, well, I think it’s going to be okay. After all, we’ve got the next 30 years to mellow into magnolia; if we don’t like it we can paint over it; it’s our home we can do what we like; TA is an artist, I should trust his eye; oh, for goodness sake it’s only colour; it can’t look worse than it does now.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

something for the weekend
Here’s my plan of attack. Tonight I’m going to rub down the woodwork, pull up the hall carpet and put the first coat of gloss on the all the woodwork (hall and kitchen). On Saturday – first thing, while TA and the pupster are enjoying a leisurely coffee in Covent Garden – I will wash the kitchen walls, rub down the woodwork and put on a second coat of gloss. By the time TA gets back, if past performance can be taken as an indicator of future performance, it will be time for lunch.
After lunch – a cold collation in the living room, no doubt – we will decamp en famile to B&Q to collect metal edging for the “slate” in the kitchen, paint (TA is threatening “Flying Daggers green”) for the hall and kitchen walls and to make a decision on hall flooring. Then the fun will really begin! I will start painting the kitchen walls and – I presume – TA will start on the hall floor, having made a second trip to pick up the flooring supplies.
First thing Sunday, I will– very, very carefully – cover up the hall floor and begin washing and painting the walls. At some point in the late afternoon (going by past performance again) TA will fit the edging in the kitchen.
And then, and then…
And then we will be done with DIY for this year. Next year we will replace the windows and hopefully (whisper so that TA can’t hear us) the living room and bedroom carpet with something less feral. But Sunday evening, faint with exhaustion and paint fumes, we will sit on our sofa (or is it our laurels?) and sigh with relief. We will – fingers crossed – have a markedly more beautiful, to us at least*, apartment.
Check back on Monday to see if we survive.
*The pupster really doesn’t like the new kitchen floor – it’s no good for lying on and he skids at high speeds.
something for the weekend
Here’s my plan of attack. Tonight I’m going to rub down the woodwork, pull up the hall carpet and put the first coat of gloss on the all the woodwork (hall and kitchen). On Saturday – first thing, while TA and the pupster are enjoying a leisurely coffee in Covent Garden – I will wash the kitchen walls, rub down the woodwork and put on a second coat of gloss. By the time TA gets back, if past performance can be taken as an indicator of future performance, it will be time for lunch.
After lunch – a cold collation in the living room, no doubt – we will decamp en famile to B&Q to collect metal edging for the “slate” in the kitchen, paint (TA is threatening “Flying Daggers green”) for the hall and kitchen walls and to make a decision on hall flooring. Then the fun will really begin! I will start painting the kitchen walls and – I presume – TA will start on the hall floor, having made a second trip to pick up the flooring supplies.
First thing Sunday, I will– very, very carefully – cover up the hall floor and begin washing and painting the walls. At some point in the late afternoon (going by past performance again) TA will fit the edging in the kitchen.
And then, and then…
And then we will be done with DIY for this year. Next year we will replace the windows and hopefully (whisper so that TA can’t hear us) the living room and bedroom carpet with something less feral. But Sunday evening, faint with exhaustion and paint fumes, we will sit on our sofa (or is it our laurels?) and sigh with relief. We will – fingers crossed – have a markedly more beautiful, to us at least*, apartment.
Check back on Monday to see if we survive.
*The pupster really doesn’t like the new kitchen floor – it’s no good for lying on and he skids at high speeds.

Friday, January 26, 2007

love is
I call TA every lunch time, just to check in, blow a kiss to the pupster and hear how TA’s day is going. Today he sounded extra happy.
TA: How much do you love me?
Me: A really big amount. Why?
TA: I bought you some Jerusalem artichokes! I found them in the evil empire on special.
Me: How much do you love me?
TA: A lot. Why?
Me: You must do to buy me a vegetable that I love but that is famed for generating windy bottoms! Thank you!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

plugging away
It started innocently enough; I pointed out to TA that although the pupster widdles on the paper and we are diligent about cleaning up, the carpet tiles around the newspaper were beginning to suffer. I suggested – yet again – that TA turn his mind to training the pup that outside is as good a place as any for widdles.
The next evening I discovered that TA had other plans as he told me about the price of “slate tile” laminate and underlay – he’d gone to three different outlets to enquire. Not one to discourage “Super TA” when he turns up, which is rarely, I readily agreed to ripping up the unhygienic carpet tiles and replacing them with ethically suspect laminate; even though I had previously sworn blind that I wouldn’t use anything other than reclaimed slate and floorboards in the flat and would save up until that was possible. And even though the kitchen carpet was the least offensive floor covering in the entire apartment, the rest of the rooms being covered in a green-grey dirge that I’ve come to loathe.
In fact, I’d been begging TA for some time to think about what we could do to improve the hall, given that Skye punished us for leaving him home alone by trying to tunnel into our bedroom, leaving a gaping hole in the already disgusting carpet. However, if the superhero wanted to fix up our kitchen, I wasn’t going to argue.
On Friday night we pulled up the carpet tiles. Saturday morning dawned and “Super Badgergirl” awoke to the pupster’s tongue up her nose at 5.30am (his affectionate way of telling me he wants his breakfast). Full of beans, I jumped out of bed, turning on the kitchen radio in time to catch Countryfile and Farming Today. Listening avidly, I fed all of us (scrambled eggs on toast for us, on rice cakes for him) and contemplated the carpet tiles. They were obviously nearly new, unlike the terrifying carpet in the other rooms, and actually I rather liked the colour – a smart dark blue. It occurred to me that since the bathroom is very small, we could throw away the pupster-tainted tiles and still have plenty to use to replace the snot carpet.
I ripped up the snot in a matter of over-excited minutes, discovering in the process that the pedestal comes away from the sink very easily. I put a few of the blue tiles in the bathroom to survey the effect and was pleased: it was almost like how I’ve always wanted that room to be (white walls with dark blue ceramic floor tiles) – certainly the closest I was going to get without spending money. TA was up by this point and heading out for his Saturday morning coffee. He took the pupster with him and I was left alone with my imagination – never a good idea.
The paintwork throughout the Sett has wound me up from the beginning, every room has coloured skirting and door frames when I was brought up to believe that woodwork should always be painted white. The bathroom is a case in point: dark green wood trims and mint green walls. In my mind, a light bulb turned itself on as I was sweeping up the underlay debris from the bathroom floor: I may as well paint the skirting and door frame while the carpet was up, hell I may as well paint the walls too – after all, we had white paint leftover from doing the living room alcove last year and matching gloss from the bedroom windowsill. It was then that an omen presented itself: I found the plug for bathroom sink; it had been behind the pedestal the whole time! And to think we had so nearly got around to thinking about buying a plug for that sink since we first moved in!
By the time TA arrived home, the first coats of paint were drying and I had discovered that it is not possible to cut carpet tiles with scissors to any degree of accuracy. TA was not amused: “You always do this! You always start things and then get me to finish them. I’m not a farmer! I’m not moving to Wales.”
Whoa, nelly!
After lunch and a lengthy talk, we started on the kitchen: TA doing all the tricky bits and me sitting or standing on whichever bit of laminate he wanted to keep still. Then I returned to put another coat of paint on the bathroom walls. I went to B&Q later and picked up a carpet knife and sundry other supplies – suddenly this decorating business was becoming expensive.
Sunday, I raced round like a mad thing – applying another coat of gloss before embarking on a ten-mile walk from the Sett to meet friends near Old Street tube then round the East End before heading back over Tower Bridge and home. The pupster behaved himself admirably and the weather was stunning.
Ten miles is a fair stretch of the legs, but I had duties to fulfil on my return home. We fitted the carpet tiles in the bathroom and finished laying the kitchen floor.
On Monday, I gently broke the news to TA that I’m planning to paint the (blue) kitchen skirting and door frame white over the weekend before he fits the edging to the laminate. On Tuesday I discovered that because TA had taken the doorstop off the wall to fit the new floor the kitchen door handle had been able to hit the wall, leaving a hole.
So, what’s the best way to get TA onside for a kitchen wall polyfill-and-paint operation, given that it will mean buying new paint, and what colour would look good in a small kitchen with pale grey units, a “slate” floor, dark grey work surface and grey/white tiles? Please - no more grey! I'd like something light and cheery that, ideally, won't show evidence of mucky pupster behaviour (I've noticed he sometimes spills his food on the wall - I'm not sure how he manages that). Also, what should we do about the hall? (We have enough underlay left over from the kitchen to do the hall...)
In other news, it’s bloody freezing and frankly I wonder just how expensive replacement windows can be – the draft in the bedroom is giving me backache.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

two ways to navel gaze
1. I’m getting older and strange things are happening. I’ve noticed that my bikini line is rising! I have begun to fear that one day the effects of gravity and age-related hirsutism will combine to ensure that my nipples and pubic hair meet in an equator of despair. I feel quite bleak about this and have been yanking my bra straps in an attempt to at least slow one half of the equation.
2. Although my moogie, a loving husband, an affectionate pupster, a fantastic book and a self-delivered stern talking to have managed to put me in a far more positive frame of mind today, I’m still left with the same basic dilemma: I no longer want to live this way. TA wonders out loud if my stated goals — a Hugh FW-flavoured Good Life with a sideline in organic B&B with patchwork, children, dogs, books and an aga to add up to a bohemian country life — are just idealised escapism. He thinks I don’t mean it; that I’d hate the reality of cold, dark, wet mornings spent moving pig arcs (the Archers is research, I tell you), planting beans and chasing chickens. I too worry – what about the poverty, the insecurity, the lack of city amenities?
But then I think, we’re poor now, we’re insecure now and I, for one, make very little use of those city amenities. So I’m still thinking about it. Today I had a bit of an epiphany. Why Wales? Well, Wales seems cheaper than most of England and, although Scotland can be still cheaper, I can’t face going North. So my epiphany was: what about Europe? What about buying a small farm or smallholding abroad? Three minutes later, thanks to Google, and I was looking over the details of a cottage and land on a Greek island for less than a London car park place, much less. Now, I don’t think a tiny cottage will do for what I have in mind, but it has got me thinking. In the year we’ve had the Sett the property market has continued to go crazy and, as a result, we are about 15k better off, at least on paper. And I could grow olive, almonds, oranges, lemons and aubergines and raise goats in Greece.
Now, the big anchor holding me here remains TA. But perhaps he’d feel better about moving to Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria or somewhere than Wales?
Am I crazy? Or rather, just how crazy am I?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

review
I’m supposed to be writing my review, which is about as enjoyable as pulling teeth given that the template – in fact the whole process – is designed for a job I don’t do and I have to try to squeeze what I want to say into not-at-all-applicable fields. So, what am I doing instead? I’m looking for a new job. Yeah, great.
I’m getting to the point where I can barely bring myself to turn up in the morning – definitely not a good sign. I was thinking all of this through this morning while – legitimately, for once – looking at pictures of Angelina Jolie online. It’s not that this job is particularly odious (sometimes I almost quite like it), it’s just not going anywhere and every day that passes I stagnate a little bit more. So, a new job! But then just reading the descriptions made me want to quit these jobs too: same old, same old. I cannot summon enthusiasm for subediting, PowerPoint, Quark, magazines, corp comms or any of it anymore, if I ever truly could.
At lunch time I sat in a bar sipping orange juice (the resolutions are holding up) with L, my buddy and – I guess – big sister. She’s leaving to go freelance and will be handing in her notice soon. We compared notes: hate what we’re doing, don’t know what else to do, just clever enough to know that we’re not very good at what we do.
Last night TA dropped one of his periodic therapist-shaped bombshells: V (the therapist) thinks that we’re bad for each other, that we’re trapped in some unhealthy saviour/martyr complex. I don’t react well to these occasional scud attacks and sent up a few mortars of my own in response before getting a grip and calming down.
This morning I discovered that TA thinks that, if accepted, he’ll be able to take the pupster to university with him; and that there’s a job if he wants it at a post-production place…but he doesn’t. I stand back a little and try to be supportive without letting my selfish nature get in the way of my genuine hope that things will come good for him.
What am I doing here? What on earth am I doing?
I wish someone would show me a way out. Can I slip this yoke somehow? Is it fair to even think this way – I’m not sure that it is. Everyone has responsibilities, right?
If she were still alive, my grandmother would give me a right talking to about my self-indulgent whinging. She had to go out on to the sand in winter to pick up coal fragments (that had fallen when the ships were unloaded) for the family’s fire. My father left school at 13; this year (aged 74) he finally and unwillingly retired. My mother left school at 15; worked and brought up her younger sister when her father died and mother left them. People can do amazing, noble things. And I have been so lucky – I should be too busy counting my blessings to have time for all this moping.
I’m loath to start the happy pills again – my eating has been pretty good – but perhaps they are the only thing that keeps me plodding through the mud without thinking of how to make a break for it. Is there a sliding scale for this kind of thing? Am I allowed a certain number of suicidal thoughts a week before needing to be dosed with the opiates of the middle classes?
If you have an answer drop it in the comments box.

Friday, January 12, 2007

the drugs don’t work…
Or do they? I’m at a loss in all senses. Work is well and truly going to hell in a hand basket. It’s all politics and rats fleeing (when they are not being shot) – yes, the ship is most definitely sinking. I vacillate – should I make like a rat or attempt to ride out the storm, grateful for my pension scheme, fully-stocked office kitchen and a job that covers the mortgage? TA is happy one minute and then smilingly stating that suicide is not off the menu yet, despite the fact that the pupster is totally dependent on him. I’m in a January frenzy of self improvement and have quit all my vices in one blitzkrieg of cold turkey: sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined carbs, consumerism and happy pills. It’s hard to tell if I’m coming or going, frankly. Oh, and we’re stony broke – did I mention that?
However, I’m feeling okay for the most part. I’d begun to scare myself with the amount I was drinking and I had seemed to reach an impasse where the depressant qualities of alcohol and the happy qualities of the pills were cancelling each other out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

new year, new office
Same old, same old: same faces, same boring tasks, same caffeine withdrawal headache, same wistful daydreaming about the possibilities of a Whittingstall-style smallholding; but new tool on my desktop. Today is my second full day of using the latest whiz-bang applications from Mr Gates. I was about to change the font size and I realised that I was being shown an onscreen preview of the new font size. I called over my luddite neighbour to share the joy.
You have to grab these little joys when you can as I foresee many months ahead of pain and grumbling. Why do I have to click twice (and find a different menu) to hide track changes whereas before it was only once; why does the spreadsheet application that I use as a food diary, finance tracker and, occasionally, work take so long to open; why does the presentation application auto-format tables? Yes it looks pretty and yes for many users I suspect that having some of the more esoteric tools hidden away will help make them more efficient, but I use those esoteric tools all the time and I don’t need things to look pretty I need them to work and to work quickly, simply and cleanly. Obviously, I’ll give it time to bed in and myself time to learn the finer points of the many changes, but so far I’m not happy.
cold turkey
It’s January! It’s the time of year that we all start making lists of things we’d like to improve and/or commit to. Mine is so long and ambitious that I’ve kept it secret. I keep thinking – yes! That’s what I’m going to do this year – only to be scared at my audacity. I’ve just written and deleted the list twice. Perhaps we can have “guess the resolution” instead, since if I’m successful in my resolve this year will be slightly different in tone than previous years. I’ll give you a clue to help you start guessing – three are things I’m planning to give up, three are new habits I wish to acquire.
Of course, there was no sign of cold turkey during Christmas – neither the literal nor the metaphorical since we served goose. The two weeks on the Isle were mostly blissful – walks on the beach with the pupster, games on the carpet with the pupster, rich food (some of which was shared with the pupster), present opening (the pupster got the lion’s share), time with friends and family, merriment, parties and television.
And now we’re back. And it’s dark, it’s cold, we’re in a poky little flat off the Old Kent Road (one of London’s grimiest, grimmest corners) with no sea air to breathe, chalk downs to climb or Badger Ave comforts (television, tumble drier, garden, unlimited hot water) to enjoy free of responsibilities of independence.
We were scared that Skye would hate us for bringing him back to a tiny flat devoid of garden and doting grandparents. We got home last night at 9pm and I raced across the road to the evil empire to buy milk, vegetables, chicken livers (only the best for our pupster) and breakfast supplies, leaving TA to clean up stinky dog poo (on the paper after a car, boat, bus, train, bus journey – well done, Skye!) When I got back TA said in a doleful voice “he hates it here” and I nearly crumpled. But then I saw the little monster wagging his tail and the big monster smirked, “he loves it! He’s been running from room to room with his tail wagging madly.” The relief was even more overwhelming when I finally climbed into our bed last night. Our cold, hard, unforgiving futon; I was thrilled to lay down, reach over and hold my husband while at the side of the bed, on a pile of cushions, the pupster prince slept soundly. Home at last.