Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pancake Day. The one night of the year when I can feel more virtuous and disciplined than everyone else. I hate Pancakes.

Actually, I probably don't hate them any more, I just don't eat them. I remember every year as a kid, the local Chapel had a special event where everyone would congregate and we would serve plates and plates of rubbery disks covered in freshly squeezed oranges and sugar to the entire village population, all 200 of them and then sit down to watch a slide show of Rebecca O' The Ringlets', (South Daysgoneby's answer to Shirley Temple) family holiday. There would be her Grandma standing next to a holy relic. And then her Grandad, standing next to the same holy relic. And, yes, Rebecca O' The Ringlets together with her younger sister, Ruth Also O' The Ringlets looking up at the holy relic, followed by all her aunts, uncles and cousins. This routine would be repeated for hours upon hours, every year, without fail. It may well be occurring right now, at this very moment. Things don't change much in South Daysgoneby, although Rebecca has now handed her Crown of Ringlets down to her daughter, Olivia, who is proudly carrying on the family tradition.

I think it was the oranges that put me off. I've never liked them. My mother is allergic to mandarin oranges and had a rather nasty reaction to them just before I was born.I have a theory about this which I might share another time. She craved cockles though, apparently. So while the rest of the country are clearing their cupboards for Lent, whether they realise this is what they are doing or not, I'll just suck a whelk and see if the bathroom scales congratulate me in the morning.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm supposed to be dieting. Again. Which means I can think of nothing but food. I thought if I immersed myself in work it might take my mind off it. Unfortunately, every file I pick up just appears to make things worse. All my clients currently seem to be called Pye, Berry, Lamb, Crisp, Herring, McDonald, Roe, and I even have one matter on called Bacon and Leake which had me dreaming of quiche all afternoon!! If their names aren't resemblant of food, then the clients themselves are likely to be Chinese, Mexican, Indian or Thai.

So I've left work behind me for a few days and instead shall turn my attention to the festering kitchen, which is bound to suppress my appetite. There are now life forms in my sink more sophisticated than my last 3 boyfriends. I soon won't need to renew my subscription to www.sadlonelysingletons.com. I'll be able to grow my own.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I'm sticking with the ecology/ conservation theme and resolutely leaving my kitchen to nature this weekend. There's already a primordial soup forming in the bottom of the kitchen sink which will be capable of sustaining a number of invertebrate life forms by the end of the day. The dust motes in the corners will be handy bedding for small mammals and Darius is sure to remain hidden in the huge pile of ironing casting a shadow across the utility room to ensure that the top of the food chain is represented.

The rest of the house isn't far off completing a perfect little microcosm. Jack's bedroom is a bit of an environmental disaster. Toxic waste spilling out of it, noxious gases emanating from beneath the festering piles of socks and assorted sports supportware and slicks of oily greasy substances oozing across his shelf next to his mirror.

The bathroom is a misty, swampy area, emitting strange noises, thanks largely to the slap-dash plumbing. The temperature is sub-tropical.

Then there's the barren Siberian plains of my bedroom. Driven white bedding on cream furnishings, untouched by sight or sound of man. A solitary table the only feature on the horizon ( I've begun to realise how defeatist it was to buy just the one - "Expects to sleep alone").

I'm going to join my new friends from the Wildlife Trust on a Saturday morning walk around the private gardens and grounds of the late Colonel. I remember him from my childhood. A tall, thin man with large military whiskers and tweed plus-fours. He was almost a caricature from a Wodehouse novel. He never married, yet despite this I am not aware of there ever being any scandal about him and the young bush-beaters on his shoot or the many farm hands working on his tenanted farms.

I'm not particularly motivated by the prospect of being able to watch rare birds of prey swooping over the Capability Brown-esque landscape or being able to take a bark rubbing from one of the many specimen trees. It's more the chance to wander about a hidden secret corner that is closed to the general public, perhaps the opportunity to sneak a peek through the windows of the Hall, a renovation project undoubtedly crying out for attention. The closest I've ever got is to see the tall chimney pots through the thick curtain of trees behind the tall brick wall running arounds its perimeter.

And I hear he left the lot to a nephew, unmarried, made a name for himself in the City, early forties. What greater motivation can a girl have to spend the morning in the country.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Jack is convinced he has psychic abilities. This is based largely on the occasion that a blue Subaru drove past us at the precise moment that he was thinking about the exact same model of car. Given that he is a teenage boy counting down the days to being old enough to take driving lessons ( 502), it doesn't seem such a remarkable feat to me.

He's going to be disappointed when he realises that the chances of me being able to afford sufficient driving lessons for him to pass his test are remote enough, less so that I'll then be able to provide him with a brand new Peugeot complete with full body kit and tinted windows, particularly as I am currently struggling to keep on top of my ageing Nissan's medical expenses. The pulse of the oil warning light is now so weak that it is surely a matter of days before it flatlines and immediate rigor mortis of the pistons commences.

I did however start to wonder if these supernatural abilities might just be catching. I'd found myself idly thinking about a client the other night. Her house sale had completed shortly before Christmas. I'd never met her but we had struck up quite a rapport over the years as her husband's career had seen them moving about the country and now they were emigrating to Canada where he was to take up a top post at one of the hospitals, but first the entire family, kids included, were to spend some time in India, assisting the earthquake victims.

There was little chance we'd speak again. All the formalities had been smoothly completed, the file closed and numerous new ones opened in its place. She was now just another former client, albeit one of my most fondly remembered.

I was working late last night. The switchboard was closed and the phones quiet. I'm quite promiscuous when it comes to handing out my directline number so it's not uncommon for a client to call after hours on the offchance of catching me. Imagine my surprise when I heard the warm familiar voice of Shazia on the other end of the line.

They'd arrived in Canada a week earlier and had already started to settle into the community. She's in Saskatchewan, a place of stunning snow-covered beauty, incredibly friendly people and a house so big that when ( not if) I go and visit, it would be possible to spend an entire month without running into one another on the way to the bathroom she tells me. I wonder if she'll bump into Brian and Joyce?
The Wildlife Talk and Slideshow was fantastic. The Speaker, a sprightly 80-year old had well over 50 years worth of personal and direct knowledge of my island, which was over 350 acres at its fattest and has now eroded to less than 30. I learned all sorts of interesting facts about the flora and fauna that I'd never known before, despite having lived so closely to it all my life. Sadly, one high Spring tide and a storm might well see it disappear for good.

The evening was split into two parts, not completely halves, interspersed with a short break for tea. The final section was only about 20 minutes long, which seemed almost prematurely and abruptly ended until I noticed the queue outside the toilets, the Gents, not the Ladies as is more usual. I estimated a combined Prostate ago of about 3 millenia. The audience was predominantly male with just a couple of loyal wives serving the refreshments. I was easily the youngest by a good 40 years, save for my dad of course. Surely I can't be the only person interested in nature and wildlife and stuff still more than 30 years off pension age.

Freshly enthused, I roped Sophie into spending her lunch hour porpoise-spotting with me the next day. I was following a hot tip that assured me we'd see loads of the lovely creatures just 5 minutes from the office. We didn't, despite being armed with binoculars and the knowledge that one only has to take a step towards the water to literally fall over a beached marine mammal this month. But it was a very pleasant walk which is sure to be repeated over coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nothing! Na Da! Zilch! Not so much as a whiff of a Valentine Card. I did get a text from Nige the Cameraman but I can't help thinking that was simply 'cos he was using up his free monthly quota rather than any serious romantic intent.

Paul ( he actually prefers his proper name, Harinderpal, to be used in print), now firmly repatriated in Birmingham, also sent me a text in the comfortable knowledge that I'd not have had any others. He's 2 days into his new job and was keen to tell me how all the women appeared to fancy him and that he'd be sure to be running the place before long. I obligingly replied that he should make the most of any office flirtations, they'd get to know him soon enough!

So I curled up on the sofa with a Stephen King novel and scared myself silly for the evening. The phone rang 3 or 4 times. I tried not to be too insulted that people just automatically assumed I'd be at home. One of the calls was from Graeme, organising a surprise meal for his wife's birthday. It being not enough that he is taking her up to Whitby to stay in a swanky hotel for the night, driving her back and taxi-ing her to the end of project celebrations with her colleagues the next night, there's also about a dozen of us turning up to dine with her in her local pub on Saturday. None of which she knows about, and it's not even a special birthday. Where on earth do you find men like this?

I've got a wild date tonight though. Me & my Dad are going to a Talk and Slideshow at the local Nature Reserve. It's all about the history, ecology and conservation of the island in the middle of the river that my bedroom looked onto as a child and which I pass every day on my journey to and from work. It's uninhabited now, other than by a few deer and thousands of migratory wading birds. It's always fascinated me and I was so pleased when Dad said he'd come with me. Who needs romance when you've got a dad who looks like Bill Oddie?!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

There was a strange sticky substance all over the kitchen worktop when I got home last night. I had no idea what it was but assumed Jack had something to do with it. He'd gone out about 5 seconds after I'd arrived home so I couldn't tackle him about it. Instead I just wiped it up quickly and disappeared morosely into the Shed with half a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, screw-top cheap Chilean. I was miserable and drinking for drinkings sake rather than pleasure. I'd had an extremely distressing lunchtime experience.

A guy I know, fairly handsome, small but perfectly formed, initially appearing quite interesting in a deep and smouldering way but eventually just obviously plain dull, had opened a new cafe and I'd promised to give it a try.

I wasn't overly impressed by the canoodling couple who I took to be the only customers, sitting in the window seat as I went through the door, less so when one of them turned out to be the waitress. I waited patiently at the counter whilst the manageress ignored me, the only paying customer in the place, and continued her animated conversation with her friend. Eventually, when she did take my order, the only order she had, she got it wrong twice. The microwave kept tripping the fuse and on her last trip back from the meter cupboard, she casually asked when my baby was due.

I very quietly mumbled that I wasn't pregnant, just fat. It would have been kinder to leave it at that. Instead, she comforted me with the observation that at least when I did get pregnant, there'd be plenty of room for baby. I fled before she saw my bottom lip start to wobble.

By the time I arrived back at my desk, the bitter, undrinkable latte had leaked into the soggy, incorrectly-topped jacket potato and the whole lot had to go in the bin. I'd just wasted the best part of a fiver and been mortally humiliated into the bargain.

I know it's probably my duty to provide feedback but he's such an arrogant little arse, that he'd just dismiss it as a fat cow's rant. So instead, I shall observe how long the place stays open, whilst steathily disseminating seeds of criticism, and avoiding it like the plague.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the sticky substance is identified as exploded grapefruit juice. What an unusual phenomenon. It wasn't even out of date, unlike the geriatric carton of tomato juice beside it on the top shelf of the cupboard. The new bag of gram flour is ruined, so no more bhajis for a while. Similarly the gluten-free stuff left over from a Pixie Peter visit has had to go, but he was last seen heading up north, all loved up with his apparently equally monogamy-obsessed traffic warden so I don't think it will need to be urgently replaced.

I've never seen fruit juice blow up to such a size but I have been uncharacteristically careful about eating the prescribed 5-a-day for the last week or so. I can only think it is this which has caused the sudden and remarkable tummy expansion and studiously to stick to Sheila's home-made Iced Fingers and cheese scones instead.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My wardrobe is crammed full of clothes. I can barely shut the doors. I'm not one of those women who complains that she never has anything to wear despite this. On the very rare occasion that I actually go somewhere other than work or rugby, I always pull out the same thing - a pair of faded linen trousers and a breast cancer T-shirt festooned with a fuschia pink sequinned Union Jack. It's comfy, glitzy and fits me. My social activities are so sparse, and my circle of friends so vast, that I figure it'll be years before anyone notices that I never wear anything else.

So there's no prizes for guessing what I was wearing at the opening of a new comedy club in town the other night. I was really looking forward to listening to the acts, picking up some tips ready for our own Comedy Night next month ( it's a sell out, I'm so excited), and catching up with some old friends who I haven't seen much of since I started working over the river nearly 10 years ago.

I was a little surprised to see Anton staring so intently at my chest, making no effort to disguise it. I began to wonder if I'd spilled risotto all down my front without realising.

" So you've joined that new club across the road then. I wouldn't have had you down as a member but thinking about it, it is a long time since you had a boyfriend". I was about to ask him what he meant when the lights dimmed and the first act came on, after which I forgot all about it.

It was only later as I was walking back to my car, past the recently re-opened Baths Hall, an entertainment venue and scene of many a misspent night in my younger days that I noticed the large ad banner wrapped across the front of the building. Tickled Pink. Dulltown's first official gay & lesbian night.

Now I really don't have anything to wear if I have any hope of ever getting a boyfriend!

Monday, February 06, 2006

The ghosts of school days long past still seem to be reappearing wherever I turn. On Saturday night, I bumped into both Sharon and Hopey and a bloke whose mate used to stalk me on his 50cc motorbike when I was about 13, and a very early developer. There was no use trying to tell them that I had become a rather successful lawyer and respected Housing Board Director, as I happened to be serving pints behind the bar of the local sports club at the time, wearing a polo shirt with "STAFF" helpfully embroidered across my chest. I just smiled and made sure they got served straight away to avoid any embarrassingly lengthy conversations.

I'd forgotten all about the ad for casual bar staff in the post office window which I'd answered at the beginning of January, when I was feeling the pinch of Christmas expense particularly keenly and panicking slightly about the next instalment for Jack's rugby tour. I certainly wasn't expecting a call at 6.30pm on Saturday night, just as I was unloading the shopping ( from Netto, I really am taking this economising seriously) informing me that my application had been accepted and could I please be there by 7pm. I've never been able to say "No", which is what got me in this mess in the first place.

I worked until 1.30am, servicing approximately 200 increasingly inebriated local footbally-type folks who had turned up to watch an ageing Stax sound-alike band. I was feeling rather tired and emotional by midnight, not helped by the fact that I'd spent the previous evening and best part of the day on incredibly tedious Bored Member training. I got paid at the end of a very long and continuous night - £35.55 before tax. At that rate, I just need to work a 6 hour shift once every month for the next 3 and half years and I might just be able to cover the cost of Jack's trip.

I'm not giving up hope yet. I've got a potential sponsor coming to meet me on Wednesday and if that doesn't work I could always call Slimey Simon and see if he has room for a new novelty act at his executive entertainment club. 10 minutes writhing around a pole in sequinned candy floss knickers can't be that hard, can it?