Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Out and About

Hello! I'm writing this on my borrowed teeny tiny laptop in my hotel room, feeling rather swanky. New job seems like it will be alright - the people are nice, there are lots of us in the same position and we have all been treated very nicely for our first day. This sort of stage is all training anyway - so tea and biscuits, pens and notepads, and explanations and nodding - lots of nodding.

I ate dinner in the restaurant all by myself tonight. I felt rather decadent and had a small glass of red - this was rather ambitious considering the food poisoning incident just over a week ago, but I got a bit carried away in the moment. It was rather fun, but odd, eating by myself. The waiter first gestured to a table in the middle of the room, and I was like no ta, can I have that little one by the wall? He laughed and said no one wanted to eat in the middle of the room, and I looked around and there we all were, single business folk, all at tables for one hugging the walls. I took a book downstairs with me but it was actually hard to manage, eating and reading. I felt a bit wrong, like I was somehow being rude to my floral table arrangement.

I did go for a short walk outside (the hotel is very central) and felt like I had landed in a different planet.. All of a sudden I was crossing roads like the green cross code man taught me in juinor school, while locals sauntered past me no doubt thinking I was rather strange. It's being in a new place I think, its regressed me. And I am scared stiff I will be run over by a tram.

Right, I am signing off now. Best get some sleep! More from the front line tomorrow!

Sunday, 22 February 2009


I think I am becoming addicted to following celebrities on Twitter. Curses! Having avoided falling for reality TV, Facebook, gossip magazines and all else, why do I now want to find out whether Philip Schofield enjoyed his Chinese takeaway last night? Why do I care what children’s toy Jonathan Ross would like to turn into a movie (Pac Man) or what Alan Davies is watching on TV (TV Burp). Why should I worry about Stephen Fry’s mobile reception in Mexico? (Gosh I hope his signal stays ok).

Heaven forbid I start adding more…

Oh dear, just done so. Basically I am thinking of my favourite panellists in QI. Jimmy Carr’s twittering looks sadly dull from the initial page – looks like it is done by his website team on his behalf. I wonder how you unfollow if you have followed rashly? Damn idle thumbs… I can apparently ‘block’ people – that sounds a bit unfriendly. I just want a button that says ‘silently sidle out this way’.

I think I may have been lulled into a false sense of security with Twitter by Stephen Fry. His twitterings come across just as he seems on TV – funny, charming and intelligent – at least he is in 140 character spaces, which is all Twitter gives you. Perhaps if it was 141 then all would go to pot and the fantasy would crumble, but I still think he would tweet with aplomb.

Ah yes – ‘tweets’. Twitter brings with it its own phrases. A ‘tweet’ is an update on Twitter. A ‘twit’ is no doubt a person like me who updates Twitter and hasn’t a clue about why they are there in the first place.

I think Twitter is best for people who are out doing interesting things and can update on the move via their mobile. The point of Twitter is that your updates answer the same one question, which is always ‘what are you doing?’ So this can make interesting reading from people out and about. However the problem for me is that Twitter and my mobile are incompatible apparently (too old, I feel), so my main answer will always be ‘sitting in my room in front of my PC’. It really doesn’t vary much from that.

I’m not quite sure I like this ‘access all hours’ form of communication. Although it is nice to think that celebrities are also having Sunday dinner and moaning about washing up like the rest of us, there is no need for me to know this. I can tweet at one of these celebrities and ask them if they enjoyed their dinner, but whether they reply or not does not make them a friend. Although I would love to say to someone ‘Stephen Fry just tweeted at me’ as that would be the pinnacle of my Twitter world, and after that I would probably activate the ‘silently sidle out this way’ button.

I think I need to think on a bit about what I want out of Twitter – light entertainment, idle curiousity, networking for the book, freelance opportunities? I might leave it for a bit until I’ve made up my mind.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Week of Up and Down


I’ve got a freelance job, hopefully starting next week, which will mean glory be and halleluiah for the bank account. I am fully prepared to put my head down and work like an enthusiastic Trojan. Money! I am so excited I could almost buy fancy things right now* except I shall wait and see if the job actually materialises or disappears back into a thin mist.

Freelance job is also in another city, which means I get put up in a hotel and have an expense account. I am actually very good with expense accounts, and seeing it has been so long since I was frivolous I will probably question every time I have a glass of water. I doubt I will see much of the city, but to be out of my little room into the wide world will be a nice change. And no evening distractions means I can sit and write/edit the novel to my heart’s content in a hotel room feeling like a proper writer.**

Freelance job also takes me until April, and then me and J are off on a road trip to Italy to attend a wedding. We planned it last year and I have been fretting over the money side, but now it might just work out ok. Woohoo! As you can no doubt tell, I am rather pleased about that.***

I have arranged a meeting with the editor of a magazine for my local borough, and we are going for a coffee next week (hopefully before I am in another city!). She sounds nice in her emails, and I am hopeful to pitch an idea to her that I think will work really well. Cross fingers for me!****

I took both my cats to the vet for a check up (the ginger boy behaved very stoically; the tabby girl felt the need to complain every ten seconds) and the vet gave them a clean bill of health.*****


I went out for a meal last Tuesday and was struck ill with food poisoning. Oh it was as rough as houses. Put it this way, since Tuesday night I have only been able to eat 2 small bowls of cereal, 1 slice of toast, half a banana, 1 small bowl of plain pasta, and 1 small bowl of plain chips (today). I am feeling better; tons better, but still have no appetite. Great for a quick diet though, if the looking haggard and having no energy thing also suits.******


* Fancy things for me at the moment are as follows: Tights. New cat litter tray. A jumper (this is probably the top of the ‘oh my God, I have no clothes left that do not have a hole in the elbow, why moths why?’ list). Smart clothes to complete Lois Lane transformation from Velma, the speccy short one in Scooby Doo that always wears the same polo neck.

**I have no idea why a proper writer should work in a hotel room. I fear it is another fancy delusion of mine. I suffer from a great many fancy delusions where authors are concerned. My favourite one at the moment is that all authors live in a rambling 17th century house with an iron bell pull and a front garden shadowed by trees. Although at the moment 'all authors live in a house' works for me, forget the trimmings.

***Bloody ecstatic, I think you’ll find. I can’t wait to spend some time with my J.

****This was a follow on from
this post earlier. Patience is a virtue!

*****She also said that my ginger cat was very handsome and my tabby girl had beautiful soft fur. Yes I am a proud parent of two furry beggars, and was all happy and soppy for ages after that.

*****At the moment I am at the stage where I want to eat something but afraid it will make me feel horrible again. Like I have just spent the last hour wondering whether I should have a hot chocolate (tea, coffee etc are still a big no-no) or whether it will be a bad idea. Sigh. Still, on the mend!

Monday, 16 February 2009

DVD or Ditch: The Lost Boys

My quest to purge the house of unnecessary VHS tapes continues – will ‘The Lost Boys’ make an upgrade to DVD?

This 1987 film showcased Keifer Sutherland as a bleached blond vampire, introduced the two Corey’s, revealed Jason Patric to the world only to seemingly whip him away again forever afterwards, and references J. M Barrie’s Peter Pan in the title. What’s not to love?

When this came out I had posters of Corey Haim on my wall. I remember distinctly he was wearing some sort of white chunky knit cardigan, but that was allowed, that was cool. For a time I followed his movie career until it became clear I desperately needed to watch a film with a plot, but lets rewind to when anything was possible…

I still enjoy the soundtrack to The Lost Boys. ‘Cry Little Sister’ by Gerard McMann leads into a spooky ethereal chant that is perfect for this film. And ‘People Are Strange’, a cover version of The Doors classic by Echo and The Bunnymen (thanks Forest Pines!) illustrated the vast number of crazies frolicking around the fictional town of Santa Carla. I particularly remember the Beverley Hillbillies careering past in a supermarket trolley. Santa Carla is like 80s Camden on acid.

And now the movie begins again… and my eye refuses to budge from David (Keifer) and Michael (Jason). Um… they’re not bad looking, are they? Now this must be the perfect movie – something for every age. When a small teen I could fancy Sam (Corey Haim), grown up me appreciates David and Michael, and give it another thirty years and I’ll probably be quite keen on the grandpa.

The story goes as follows – two brothers, Michael and Sam, move with their mother to Santa Carla, murder capital of the world. They live at their grandpa’s, a strange old man with a fondness for taxidermy, and their mother starts dating Max, a video shop owner. While out at the boardwalk (the place to hang if you like watching sweaty rock saxophonists, or enjoy stealing comic books), Michael falls for a girl called Star (Jami Gertz). She is somehow with the mysterious David, who lurks around the boardwalk with his gang of long haired leather jacket wearing dudes. David challenges Michael to a few dares, Michael realises they are all vampires and he is soon to join them, unless Sam helps him. Sam enlists the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) – basically the Goonies but with wooden stakes – to kill the vampires, and save his brother.

This film is just as good as I remember. It is an R rated comedy/horror film, and it stands up well in both respects – the horror is of the gore-splatter variety (death by stereo!) and there are some cracking good comedy lines - the funniest being when Michael is hovering outside his brother’s window saying he is not a vampire, and Sam yells “what are you then, the flying nun?”

It is a relatively short movie, and yet it gives us a love triangle, an older romance, a twist, a plot, rivalry, friendship and plays on the idea of loyalty. Not bad in 93 minutes – now if you go to the cinema to watch a film you might as well pack a lunch (The Dark Knight – 152 mins, The Fellowship of the Ring – 178 mins, Casino Royale – 144 mins).

While none of the character development goes particularly deep, they are all developed enough to make us believe in them. It turns out the characters we know least are the lost boys themselves, but we’re not really supposed to know them, only their leader, David. He’s not quite J.M Barrie’s idea of Peter Pan, but he is definitely the star of the show. Keifer Sutherland plays David with a delightful understated menace, a knowing cruelty almost, yet at the same time there’s an air of vulnerability behind his actions. This lifts him from the two-dimensional presence of his gang, and gives the film a depth of quality that perhaps wouldn’t have happened without his casting.

The 80s does not seem a kind decade to clothes. Sam wears some truly hideous outfits, the worst being some sort of long white lounging coat as he strolls around the boardwalk. And as for Max – his shoulder pads are so wide that most of the time he looks like he is trying out for American footballer of the year. I am amazed he can fit through the door of his video store. But the vampires look good, Star is rocking her gypsy boho babe style and Michael can certainly do a steamy smoulder. This film definitely gets upgraded to DVD!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Thinking time

The best thing about commuting was the way my mind wandered as my body was stuck on the Victoria line. Most of my story ideas (or any written work orientated ideas) have been dreamt up staring at the racing black outside the tube windows, or watching suburbia flicker past outside the train. Generally any place where I am physically stuck seems to free my imagination.

I try to recreate this feeling by going for solitary long walks. This also works, as there is nothing else to do but think, and eventually my mind will settle on the latest plot hole and poke it while my body plods past front gardens.

I noticed recently that it is taking longer for me to start thinking of my story. My brain seems to spend a good forty minutes beating me up first. It will silently tell me I am so un-fit, what a loser, oh-my-God-what-are-you-wearing, and wasn’t-it-embarrassing-that-day-in-1992-when-you-fell-over. It delights in reminding me of cringe-worthy incidents as no matter how long ago they were, they are always within reach in my mind. It is like having a constantly berating old Aunt with a moustache wagging her finger at you in disdain. What a disappointment you are, what an embarrassment! They all think it, everyone thinks you are a failure, don’t you realise that yet? Well, you never were the smartest of people… and so on, and ever on.

Most of the time I just hear this inner voice and not really register it. It will just be the background to my walk; my thoughts nearly always idle in nasty self-abusive circles. After around forty minutes I usually notice that I have been running myself down from the moment I stepped from the front door, and once I consciously notice what I have been thinking then I will force my thoughts into a different, happier direction. But it is something I have to a) notice, and then b) channel into something positive. It’s like my underlying motor revels in negativity, and indeed, relaxes to criticism. Thinking positively almost goes against the grain – I have to be aware of it, which isn’t generally how people think.

I dare say this is where I am going wrong. I tend to think you get what you expect in this life, and if ultimately underneath it all you think its not going to happen, then it probably never will. The trouble is - how to change that? It’s sort of the way I am wired. I can obviously exchange a positive thought for a negative one (i.e. – you are so un-fit, which is why you are on a 3 mile walk – good for you!), but it’s being aware of the negativity in the first place.

Maybe it’s a gradual thing to change. The more successes, the more evidence there is to slap in front of that old Aunt with the moustache. She’d have to shut up then (grudgingly at first I suspect), but in the end I hope with a good grace.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

In which I inadvertently become Vegan

It was lunchtime in Soho on a grey weekend, and a sumptuous shimmering buffet caught the eye of myself and good friend I. We had just emerged from spending more time in a bead shop than is ever wise, and this buffet truly looked like the buffet of dreams. We peered through the window, which was cunningly frosted so passers by could only see the food, not the interior.

“Look at those prawns!” I said.

“Ooo – dumplings!” Said I.

(You’ll have to guess which of us said what).

It was a fiver to eat all that we wanted, a bargain for such wonderful looking food. So in we went, not pausing at all until we were seated and looking at a drinks menu. A rather large list of herbal tea gazed back at us, and we quickly chose our poison, feeling nice and healthy. Then we raced to the food, plates in hand.

I happily started with the prawn salad. “Are they prawns?” My friend asked. “They look sort of funny.”

“Of course they are prawns!” I said, ladling on noodles. “Are you having some of that beef?”

Finally, with an impressive plateful of food before us, we headed back to our table. I took a happy bite of prawn. And then a more thoughtful second bite.

“What’s it like?” asked I, taking a bite of steak.

“Um…not quite prawn,” I replied, considering. “More like a shaped crab stick.” I put it to one side, not quite sure if it was perhaps off. “How’s the steak?”

I was chewing thoughtfully. “Not quite steak. What’s that you’ve got there – chicken?”

“Yup,” I said confidently. “Has to be.” I took a mouthful. “Or perhaps some sort of dumpling masquerading as chicken.”

“Hm.” I investigated the contents of her dumpling. She lowered her voice dramatically. “I think we are in a vegetarian restaurant. None of this meat tastes right.”

I prodded my ‘lamb’ thoughtfully. “You’re right. It all tastes like some sort of reconstructed sausage.” I think back to the disastrous night years ago when I was hung-over yet all there was in the shared flat was someone else’s tin of fake sausages. Never, ever again. I put down my chop sticks.

“No wonder the waiter said ‘vegetables’ in that tone of voice when I asked what was in the dumplings,” I mused.

We both decided there was something a bit wrong with eating things that were pretending to be meat, and that we’d much rather embrace vegetarianism and eat nice vegetables. But, surprisingly, this was the one thing this place didn’t have. Nearly every plate, bar the salad, had fake meat lurking in it, painted to look like whatever bit of animal it was representing. Why? Why not just have nice vegetable dishes?

We decided we couldn’t go wrong with noodles (except we could, it had been cooked in some sort of nut oil and tasted reminiscent of the smell you get when you encounter goats). We also noticed that every dish was labelled ‘veg-lamb’ or ‘veg-chicken’.

Oh it was all coming clear now, as we threaded our way back to our seat. It was then we noticed the clientele for the first time, since previous to this we had been blind-sided with hunger. Nearly every table had a solitary white skinny cycle courier with dreaded hair, chowing down as much fake beef as he could fit on his plate. We weren’t just in a veggie restaurant. We had gone vegan.

The clue, possibly was in the restaurant name as we poured out of the door, laughing like drains. Let’s just say it was something like ‘We Love Veggie Vegans!’ If only we had looked up…

This has probably put my budding vegetarianism back by about five years. It just tasted awful – a bit like having a giant swig of soya milk thinking it will taste the same as milk because it is white, or biting into marmite thinking it is brown so should taste like nutella chocolate. It’s being taken unawares that puts me off.

And Three’s days as my broadband provider are numbered. Not impressed!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Three Mobile Broadband

I noticed last Friday that my outlook email appeared to be going into a spasm. It kept telling me that it couldn’t send or reply to anything as my settings had changed. I wouldn’t mind if I had spent the previous ten minutes attacking my settings with a blunt spanner, but since I hadn’t, then just exactly what was wrong?

I still can access the Internet, so I peered around Three’s website for some help. They do live web chat help for mobile problems, but anyone with broadband problems can bog off, apparently. Well, it doesn’t say that of course, but for broadband you have to fill in a form and hope that it doesn’t ping off into a vortex. I waited ten minutes for a response, which is very patient for me, if a tad unrealistic on my behalf, and then I called them.

I got through to a very helpful young man who may or may not have been sitting in a call centre across the world. He wanted to help me. He asked lots of questions, and then asked me to check my SMTP. He wanted me to type in exactly the same SMTP as I already have – this stumped him. He said he had to elevate my problem (I picture some cranky lift, filled with cranky folk). He said they would call me back.

They called me as I was in a silent art gallery on Saturday. Luckily my mobile is always on vibrate just in case these embarrassing moments crop up unannounced, and so I could answer and hiss that this was a bit inconvenient without annoying everyone else. I took it outside and then repeated everything that I had already said to bloke number one. Bloke number two said a lot of customers were reporting this strange phenomenon that I was going through. He said they would get back to me.

And since then nothing. Surely the answer is obvious, somewhere someone has spilt a cup of coffee on an important server, and the result is sending everyone’s emails into outer space. I am probably waiting on a cleaner, working for the equivalent of fifty pence, in a tiny country with no heating, to come along and wipe an oily rag across the server that holds my email connection.

I really need to be able to send emails. I need to apply for jobs! I need to pitch for jobs! Don’t Three know its hard enough getting a signal with their dongle of doom, let alone trying to conduct a life through its wavering blue light? I get the feeling I will have to call them again tomorrow, explain again my problem, and then be told again that they are working on it and will call me back. It was my fault for hissing on Saturday, I knew at the time that was a bad move, like complaining about food in restaurants, especially when you are still going to eat there. I’ll call it the dongle of delight if only my email works tomorrow!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Thought process of a Chocolate Addict

I try and resist the Twirl bar. There is really no need to launch headfirst into chocolate at this early stage of the day. But I start editing and five pages in I have a chocolate headache that will only be satisfied when I feed it Cadbury’s. I am addicted.

I check the size of the belly and evaluate. The belly does not need the calories. I want to be a slim thing, not a tubster. I definitely cannot get away with being chubby; I won’t go all lovely and curvy like some girls do. I’ll morph into the blob. I should not eat the Twirl. The Twirl is the way to blobdom.

But I can hear it calling to me. I know exactly where it sits downstairs in the kitchen. I know exactly how good it will taste and that for a minute or two the world will be right, happy, and swinging gently in a hammock in the sun by the sea. This will all come to pass if I eat the Twirl. For the good of the world I really should just eat the darn thing and be done with it.

But I could hang on to eat lunch. If I eat lunch then I won’t need the Twirl, at least not yet, not straight away. Its song will go silent for an hour at least, and leave me in peace. It will mean more if I eat it in the afternoon. It will taste better. Anticipation adds a certain tinge to appetite. Yes, I should really hang on.

Bloody chocolate. Who needs its endorphins anyway? I should quickly do some press ups, run around the block, or play loud music and dance. That will get them all pumping, and I won’t need chocolate. Effort though, isn’t it? All that effort, and I get the same effect from one gooey bite. But that is where head is seriously muddled, as the first way gets you feeling and looking good, the second gets feeling good, looking ultimately like crap. I know this. Yet still I want the chocolate.

If chocolate had health warnings on it, like cigarettes do, I’d still buy it. I’d ignore the warnings and tear the wrapper off quickly so I wouldn’t have to think about it. It’s not like I don’t know what junk food and no exercise will do to my body. It’s more that I prefer not to think about it, and then when the fat creeps on I can turn around in shock and say how did that happen?

I don’t want to get to that stage. I don’t want to be that person. I shall eat more fruit and salads. I shall exercise again. I shall do all these things and then I can treat myself without the guilt. Yes, that’s the plan for tomorrow. Too late for today though. *scoff*

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Tuesday job scowl

I am not a digital guru. I refuse to apply for jobs that specifically ask for a guru of any sort. Do they even know what guru means? Would they ask for a digital spiritual leader? I don’t care if they think it is a short cut to asking for help with new media – it just means they are the sort of company that rely on buzz words and business speak to cover up ineptitude. Confucius says no.

I’ve noticed there is a worrying trend to obviously save money in my profession by way of lumping together very different roles. See – it’s all New Mee-dee-arr and therefore designers should be developers and do marketing and editing and content creating and picture researching as it’s all on the web, innit? And the folk they find should be happy to work for a minimal salary and a biscuit, in fact they should be darn well ecstatic to have landed a job at all. Sneaky little employers… I think I might stick with freelancing. Not that those jobs are thick on the ground, but at least there are interesting opportunities…Like my last assignment was writing about puppets on television (Basil Brush, Thunderbirds, the terrifying Emu). Bliss!

Another annoying thing is that you’ll see a job that sounds interesting listed through an agency, but on applying the agency will announce in funeral tones that the job in question has since departed, and then try and get you on their books. (And once you agree they try and send you to Slough. I have had two agencies so far try to tempt me to Slough – I keep telling them the round four hour or more commute would kill me, but so far they are ignoring this small trifle. I feel the need to go around to their office and mark out on a map exactly where I live.).

The job scowl this week has turned up a few possibilities, although I’m not totally convinced in them. Let’s see, what sort of things we have here…

Work with ill folk! Ill folk are really ill, but they love using the web anyway! This is an opportunity to make illness fun for ill folk!


This is a grand opportunity to be the assistant of an assistant to an assistant of a really busy person! You’ll be the dogsbody, but it will be artistic, it’s a gallery! Apply now!


We’re dynamic! We’re so dynamic we had to tell you twice in twenty words! Work for us and be dynamic too!


Even if they are not written with exclamation marks everywhere, I tend to read all job adverts as if they are being recited by a breathy over-excited twenty year old. I really have to stop being so cynical.

Monday, 2 February 2009


Too excited to post more at present. I have just offered my services as a walking escort to my mum so she can get to work, since all transport as we know it has picked up its skirts and shrieked at the prospect of moving through snow. I will return with photographs! Or I’ll be out playing working somewhere. Ahem.

I don't think I will seek full-time employment as a walking snow-cab. According to AA Route Planner, I have managed 9.6 miles today, trudging there and back twice through snow. The first time I did it in my trainers, the second time I togged myself up as if I was on the Alps. Out came my snowboarding boots, jacket, fleece, and a little snoody thing pulled up over my ears bought from Sunshine Valley in Banff (oh Canada, how I miss thee in this weather). I looked like a serious snow walker. Either that, or I looked like I was insane.

I love that quiet that descends during a snow-fall. No traffic, no birds, no people passing by - just a soft whomp every so often as snow falls from a tree bough. Children delighted with a day off school coax parents out into the front garden to make fat snowmen. Elderly men grimly shovel the snow off their path, trousers tucked into socks. Teenagers forget the studied attitude they drag around with them and revert to children, giggling and flinging snowballs at each other. The television and radio revert back to old-style importance, family gathering to watch reports of people snowboarding in Brighton, ski-ing down Primrose Hill in London, sledging in York. Cupboards are checked as if preparing for seige conditions, bread and milk are rationed. People acknowledge each other more than usual, and nod as they walk past. I like that most of all.