Monday, July 25, 2005

No Brainer

I’m taking time out. Things are very hectic, and I can’t think of anything remotely interesting to say.

Will be back next Monday….

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Junk Mail

The post office are going to love me tomorrow.

I can't say I'm particularly looking forward to having to package up half a ton of books and lug them all into work in order to send them out to my eager buyers, but at least my bank account will be £74 healthier.

Amazon is the way forward. I can't wait to get home and put everything else I have up for sale, although I'm aware that I may have to watch my addiction. I'm starting to look at other people's posessions in order to work out how much I might get for them.

Kleptomania looms.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Reaffirmation

I've known that I'll be going to Namibia for some months now. All the waiting has taken the edge of my excitement a little, and sometimes I even forget why I wanted to do this in the first place.

Recently, I've spent so much time and energy trying to sort out my life before I leave that I've completely lost sight of leaving at all. Some small part of me thinks that September will come and go, and I'll still be here, living my English life. My departure has ceased to feel real at all.

Now I'm back in Birmingham, at VSO's training centre at Harbourne Hall. I'm surrounded by photos of other people and places. Almost everyone here is either going somewhere or has been. Stories run thick and deep around the lunch tables and at the bar. Those still waiting to go lean in with bated breath, desperate for a clue as to what our life will be like, even though we all know that no-one can tell us.

The course content is clarifying what I'm going to go out to Namibia to do. It's fascinating, and I just want to get stuck in. I know that I'm not going to change the world, but if I can do this job, that will be enough for me (although judging from the experiences of many VSOs, I may find the job to be utterly different to what I had been led to expect).

It's completely fired me up once more. I feel alive. I'm filled with enthusiasm and anticipation. And with seven weeks to go, this is suddenly a very, very real event in my extremely near future.

I can barely hold in my glee.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sell, sell, sell!

I thought I was having a very productive morning, despite having a day off.

I awoke at 6.30, and instead of having the lie in that I crave every day, when I actually do have to go to work, I got up, and started listing all my posessions on amazon.

I've made the very difficult decision to sell my books. And other stuff. I need the bloody money. I'm broke. At this rate, my bank are going to physically prevent me from leaving the country. I wouldn't be surprised if they're having me followed already, so that when I hand my ticket over at Heathrow they can rugby tackle me and force me into virtual slavery.

So, I put some stuff up for sale at the amazon market place. So far I have sold two CDs, one DVD and one book. I have received from amazon a total of £14.22. Well, this is wonderful, thought I, and off I merrily skipped to the post office to distribute my wares. I've worked out that the total earnings on my sales, minus what I spent on postage and packing, is about £9. The total original cost of the items was £34. The galling thing is that had I still lived in London, I could have popped two doors down the road with the DVD and saved at least a quid.

On top of this, I have spent all morning, when I should have been working and trying to earn some extra money, ironing and de-fluffing a bloody awful dress that I bought on ebay for £30 last year (that noise in the background is me banging my head against the table), so that I could put it back on ebay, and maybe, if I'm lucky, sell it for about a tenner.

I am obviously an extraordinarily astute business woman. Those city traders don't know what they're missing.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Red tape

Oh fer gawd’s sake.

The Criminal Records Bureau will not agree to send my certificate to my current address. Due to some hitherto unexplored heights of bureaucratic imbecility, they will only send it to the address at which neither I nor my erstwhile flatmate now live.

I need MY copy of this certificate as well as VSO’s copy. I need it as soon as possible so that I can be issued a visa to Namibia. I need it to be sent to a sensible address, i.e. where I actually live.

Will this ever end?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

West End Bilge

Last night, I went with some friends to see something called The Shaughraun, or "The Vagabond". Directed by the man responsible for Riverdance, and billed as 'a jolly riot' by the Daily Hate Mail, and 'villainous fun' by The Express, I should have known better, but the tickets were free, and I hadn't seen my friend for ages.

So, here we go.

Marks out of ten for actors ability to act: 0

Marks out of ten for subtlety and intricacy of plot: -5

Marks out of ten for cheese (I know it's billed as a melodrama, but puh-leese): 12

Marks out of ten for hamming it up to the absolute max: 50 Give me a couple of slices of bread and some mustard, and I'd have been able to make a decent sandwich out of it.

Marks deducted from general overall score for desultory audience booing of the villain: 50

Marks out of ten for Irish dancing: 4, but only because there wasn't enough of it. It is at least enjoyable to watch.

Half the time we at the back couldn't make out what the lead actress was mumbling about, and her voice sounded like fingernails being scraped down a blackboard. I think she'd been shouting too much, and lost her voice. Someone should give her a view tips about projection. It was alright, though. She spent so much time with her hand pressed desperately to her forehead that we knew she was in a state of something - desperate lust? terrible grief? left the iron on? - pretty much constantly.

There was also a cute little dog that suffered being carried on and off stage, and was aaaahed at at every opportunity, especially when it managed to walk off stage all by itself! How clever!

It was like being at my child's first school play, except that I don't have a child to be blindly proud of, and if I did, I'd advise them never to go on stage after such an agonising display. "Be an accountant", I'd say. "Clean sewers. Join the Foreign fucking legion, I don't care. Anything but the stage."

If I hadn't needed it to beat the woman with the loud rustly bag of sweets behind me to a bloody pulp, I'd have eaten my own hand as a distraction.

That was just the first half. I told my friend that I'd rather sit in the pub on my own than have to sit through the second, and she agreed with me, so we went and drank beer instead. Much nicer.

Terrible. Just terrible. I've never had a worse time at the theatre. Please don't make me do it again.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Shaken, not stirred

The film on Wednesday was fantastic, of course, even though Bill Murray did not show; nor indeed did any of the film's other Hollywood big-hitters. A bit churlish of Sharon Stone I thought.

Anyway, it being the Cambridge Film Festival, and not the glitz and glamour of London, there was no after show party for us to crash, so the BF and I decided to go home and have a couple of quiet drinks before trundling dutifully off to bed at a reasonable hour. My bloke makes a mean martini.

Unfortunately, we accidentally got very, very drunk. I think that once the gin had run out, we shouldn’t have moved onto vodka martinis. I also think that playing Tekken 5 on the playstation until god knows what time in the morning, in an advanced state of intoxication, was not conducive to waking up fresh and bright in the morning, although I did kick arse.

Neither of us remember getting to bed. When I woke in the morning one of the beautiful crystal martini glasses that I bought him for Christmas lay in shards on the floor, twinkling prettily in the morning sunlight, a lone olive sitting regally in the midst.

We were both so sick, neither of us could get out of bed until about 6pm. It’s the one and only time that I’ve been unable to go to work because of a hangover, and the only time I’ve still been plastered when phoning up with my excuse.

I am thoroughly ashamed. And martinis are off the menu for at least a week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The trouble with British weather...

Oh, darn it.

It’s raining in Cambridge. I’m wearing my lovely new summer dress, and it’ll get rained on.

I can see the debacle now, vividly, in my mind’s eye. The dress will shrink while it’s still on me, and I’ll have to go to the cinema wearing a doll’s outfit, showing my Marks’n’Sparks white cotton undies to the delectable Mr Murray. I really hope he’s not there now.

Honestly, such trials. It's a wonder I get out of bed every day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Visa or Bust

Namibia has changed its visa regulations. Where before we were required simply to turn up, bearing our passports, and be waved merrily into the country, now we must provide a long list of things, including a chest x-ray, criminal records bureau original paperwork, degree certificates, marriage/divorce certificates, a medical form, a radiologists report, a letter of motivation, and references from five previous employers.

This last one is proving rather tricky. I used to work for the Cancer Research Campaign, aeons ago in my former life as a corporate fundraising lackey and general client-boot-licker. No-one I know still works there, and they’ve just sent all their HR records off to have them transferred onto CD. They know not when they will be returned.

My GP is also required to fill in a medical certificate. Unfortunately, I don’t have a GP, and the doctor who did my medical has now left the practise where I have all my medical needs attended to (including a staggering variety of jabs, which left me with an aversion to needles and a severely bruised arm).

The doctor, amongst other things, has to certify that I am not suffering from venereal disease, or trachoma, and that I am not ‘mentally disordered* or physically defective in any way’. This could be entirely a matter of opinion.

The other problem is that I have lost my original degree certificate. This is unfortunate, as it means I have to fork out £30 for another one, and I can’t get through to the student services department. I think the lonely one man-team who occupies what I imagine is a dusty office filled with crackly yellowing parchment and old grey steel filing cabinets, has finally dusted off his bald head and headed off to the Bahamas for an extended stay.

Also, my police clearance is taking some time, as one address at which I used to live – a lovely narrow boat moored behind Paddington station – no longer exists, because the shysters at British Waterways moved us all out four years ago to turn the area into a yuppie shopping centre. I still get enraged whenever I walk past the construction site. I hope it’s being built over an ancient and secret Indian burial ground so all the shops will be malevolently haunted.

So, as far as the Namibian government are concerned, I’m probably a desperate, under-qualified, arthritic, epileptic, syphilitic ex-con, who was sacked for serious misconduct by one of the largest charities in the UK, and is severely mentally disturbed.

I should get in. No probs.

*Mental disorders include: all psychoses, neurosis, persoality [sic] disorders, addictions, behaviour disturbances of childhood, all forms of mental retardation, and epilepsy.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bubble Burst

I called the BF from work. I was very excited.

“What are you doing on Wednesday”, I squeaked, breathlessly, “because I’ve got tickets for the UK premiere of Broken Flowers!

I know he wants to see Broken Flowers. Apart from being big fans of Jim Jarmusch, we both love the incredibly sexy and funny Bill Murray. I’m not sure the BF feels quite the same way about him, but you never know. I can’t help hoping he’ll be there, but I don’t suppose he will. Still, I might put some mascara on anyway.

The BF’s reaction was rather less effusive than I’d hoped, once I revealed that it’s at the inferior Cineworld cinema, rather than the fashionably arty Arts Picturehouse. He kept saying “Oh”, really quietly, as if I’d just asked him to my grandmother’s funeral as a treat.

If you ask me, he’s bloody lucky to have a considerate girlfriend like me who wants to take him to see things he likes, even if it is to ogle aging film stars, or even, with any luck, chat them up, and run away with them to LA, where I’ll get a boob job and a fake tan, and take Hollywood by storm.

Yes. Mascara will do the trick.

A day in the country

I ache.

The BF and I decided to have a leisurely day out on Saturday, cycling the paltry 18 miles to Ely to look at the spectacular cathedral. The trip was to involve a pub lunch, and some more beers, at various scattered pubs across the fens.

We started out a little later than we intended, but I still thought that we’d be there by 2.30 – it should only take a couple of hours to cycle 18 miles. And the cycle path was very lovely. It wound along by the river, which was thick with lilies, and softly shaded by willows. We cycled by lounging fishermen, dog walkers and sweaty joggers, all of whom shouted a cheery ‘hello’, as English people are wont to do when the weather is sunny. We were making very good time, and I felt like a character out of Enid Blyton. Adventure beckoned.

Then we had to come off the path and cycle down the road to the bridleway, which sounded lovely and rustic. I didn’t really realise that a bridleway is not a cycle path. Horses clop along it when it’s muddy. Occasionally tractors carve deep ruts into it. They are not meant for bicycles.

The fens, by the way, are staggeringly beautiful. I won’t even try to describe them, mainly because I couldn’t look at the scenery. I was too busy checking the ‘path’ for ruts, so that I didn’t bite my own tongue off every time I fell into one.

Also the way is littered with stiles. I know that these are supposed to make life easier for countryside explorers, but if you’ve ever had to lift your bike over one, you’ll understand why the nine times I had to do it nearly killed me.

Occasionally, I’d imagine throwing the Beastette down in a temper, stamping my foot and shouting “Fuck this” very loudly. Once or twice I actually did it.

After a bone-shattering 6 miles we finally made it to a pub, but it was 3pm, and way too late for lunch, so we drank a pint and ate a packet of bacon fries instead. Then it was back to the bridleway for more shake, rattle and roll.

We finally made it to Ely five hours after we set off. The cathedral was lovely, and so were the fish and chips we ate in the grounds. We found a pub, but were too knackered to even finish our beer.

We got the train home. It really wasn’t far.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Normality?

Strangely, watching the coverage of the attacks on the news, and seeing the papers makes it seem almost more shocking now than it was yesterday.

I don't know whether I'm under-reacting. I didn't think twice about coming into work this morning. I got the tube with only a tiny qualm. I don't feel in danger - just stunned, subdued. There are moments when what happened yesterday seems very much to hit home. I look around my office, which on the surface at least is functioning normally (although Gertrude's humming has become almost operatic) and I realise that something fundamental has changed. I just can't put my finger on what it is.

Other moments, it seems that it happened elsewhere.

I keep thinking that I have no right to feel like this. I wasn't involved in the attacks. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. The inconvenience to me was minimal. People went through hell, were terrified, saw appalling things, were injured, died. People have lost eyes and limbs, family and friends. Not me.

So why do I feel so strangely emotional, so up and down?

Perhaps I'll just stop blathering on about it, and get on home. Now that I can.

Normality

Everything is more or less back to normal this morning, after the exercise in grim surrealism that was yesterday in London. I got an almost empty tube train this morning from my friend's house. Nothing seems to be particularly different.

I was acutely aware throughout what went on yesterday, of how many people all over the world live in situations far worse than what happened in London every day - Palestine, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Congo, to name but a few. The London terror attacks are all over the international news, but who's shouting about what Mugabe is doing in Harare? For us, hopefully, it is over. For others it goes on.

A speech was made in the commons yesterday that mentioned 'the unspeakable depravity and wickedness' of the actions of the terrorists. Don't for one minute think that I'm disagreeing with this. My point is that unspeakable depravity and wickedness goes unnoticed every single day, in different ways. Some of it is perpetrated by developed nations in the North - the difference is, we're wealthy, and we can shout for ourselves, and shout down those who would try to point the fingers at free trade zones, and tied aid, the war in Iraq, or our silence when by speaking out we might make a difference. Far fewer people shout for those who have no voice, like those in Darfur, Baghdad and Harare. Far fewer people listen and feel outrage.

I just think it's important that we should think about those people who don't have our advantages.

Now I'm going to go out and buy a sausage sandwich. With ketchup.

Update: I must have been in some delayed distress when I wrote this this morning. So many spelling mistakes. *blush* Gone now. Mostly. I hope.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

In which our heroine straps her knapsack to her back

Right. I found a revolting pair of old trainers under my desk (and people say hoarding is a bad trait), and I'm setting off to walk the 6 miles to my friend's house in Oval. I could walk to Finsbury Park and try and get back to Cambridge, but it's fraught with the possibility of stranding, so I'm going for the 'wine, fags and mutual comfort' option. Not that I smoke. I don't. I've given up. Really.

Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a bus somewhere around Elephant and Castle.

Not sure how or when I'll be able to get home.

I can't imagine how other people are faring, and how they're feeling - I've been relatively unaffected by the whole horror.

Feel weird and upset.

Chaos

The soundtrack to this morning is of frenetic emergency sirens.

London is in chaos. People are dead. More explosions are being reported at tube stations and on the buses. My colleague James came in this morning – he walked all the way from Euston. As he was leaving the station, there was an explosion behind him.

The only warning I had this morning was when I got to Kings Cross station, and couldn’t get on the tube. Or the buses. They were too full. I ended up having to walk the two miles to work, with one shoe on, because the other one broke. I spent the 40 minute walk composing an amusing post in my head, but suddenly I don’t really feel like writing it.

There are no tubes. There are no buses. They’ve all been suspended.

None of us know how we’re going to get home. Although to be honest, even if they were running, I’m not sure we’d be rushing to travel on public transport today.

This is all very, very bizarre.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

In which our heroine experiences a total lack of inspiration

You know what? I have absolutely nothing to say.

This must herald the apocalypse.

I’d better go and buy lots of tinned food, so that I can get through the rising of the dead, and the counting of souls or whatever it is that happens at the End of Days. I hope the four horsemen and their steeds like baked beans. Difficult to judge really, not having read Revelations.

Oh, and London won the Olympic bid. I don’t have much to say about that either, apart from experiencing a moment of horror at realising that by the time it happens I'll be 38, and far too old to start training.

So, best move along now.

Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Head pictures

I walked in through the door last night and instructed the BF to ravish me, as I hadn't seen him all weekend.

Instead of instantly and enthusiastically obliging me, he rolled his eyes, and asked me what I meant by the word 'ravish'.

Funnily enough, when I picture it in my head, I see a dark eyed man in a caftan, about to deflower a willing virgin in a deserted, palm-fringed oasis. Both parties look like they're in a silent film from the 20s.

Strange, no?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Hell's Kitchen

We have no kitchen to cook in, no washing machine to wash clothes in, and no space to live in, until Saturday. Everywhere that was habitable is now filled with large bits of new kitchen.

My flatmate is solving the cooking quandary by buying a disposable barbeque so that we can cook on the balcony until the kitchen is sorted. That could be really cool, as long as it doesn’t rain, which naturally it is forecast so to do.

The BF wasn’t very sympathetic. He said “I’m sorry that all your mod-cons are gone for a while, but think of the starving children in Africa. They don’t have washing machines either”, so now I feel churlish for finding it inconvenient. And churlish for wishing that he hadn’t chosen this specific time to start manifesting a caring attitude for the world outside the borders of Cambridge.

I blame Live8.
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