Sunday, January 22, 2006

I only ever subscribed to Friends Reunited once. I'm still in touch with most of the people I liked at school and I haven't become so fabulously successful that I want to start contacting those I didn't like to brag about it. I tend to use it more these days to snoop on potential blind dates, check their stories match up. I've had the occasional email from old schoolmates wanting to reacquaint and the standard one from a boy who I had treated contemptously for years, telling me all about his triple-car garage and international playboy lifestyle. So you're still a tosser then, Vince!

It was quite a surprise to see no less than 6 former pupils all in the same pub last night. It's only 3 miles from home in the next village but I don't get out much. I had been to the same place for steak the other week, but I'd gone early and mid-week to minimise the risk of being spotted with Moustache Mark. Last night I was dining with 20 other rugby parents ( I always seem to be the only odd number).

I had a chat with Luggy ( I never can remember his name but it's impossible to forget those ears), danced with Sarah or rather Ruby Summer as she now prefers to be called professionally, caught up on the number of offspring Suzanne has now managed to produce, all bearing her same flaxen hair, beautiful features, vacant from the eyes inwards, hugged another Sarah who I hadn't seen since she sat her O levels in between ante-natal classes and accepted a drink from a lad who looked familiar but I couldn't for the life of me tell you his name. Finally, just as I was about to leave, a loud shout came across the bar, clearly aimed at me. I froze in horror as Mouldy Haley came at me like a heat-seeking missile. I think I was the only person in our year who had escaped her punches and I feared that she was about to remedy that 19 years later.

Instead, she started telling me all about her job on a building site, her three horses and explaining that her behaviour at school all stemmed from an affair that her mother had been having. I was relaxing, almost to the point of a barely visible quiver when she delivered the ultimate body blow. " So, I can see you lead a contented life, Cherrypie!"

It was with this crushing statement ringing in my ears, delivered by a woman so frighteningly fit that her abs were frozen solidly into a tightly regimented six-pack formation, that I set off to walk to the shop to fetch a paper this afternoon. I planned to walk to the Co-Op in the centre of the village, at least half a mile away but I found myself magnetically drawn into the Spar shop, less than 500 yards down the road. I wasn't surprised they didn't have a Sunday Times, most of their customers look like People readers. I carried on down the road.

By the time I'd reached Lincoln Drive, about halfway there, I'd developed shin splints. I had no choice but to keep going, it was downhill and there was always the possibility of stopping for coffee at Clare's in the market place. The Happy Shopper didn't have a Times left either so I dragged myself the last few metres to the Co-Op, relieved to see Clare's shiny new company car sitting outside her flat. I called her to warn her to get the kettle on, and she in turn asked me to get some milk. I then sat for the next couple of hours catching up on each other's gossip and hearing all about her maiden skiing holiday, secretly hoping she might offer to drive me home in her shiny new car. She didn't. It was uphill all the way back and there are fewer shops to stop at, purportedly reading the Notices but really just drawing a breath.

There was nothing for it when I got back but to run myself a deep bath liberally laced with the Molton Brown muscle soak that I had rather extravagantly treated Jack to on my last visit to Chester, and ease myself in for a recuperative hour. I just hope I haven't seized up in the morning.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I was horrified to see two young boys playing Chicken on the busy dual carriageway into the city as I was leaving work the other night. It was rush hour. They were on a notoriously bad bend and one of them was actually lying in the road as the evening traffic unsuspectingly bore down on him. My first instinct was to call the police but I didn't know the local number and rationaled that if there was an accident, it was more important that someone could get through on 999 rather than me blocking it up.

I drove on to Sophie's where I was to get changed for a Business Dinner later that night. We talked about what I had seen and she pointed out that I could be an important witness in any future legal proceedings. That had already gone through my mind. Sophie's a lawyer too.

I didn't stay long as I was expected at the RNLI fundraiser a little after 7 and Sophie had been summoned by Martian who had made a pot of chilli and was anxious to share it. It was only as I was driving home much later that night that the realisation hit me. Martian had made the chilli on Tuesday in readiness for a dinner party that he was hosting last night, Friday, 4 days later. His pan is huge, rather like the ones used in school canteens. His fridge is invariably full of geriatric salmon, fossilised salami and limp salad. It was unlikely there was any room in it for a vast vat so it had probably sat on the hob for the best part of the week, dipped into occasionally by a grazing Martian, keen to sample his culinary creation and wonder at his incredible domestic abilities and heated up every night.

I must call and check that the evening went well and no guests keeled over. I would hate to be that key witness to Aiding and Abetting Death By Recklessly Enthusiastic Cooking, Cooking Without Due Care and Attention or BonHommicide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I feel sick to my stomach and I want to weep. I cannot believe I have made such a major f*** up. ME! Little Miss Capable! Nobody-does-it-better-than-me ME! Control Freaks R' Us ME!

Why do I always have to interfere? Why can't I just let people quietly get on with things? Why can't I ever do the important things right?

Dashing Darbs reached his London Marathon fundraising target last weekend. He's already raised well over £5000 towards the Elimination of Leukaemia ( , the disease which stole his young, vibrant and lovely wife from him almost a year ago. Chances are, he'll double it by the time he's finished because he's driven and genuine, totally dedicated and committed to his beautiful boys and because everybody loves him in the same way that anyone who knew Ruth couldn't help but be drawn to her.

He really didn't need me to wade in with my Size 4s and make a pig's ear of organising a night which was supposed to be fun, supportive and raise a few more quid for the coffers. I've been enthusiastically drumming up support for a Comedy Night. I've booked 2 top comedians, hired the Hall and the caterers, sorted out the licensing arrangements and taken a couple of days off work. Everything was under control. Nothing could go wrong.

The local evening paper ran a full page article about it today. It was great publicity....

For an event that was supposed to be happening on 20 March!!!

I've booked the whole shebang for 27 bloody March. 1 entire week later. If that's not disastrous enough, 27 March happens to be Darbs & Ruth's wedding anniversary.

He'd been planning to find a whole to crawl into that day. I doubt I'll have vacated it by then. If you do one good thing this year, do it here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

It's Graeme's fault. He shouldn't have described the steaks to me. Or told me the price, or mentioned that the chef was newly-arrived from the lauded organic place just outside the town. I'd have been ignorantly content with my new risotto pan for weeks.

Instead, I spent the early part of the week thinking of nothing else but fillet, peppercorn sauce and chunky chips and calculating just when and more importantly, with whom, I was going to enjoy it. There was no way I was going to be able to hold out 'til Dashing Darbs got a baby-sitter, and I doubt he'd want to waste a precious night out on satisfying my greedy whims. I could have called Single Sean. I sort of owe him dinner, although I'd only ordered cannelloni when he took me out just before Christmas so it hardly counts. Besides, he's single for a reason and I didn't want anything to dull my appetite.

I settled on Moustache Mark. He's a boy who appreciates a good meal. There was a slight risk that his top lip might act as food velcro but I was pretty sure he'd trimmed on the night of my party. He's also incredibly obliging when it comes to flat-packed furniture and as I was planning to call into IKEA this weekend, it wouldn't do any harm to soften him up.

Graeme had been right. The food was delicious. The only problem was resisting the urge not to go back the following night to try the Sea Bass. I've subsequently managed to persuade a couple of dozen rugby parents to join me there for dinner next weekend. I have no idea how I achieved this, but I did let Debbie think it was all her idea. She likes organising things, she's good at it. I expect we will all have scanned menus in our Inbox tomorrow morning ( I may decorate my blog with it).

And I put together my new bedside table all by myself whilst watching Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events ( or rather the opening credits, there's only 3 pieces of unstained wood and half a dozen screws but then what do you expect to buy from Sweden for less than 7 quid?!) I was tempted to buy another so I could have a matching pair framing my bed, but it failed my usefulness and necessity test. It's unlikely it would be used for at least another 30 years, and only then to hold a glass with my teeth in.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The only thing I really needed to buy this weekend was a mop. I used to have a very efficient one but I had to give up Angel Features, the cleaner when I moved. Call me odd but I can't seem to get enthusiastic about shopping for cleaning items ( apart from scented water for the iron and 6 different types of clothing detergent; the novelty of having a utility room has not yet worn off).

I did try. I made a special trip to a local kitchenware shop, popping into a new deli that I passed on the way and coming out with some yummy looking crayfish ( a gift for Steve and Jack) and some flowers to cheer Rachel up. They didn't stock Vileda. They did have a rather snazzy leopard-print dustpan and brush which would have matched my scrubbing brush, ( it looks great next to the pink floral pan scourer, neither of which have ever seen active service but rather add to the aesthetics of the kitchen sink) but I resisted. They also had some very stylish rubber gloves trimmed with faux fur cuffs and bracelets but they only had them in large and my hands, at least, remain petite. I could have left there, walked away, solvent, after all, I've lived with dirty floors before so my staphyloccocus resistance is a wonder of modern science.

But then I saw it. The Pan of Loveliness. All deep blue enamel over cast-iron, large enough to bathe a baby in, the tantalising scent of dinners to come hovering like a hologram over it, and bearing a whacking great "Half Price Sale" sticker right across the lid.

I am now the proud parent of a Le Creuset 12-pint Risotto Pan. We had an appropriately gloopy pancetta and red wine italian dinner to christen it last night. I will now mostly be eating rice until Pay Day.

Friday, January 06, 2006

No sooner have I managed to wean myself off a chocolate fix every 20 minutes, than it is the weekend and I find myself back at home with nothing but tidying up to do. Tidying which will of course comprise of finishing off the remains of the family size tins of Quality Streets and half eaten bags of dry-roasted peanuts and pate, large chunks of cheese, fat olives and the annual bottles of Baileys and Cherry Brandy. I can still detect the faint remains of a cold so I shall avoid any strenuous activity, co-ordinating operations from the sofa. It's going to be a busy 2 days but I will not allow myself to be distracted from the task.

( I love this picture so much it has inspired me to try my hand at illustrating my posts. It bears no significance to the current post whatsoever, having been taken at the Ball in November. Richard and Paul are 2 of my oldest friends. So deep is my love for them, I shall promise not to publish the pictures of them dancing the Nutty Boys dance)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why is it that when I have all the time in the world, no work to go to, no appointments to keep, no deadlines to fulfil, I seem to achieve absolutely zilch other than lying around ambidextrously juggling books, wineglasses and chocolates? Yet give me 50 clients all wanting to see or speak to me, a full diary and 5 x 80wpm secretaries to occupy, I still always seem to find time to write my blog.

I suppose I might use it as an avoidance tactic, why get on with that horrible 46-page Lease when you can be boring someone you've never met and to whom you will never have to justify yourself? Maybe that could be my Resolution - Don't procrastinate today if there's still another day left to do it!

So what did I achieve in the final week of 2005? I dined next to the Deputy PM, at the next table that is, not exactly side by side. The food was still remarkably good though. I cooked my first Christmas Dinner ( if you don't count the fact that I got my Mum to bring the turkey already roasted with her), and managed to avoid conversation through a clever combination of steaming veg, dvds and Eastenders Christmas Special, so no big fallings-out.

I was forced to stay at home for at least 2 whole days when an inch of snow brought the East of England to a shivering halt. I did try and dig myself out with my little coal shovel just as my broad-shouldered neighbour was outside waving off a friend. Tactic worked and he had my driveway cleared in a matter of minutes.

I had a little shindig for some friends, numbers greatly depleted by the weather and winter sniffles, including the guest of honour, which was a bit disappointing. I'm not saying that my friends expect my parties to be crap, but one of them had turned up with a handy 28" colour television ( a portable size if you bear in mind her son is our Loose-Head Prop) , a spare Playstation 2 and an assortment of team games to keep us amused. It kept Jack & I entertained for the rest of the following day, until 3am on New Year's Eve in fact.

We then drove over to Anglesey to celebrate the turn of the year with Lolly and her family in her delightful fisherman's cottage overlooking the stunning Camaes Bay. She's almost as competitive as me but on a much sportier level. She'd arranged Pub Games, including darts, pool etc. I played my part, and even managed to hit the board once or twice. My requests for a Spelling Bee fell on deaf ears ( I even offered to start them off with a rendering of S-U-P-E-R-C-I-L-I-O-U-S).

Next day we headed back to the Chester border after a bracing walk around the headland, past surfers who must have escaped from a nearby institution, and continued to celebrate the start of the new year with Jack's paternal family. And before you know it, I'm back here at the same desk, sitting on the same chair that has moulded itself to my shape, the car park is about to close and I am going to have to make a run for it if I don't want to have to climb all the stairs to the top floor. The only thing that has changed is the Calendar. Gone are the worthy pictures of cutesy little Thai mountain children. Hello, rugged, roughtie-toughtie Lifeboat men, your rubber wellies will certainly brighten my days!