Saturday, 29 January 2011

Dead or Alive

When people speak about being 'haunted', or feeling 'a presence', an assumption is made that it must be by someone who has died.

Could it actually be someone alive who is invading your personal space?

Do humans possess as yet unidentified skills and senses which are being used inadvertently? Could the act of imagining you are in someone's house resonate with them so that they 'sense' you are there? Can we project some part of our being that can have an impact on another person's environment?

Does casually reminiscing about a place you once visited mean that someone standing there at that moment has the experience of being watched, whether or not they have ever met you?

It makes more sense to me that 'ghosts' are actually living people projecting themselves, rather than dead people coming back for a visit.


So am I!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Laptop Life

Oh, I can see all this sitting around with a computer attached to one's form as if by an umbilical cord can be beguiling. It's a bit like having a second brain which, let's face it, is a very useful thing to have. The only other time I have enjoyed having two brains is when pregnant, and strangely, this had the opposite effect to that expected - I became less clever.

I blame hormones.

I think hormones have a lot to do with what is wrong in society. All those awkward urges one has to deal with while wearing a nonchalant expression, all the hot flushes where you have to wrestle with the feeling of experiencing ground rush to the Zimmer frame, all those young men drinking too much and waving broken glasses in each other's faces and all the fast mine's-bigger-than-yours cars and things with engines in, all the stroppy teenagers slamming doors and all the annoying adverts for men's anti ageing hair rejuvenating juice or whatever it's called with smug men looking newly chirpy at the prospect of mating again in spite of their advancing years.

No, the world would definitely be a better place without hormones. But then it would probably be a better place without these nifty little electronic devices attached to the ends of our arms too.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Fenella Fielding and Fags

I've turned into Fenella Fielding with a ninety a day habit. That's what I sound like anyway, with my husky, bar room voice and hacking cough. So I've 'taken to my bed'. Such a splendid Victorian phrase. How right they were too. A day cocooned in the fluffiness of my duvet and goose down pillows, a day where the hardest decision will be whether my next soothing drink should be hot chocolate or tea, or whether to read some more Adrian Mole or listen to Woman's Hour. These decisions are so difficult to make I am really relieved I'm not the prime minister, having to decide between thermo nuclear war or sanctions. The tea bag question is testing enough.

It was very exciting to realise I can connect to the twenty first century with my little netbook, and become a pest e-mailing my work colleagues, who I am missing, from the snuggliness of my mattress. I can also take the opportunity to reinforce my current brainwashing programme. Yes, Paul McKenna is kindly sorting my life out via a rather dull CD. All I have to do is listen to the half hour of rather droning blurb every day for all eternity and I transform into another being. Very strangely and unexpectedly (being a cynical type) it seems to be working. I will soon be more me-like. Whether or not that's a good thing will be for you to judge.

Maybe I should see whether there's an 'I can help you become more decisive' CD - then I'd know whether I'm having chicken or tomato soup for lunch.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Help! Where Have My Veins Gone?

There we were, all having as nice a time in Oop-under-North as it's possible to have, when someone suggested we stop off for a cuppa at the local Weatherforks. My heart sank. Weatherforks is not my sort of place, but not wanting to be difficult, relented gracefully.

It was actually alright, the chap swearing behind the bar was quite good at pouring boiling water into a mug. He didn't go that extra mile and actually unwrap the over-wrapped tea bag and immerse it in the water. I comforted myself with the thought that he was obviously following the Italian method of tea making (not one I'm a proponent of however). We found the best seats in the house, squishy settees, and I sank happily into one and enjoyed the chat and started thinking Weatherforks wasn't that bad.

After a while I went off to find the facilities and was shocked to find my veins had disappeared. Had I yet again transformed into a zombie? The 'ladies' was quite posh, but lacked the plush, deep buttoned, crushed velvet I would hope Weatherforks would have in their 'Heaven' branch, and luckily obviously wasn't quite bad enough to be 'the other place' (although some Weatherforks might well be). Was there an extra ingredient in the hot water that had sent me speeding to the afterlife? I felt a sharp pang of resignation that my last moments on this earth had been in Weatherforks, but you don't always get to choose I suppose.

Luckily it turns out the special lighting effect was to stop junkies finding their veins to shoot up. I made a note to add establishments with blue lighting in the lavatories to my list of places 'not to frequent'.

While I'm at it, I'll add anywhere with a bouncer on the door.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Best Pudding

I had the best pudding at the weekend. It was chocolate profiteroles and a goodly sized dollop of that really nice icecream that twirls out of a machine, all sloshed about with hot chocolate sauce. It doesn't get much better than that, until I had a pudding later the same day. I didn't think you could go to heaven twice, but it was a chocolate sundae with honeycomby crunchy bits in it, more twirly white icecream from maybe the same machine, cream and more chocolatey sauce. I think I would like to buy a twirly ice cream machine for the kitchen, but it probably wouldn't be too long before I wouldn't fit through the door. You only used to be able to buy twirly icecream from Mafia owned vans parked in devious locations, usually near playgrounds, or outside museums in London to alleviate the dreaded dose of culture.

I was particularly excited once by the prospect of chocolately twirly icecream from a van in the local town centre. I placed my order and waited expectantly. The machine didn't work, so to my horror, the slightly unwholesome chap behind the counter rolled up his sleeve, lifted the lid on the magic box, swirled the contents around with his dirty finger-nailed hands and then topped a cone for me.

No thanks mate.

This has prompted me to give you some helpful advice about places where not to 'dine':

Avoid the wipe clean menu venue,
Avoid restaurants where the noise of other patrons clearing their nostrils/throats/ears puts you off your egg and chips,
Avoid restaurants where you can smell the other diners,
where diners read tabloid dailies, pouring over the ladies who have forgotten to finish dressing that morning.
Avoid anywhere that offers a wooden stick to stir your beverage,
Anywhere where the patrons don't bother to look up when someone starts shouting. Anywhere that offers 'surf 'n' turf'or 'best roast on the coast',
Themed restaurants where they have music blaring in the main area, and radio stations tuned in in the lavatories.
Also avoid eating where a cardboard tray replaces the plate or you have to unwrap the different elements of the meal separately.
Avoid establishments that serve the butter in neatly cut cubes, but which have a finger print indented on each face.

If you follow these rules you will have a much more enjoyable time. You'll thank me for it one day.

Happy munching!

Friday, 14 January 2011

You Are Under Surveillance

As the last slice of my super large Christmas cake finally gets eaten, it seems a good time to reflect on how things went this year.

We all decided to eschew (what a fantastic word that is) the Christmas advertising frenzy and do something different. Some presents were made, some bought from charity shops and some taken from our own shelves to redistribute to better homes.

The most surprising hit of all these was a gift wrapped catalogue of industrial signs. I am sensitive to the fact this makes my family sound a) poverty stricken and b) extremely sad, but it was a wonderful thing. As soon as it was unwrapped by the lucky recipient, everyone gathered round, pointing out their favourite warnings (man drowning was very popular for its slightly comic take on personal disaster) and 'corrosive substance' for its no holds barred approach to showing a hand dissolving under a dripping test tube. The old favourite, 'Slippery when wet' is always good for a laugh too. I liked the movement suggested by 'descending counterweight', and felt sorry for the man suspended for all eternity mid-fall from what looks like a bookshelf. I resisted a chuckle at the person foolishly 'pipetting by mouth' obviously expecting to enjoy a milk shake. The surrealism of 'Do not watch arc' was confounding while 'No escape' carried despondent undertones of darkness. We also had a very jolly time inventing personalised captions for other graphics.

It still sounds sad, but was actually very funny at the time - but then some jokes don't travel well out of context. I did suggest my older son write to the catalogue company to let them know their manual was his favourite present, it could give them a new marketing idea for next year, while boosting sales........

Or maybe they would just think we're all a lost cause.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Supernatural Animation

I arrived in Surburbiden early this morning. It was dark, wet and cold. I clutched my super hot hot chocolate to my chest and hurried towards Prefab Towers. It was then I saw it.

Something chilling.

A glimpse into a bus swinging round a bend in the gyratory system, crammed with the undead. They slewed sideways en masse, packed too tight to fall.

Faces pale and devoid of expression, ghostly apparitions under the neon strip lighting of the 173.

All in need of salvation. Salvation from the grind and pointlessness of the daily commute.

From being held in limbo at the bus stop, on the platform, or in the murky underworld.

I quickly rearranged my face into a contrived joyful expression in case I was mistaken for a walking corpse. Someone passed by, they looked confused.

No one should be happy in Surburbiden at 7.30am on a winter weekday morning, unless they have a lovely cup of hot chocolate to drink, that is.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New Boots and......

Getting carried away in the sales, I did what I do every year. Look at the sales stuff, turn my nose up, and buy things I didn't need at great expense from the non-sale stock.

This year my purchases took the form of two pairs of rather wonderful suede ankle boots. They are identical apart from the colour. One pair is black, the other a resplendent purple. Anyone walking close to me on the way back home would have heard the strains of 'Purple Rain' being sung quietly, but proudly. There is something pleasantly anti-disestablishment about deep purple and I thought they would go well with the mood of my 'urban anarchy' scarf.

The other morning I was getting dressed in a poor light, and you've guessed it, was getting out of the car at work and saw that my feet were different colours. Quite radically different too. I wondered whether I could get away with making a 'fashion statement' but chickened out and put on an old pair of black shoes I had in the bottom of a drawer. This made me grumpy as they didn't go with my green skirt of existential happiness. The old shoes had been discarded as being too uncomfy, so my feet hurt all day and I walked funny as a result.

So your tip for today is to always get dressed in good light, otherwise be prepared to brazen it out as a fashionista at work.

Monday, 10 January 2011

How Many More Miles to Go?

A bit of the news caught my ears today. Something about a breeding pair of Landrovers doing well in China.

Maybe I heard wrong?

My father once brought a Landrover home from work in the early 1960's. I was very little, but remember the basic clankiness of chains rattling around, lots of catches and cold metal stuff. It was the most exciting thing that had happened to me up to that point in my short life - sitting in the back of a Landrover. (As I think I mentioned earlier, life was a tad dull in those days). My parents owned a Morris Minor at that time. It was a ferocious beast. It had blue eyes (there was some tinting on the headlamps). I remember having the onerous duty of putting out an empty milk bottle one morning, turning to look up the drive towards the open garage, and being so scared of the evil creature ready to pounce on me, that I dropped the bottle, which smashed dramatically. Maybe I did it deliberately to halt the progress of the creature, subliminally recognising that the tyres would deflate over broken glass.

In a later decade, my brother enjoyed driving a Morris Minor estate. It was a half timbered affair, sort of mock tudor. Frightfully sophisticated, with all that wood, who needs chrome? And a car that you can clean with a can of Pledge and a duster. How quaint is that?

We used to spend a lot of time in cars, going on family holidays to Devon, to see Grandad. In those days it was a two day journey. We three siblings would cram in the back of whatever car we had then (I mostly remember the Corsair). Me being the smallest had to sit in the middle with my feet resting on the bumpy bit in the middle. We were fed boiled sweets from the 'sweetie mine' (or glove compartment to normal people), which, when my mother executed an emergency stop (which seemed to happen with alarming regularity) would lodge in my throat. I felt my life ebb away and as I fought for breath, arms flailing, gagging and clutching my throat, my father would utter soothing things like, 'You'll be fine in ten minutes'. This always happened, it was horrible, but he fed us boiled sweets on every journey I can remember for years. I didn't have to eat them I suppose, but you are a bored child on a long journey. A pear drop is the highlight of the day.

Mother's emergency stops were a result of my father screaming 'leap, leap, leap' at road junctions, so she would accelerate hard, lose her nerve and stamp on the brake and then he would remonstrate with her to the next junction. We lurched like this for the several hundred miles (or so it seemed) to Grandad. He never seemed that bothered to see us, and would shuffle in his carpet slippers and oddly out-of-place labcoat to his pantry. He would make gutteral noises in the back of his throat, and shuffle out again, with a catering size tin of honey clutched to his chest. I think this is why I have always enjoyed Winne the Pooh so much.

I wonder how many stories will be unfolding in the Landrovers in China? They will probably cover far longer journeys, with far more exotic landscapes. Wherever they go, a good proportion of them will have children sitting in the back asking, 'How many more miles to go?'.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Feeling Waspish

I was sitting on the sofa, enjoying a moment of pointlessness, like you do, when things took an unpleasant turn for the worse. A very large Lancaster Bomber sized wasp appeared, as if from nowhere, and started buzzing around. I could understand this if it had been late August, but it was January for goodness sake.

When I want to enjoy my pointless moments, I light the fire and a small congregation of church candles. The room was illuminated by soothing flickering light, and then this enormous wasp the size of a small county came to terrorise me.

'Why?' I questioned, eyes raised heavenward.

I suffer from intense bouts of inertia once my backside hits the soft cushions of the settee, so I sat, transfixed, hoping the stripey beast would leave me alone. It turned from nudging along the wall behind the telly (it must have been disappointed that magnolia paint didn't offer the fragrant allure of the real thing) and headed straight for me. I was just contemplating the optimum direction for a duck, when it tactically changed course, and flew straight into the flame of the church candle nearest my head. There was an unpleasant popping and fizzing noise, and the wasp was incarcerated in solidified wax for all eternity. My relief was mixed with unease at a living creature committing suicide so close to my head, the unsavoury noises that accompanied it, and pity that while it's ancestors were incarcerated in the much more glamorous bling of amber, this wasp was going to have to make do with cold wax. It would never be immortalised or bejewelled in its afterlife.

But then, I don't suppose I will be either.

Earth and worms...........

Earth and worms.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Leaning on my Oars and Watching the World Drift By

I went skiffing this morning. It was really great to be out on the river again, although a little bit chilly around the edges. I had the opportunity to sit quietly, leaning on my oars while some teaching took place. The river was flowing faster than I have seen it do for quite a while, and when we weren't rowing, the boat started to drift sideways and float downstream. People walking along the banks smiled as they hurried by. I felt pleased that I was the one on the water. When I used to go for walks by the river, I wished I was in a boat - and now I am. I also love 'The Wind in the Willows', and sometimes it feels like I've stepped into the pages - especially on a beautiful summer evening, with a picnic stowed in the bows. It's also wonderful on a chilly evening, when an ethereal mist settles over the surface and the only noise you can hear is the gentle dipping of the sculls and creaking of wood. The oars leave little full stops on the surface, marking progress.

In the dark, the lights from bars and restaurants cast long reflections in the water and drinkers watch, slightly amused, that people are rowing in the cold and in the dark. Only the fishermen on the banks seem to understand the draw of the water like we do on nights like these.

Most people seem to like being near water though, maybe it's about where we all came from, an acknowledgement of the primaeval soup we once slithered out of.