Archive for the ‘Life In London’ Category

Delayed Weather Report

I know this is all so very last week, but – hey! did you hear about all the snow? It proper, really, heavily snowed in London last Monday. And this great city, without any hesitation, ground to a slippery, slithering halt.

For most people, it meant a bonus day off work. For most people, it was a day to make snowmen, throw snowballs and be uncharacteristically neigbourly and friendly.

I was not one of the most people.

Instead, I was one of the dozen or so numpties in the entire city who managed to make it to work. Lucky me – I live near the new fangled DLR train system; the only system of transport in all of London Town that manages to keep working when too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry weather closes all other options. Granted, it was a 30 minute slip ‘n slide to get to the station, but I thought I should at least try. You can imagine the crushing disappointment when within 5 minutes of arriving there, a bright red DLR train turned up to whisk me over to work. Mat, meanwhile, was all nicely tucked back into the flat for his bonus Snowy Monday Of No Work.


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I’ve been reading back over my posts of recent months, and have noticed a trend of talking about all the drinking and partying I have been doing. Which, I feel, is giving out all the wrong sort of impressions. Firstly, I don’t actually go out all that much anymore, it’s just that I don’t blog very often. Secondly, maybe I sort of exaggerate the levels and amounts of intoxication. Just for comic effect. Maybe.


Anyway, to redress the balance, I’m going to tell you all about the good stuff I also do these days. Like riding my pushbike. All the way into work. Up to three times a week. Trust me, it is a big deal.

Historically, I’m not much of an exercise person. But when we moved in my flat back in August, and I looked out the bedroom window and realised that I could actually see Canary Wharf (and not in the distant distance either), I figured that getting to the office under my own stream couldn’t be too difficult a proposition. And the bonuses! Firm thighs! Money savings! This was the opportunity to reinvent myself as a Person Who Exercises On a Regular Basis.

The first couple of weeks, I have to admit, were pretty difficult. Not impossibly so, but on a scale of 1-10 for I-might-keel-over-and-die-ness, about an 8. But then, it just got easier. One day, I even arrived to work without a bright red face and dots dancing in front of my eyes. I knew then that I was going to be alright.

So now I kind of understand what all those smug exercise-types have been saying all these years. On those days that I cycle in (and also back home – that’s twice in one day), I feel better. My head is clearer. I can eat a big bagel slathered with peanut butter and know that I EARNED the right to scoff it down. If I’m honest, though, I’m yet to develop thighs of steel or calves of rock, but really, it’s only about 30 minutes in each direction. I’m hardly in training to represent England at the Olympics.

There is an inherent danger involved in all this activity. And I’m not just talking about dodging trucks on the main roads. What I’m referring to, of course, is the risk of arriving at work without some essential piece of grooming equipment. As I just get up and go, to shower and get ready once I’ve arrived at work, it is imperative that I have everything with me to make me presentable for the day.

One morning, I completely forgot to pack any makeup. Not the end of the world, granted, but I’m certainly not ecstatic about passing the entire day at work with a completely blank face. Luckily, I was able to scrounge some eyeliner and mascara from a more organised colleague. Female, naturally, although I did ask the guys too; after all this is the era of “Manscara”. Another morning, I glibly cycled away from my building feeling very free and light. Too light, in fact. I didn’t get too far down the street before I realised that I had left my entire backpack at home. If the alarm bell hadn’t started ting-a-linging in my brain, I would have turned up to work without anything to change into. Without even a work pass or wallet. An oversight not only extremely embarrassing, but really quite smelly.

And one morning, a couple of weeks ago, the inevitable did happen. I somehow forgot to bring a work top. I had a skirt, and tights, and shoes, and makeup and even a nice pair of earrings. But the jumper I thought I had put into my bag? Somehow it managed to jump back out before I left the house. I had to slink into the nearest Zara wearing my work clothes topped with a sweaty tracksuit top, and nonchalently buy a shirt to wear for the day. The shop assistants didn’t even blink when I came out of the change room and asked to just purchase the top I was wearing. A friend later pointed out that girls coming in to buy a new top first thing in the morning is probably not an uncommon occurance. And not for the innocent reason I was doing so.

I didn’t feel like I had to justify myself at the time, but now I wish I had said something like, “Oh silly me, I completely forgot to put a jumper in my bag when I packed this morning before cycling in this morning FROM MY OWN HOME.”

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The universe. So huge. So awe-inspiring. So kick-ass.

A couple of days ago, I posted these risky words, words that I have come to richly regret:

‘The Rover has had a moment or two of pique, requiring a new battery and TWO new tyres. Aside from that, however, it’s been running fine.’

Guess what happened. Just one guess allowed. I’m waiting…giving you a few moments to weigh up your options…work out the statistical probabilities. OK, time’s up. What did you guess? That the Rover stopped working just fine? Well done! Good guess.

Score: Universe – 1; Cathy – 0.

You see, what happened was that a couple of weeks ago – while filling up at the petrol station – the Rover decided to have a bit of a hissy fit. I turned the key to start the engine, and the engine replied with an unfamiliar ‘waa-waa-waa’ sound. I don’t speak Car very well, but I quickly worked out that the sound, coupled with a lack of engine turning-overness, was most definitely a problem. Ignoring the petrol station man who was gesturing at me to stop talking on my mobile phone, I called for help from the AA. No, that’s not the AA you might be thinking of (how would they help get my car moving? Give it a group hug?) but the other AA acronym folk – the Automobile Association, who are in the business of unbreaking your breakdown. Which, when put that why, kind of also describes the other AA.

Truly, these guys are great. They turned up promptly. They pushed my car to a corner of the petrol station that wasn’t quite so in the way. Mr AA and his sidekick played with the Rover’s mechanical parts for a little while, the Rover seemed to enjoy the attention and I was once again mistress of my mobile metal box. The Rover love tickles did not come free – I had to buy a new battery – but as the transaction was done with a smile and lots of banter, it made the financial pain less acute. They then explained to me that the battery was only one part of the problem, that something called an ‘alternator’ would need to be looked at by a mechanic.

I nodded my understanding. And went into procrastination standby for two weeks.

I have a sort of fear of mechanics. Not a fear exactly – that’s a bit strong really – more like an acute ambivalence. I didn’t want to have to run around grotty car yards, be subjected to leers and possibly wolf whistles, while a fat geezer covered in fifty types of grease ripped me off in patronising man-gibberish. I tried to pass the task over to Mat – “this is definitely a man-task…I do all the cleaning….who washes your clothes?…etc, etc’“. Mat, however, also isn’t too keen on the whole idea of dealing with mechanics and annoyingly spends a great deal more time at work than I do. We therefore spent the intervening fortnight talking about how we should take the car to a mechanic, without actually managing to take any steps towards actually doing it.

The Rover was not happy about this dithering. Not happy in the slightest.

One evening last week, I got in my car and turned to key. The Rover replied with the – now familiar – ‘waa-waa-waa’ sound. I called on Mr AA once again (now wasn’t that membership fee the best 40 quid I’ve spent in a while?) The guy who turned up this time was possibly even more charming, and got the Rover back on the road, while extracting promises that I would take it to a mechanic. And so I did my internet research, and carefully and methodically chose a suitable mechanic – the first ones to answer their phone., obviously. And you know what? They also turned out to be lovely. The owner of the garage was charming and helpful. The mechanical man was sweet and kind of bumbling. They did the work in a day and kept me informed of the progress, without a hint of patronising man-gibberish . I don’t know if they overcharged, but frankly I don’t care. With smiles and handshakes and harmless chit-chat, all the potential negativity around mechanical failure was transformed into an aura of positivity.

The car starts when we want to drive somewhere, so I’m happy. The Rover spent an entire day having it’s parts tickled by experienced hands, so its happy.

Are you listening universe? All that happiness? That’s your cue.

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Internet connection has resumed. Life can return to normal. Thank fug for that.

As I briefly mentioned, Mat and I have moved into my flat. The ‘my’ in this context means that this is a flat that I actually own (apart from the small matter of a mortgage, but let’s not get too pedantic). I bought it a couple of years ago when I had a lump of money sitting in my bank account (how did that happen?), and since that time I have been renting it out. So, when we moved in here a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I’ve ever actually lived in a space that I’m not renting from someone else. It’s a grownup feeling, let me tell you. Even if it is a long, long way from being my dream home – and I say that both literally and metaphorically. I have a recycling plant on my doorstep now, rather than glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Still, let’s be positive here. The glorious Thames is only a 10 minute bike-ride away. A water feature is a water feature, right?

This little flat is my hope for getting back to Australia. Next year, if I can sell it, it should give me enough money to get back to Oz comfortably, rather than having to slink in pleading and penniless. Of course, with all the mumblings and rumblings about a recession and crashing house market, well…my plan may come slightly unstuck. In the meanwhile, I need to do whatever I can to get this place updated. It’s pretty crappy right now, and so this year I will put on a new cap and reinvent myself as Lil’ Miss DIY. Be prepared for boring stories of revamping the kitchen, and the relative merits of bath vs shower in a London-sized bathroom.

In fact, it has begun. Yesterday, I bought a new toilet seat. I even worked out how to attach it to the toilet. All by myself. It took me a very long time to unravel the logic of how to achieve this, but I did prevail. If anyone out there needs a toilet seat attaching to the throne of their abode, I am the woman for the job. I am now an experienced toilet seat fitter. Although, I probably should mention that the seat doesn’t quite fit the bowl properly. Apparently, they come in different sizes. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I doubt the shop’s return policy includes toilet seats though, so the slightly small seat is going to stay.

There you go. DIY story number one. Be sure to stay tuned.

Oh, my travelling me, it’s a big change from riding around on the backs of camels, and haggling furiously over 50p scarves. I think I miss India.

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Hello! Yes, I’m still here.

This longer than usual silence (and I know, I know, I can be rather sporadic at the best of times) is due to a recent change of abode. I moved into my new flat. Exciting times, no? It would be much more exciting however, if I hadn’t been sitting surrounded by unpacked boxes in an oasis of internetlessness, bobbing alone and scared in a sea of password-secure wireless networks. When did everyone get so goddamn smart and IT literate? I should be surfing on the waves of number 15’s stupidity.

I moved a week ago, and so surely, it should all be up and running by now. Shouldn’t it? May I remind you though, that I live in England – hub of imperial power, seat of the global economy and, most recently, winner of pounds of Olympic gold. With such a glowing CV, one would think that getting connected to the modern world of phone and internetics should be a swift, efficient and painless process. 

Well, let me tell it how it is. Firstly, wade through the quaqmire of British Telecom monopoly and new provider mayhem to work out exactly what you can or can’t sign up to. Then, spend umpteen hours on the phone, flitting through menu options and trying not to scream and throw your phone against the wall as you try to get through to an actual human being who may be able to give you a faint glimmer of understanding. Then, hand over bank account details and promises to pay lots of money in advance to be given the privilege of sitting at home for “5-10 working days, luv” without any internet at all and no written contract. Just the mumbled promises of a bored and overworked call centre employee. 

Currently, I’m at about day 5. I am holding it together for now. Just.

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Bricking It

I am sitting here (actually kind of lying on the bed in a very teenagerish pose, which is quite apt actually, as I’m feeling quite adolescent and moody and generally hard-done by), building up to a possible rant of sorts by way of a long, unnecessary introduction composed of very long clauses inserted into unnecessary parentheses (and then using more pointless words to describe it) and making little or no sense.

Let me start again.

I am in my room because one of the children who is staying in the house I am also staying in, has the TV on. Loudly. Watching cartoons. Endlessly. It is driving me nuts. And keeping me confined to this space. Which is also driving me nuts.

It is raining. In a drizzling sort of way. I just spent an hour driving in the rain (so that SOMEONE can have a nice afternoon in the pub with his mate), narrowly avoiding collisions with cars, bicycles and – heartstoppingly – a small child. What is it about the rain that turns everyone into irresponsible maniacs who insist on darting out into the road in front of my car? While a big, yellow van sits on my arse because clearly he feels I am going too slow? The rain makes it all slippier and harder to see and more dangerous and I need to take it easy. I know I’m a granny in a Rover, but really, people should SLOW DOWN, not speed up. And take an extra second or two to check before running out from behind that parked car. God. In my mind’s eye, I can still see that small person cartwheeling in the air (do you think that would actually happen?) and landing with a sickening thump on the road.

The next door neighbours are drilling. This drilling has been going on for weeks, often accompanied by banging. DIY on the weekend? I thought that was illegal. It should be illegal. They also have baby twins who take it in turns to scream in that bloodcurdling way in which only very young babies are capable.

For the love of all things precious, SHUT UP DRILL!!

(Oh, it stopped. Yay.)

Speaking of the neighbours…

(hang on…drilling is back)

SPEAKING OF THE NEIGHBOURS….all the banging and noise-making is because they are building an extension onto the back of their house. Which is fine, I guess. But in this case, the extension is an enormous, concrete monstrosity that they have clearly designed themselves and roped their friends into building. There are about 6 inches between the 2 houses now, and they built it right up against one of our bathrooms. So once where we had a window opening into the fresh air and letting in lots of natural light (which is the function of a window, if I’m not mistaken) we now have a brick wall a couple of inches outside the window, and a bathroom in perpetual darkness. Seriously, I trotted off to work one morning, and when I returned in the evening, this extension had been cobbled together and my bathroom was bricked in.

Luckily, this is not my house, because if it were, I would be self-righteously knocking on front doors and having loud and obnoxious arguments peppered with words like ‘planning permission’, ‘inconsiderate’, and noisy brats’

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Captain Hook

It was a random Friday in August. The sun was setting. The sky was pink.

My boyfriend lost his hand. It just fell off. The dog next door jumped over the fence, grabbed the hand and ran off with it.

My boyfriend grabbed a garden fork from the flower bed.

‘I don’t need a hand, I have a miniature pitchfork,’ he cried

My boyfriend now thinks he is a superhero.

He insists I call him Captain Hook.

He insists I worship his Pitchfork of Power.

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