Sunday, January 28, 2007


You would think I'd have learnt my lesson about blind dates after my first ever experience. It happened almost 10 years ago.

I need to go back a couple of years to the start of the story. I was rushing to work one summer's morning when I was stopped in the car park by a gentleman looking for the train station. I remember thinking how attractive he was as I pointed him in the right direction. I wouldn't have given him a second thought but as I returned to my car later in the day, I found a note stuck beneath my wipers.

" Hi. My name's Mark. Thank you for the directions. If you fancy a drink, please call me on..."

I was delighted, not least because I was able to wave it beneath the nose of my then unsatisfactorily inattentive boyfriend, who probably couldn't have given a toss as long as he didn't have to take me out. I never responded to the approach and forget about it over time.

A couple of years later, by now single, I came across the note discarded at the back of a drawer. I imagine most 'normal' people would have smiled to themselves as they threw it into the rubbish if, in fact, such 'normal' people had bothered to keep it in the first place. I, of course, inately opportunistic and possibly borderline wacko, immediately rang the number.

I was surprised when it turned out to be a furniture shop. I assumed Mark must be an employee. I asked to speak to him but was told that he did not work there, although the lady did know him and would be seeing him that evening. She would pass my number on to him. Never once did she question why I should be ringing her business to speak to him, nor did I think it odd that she immediately identified him from his first name and a brief explanation as to how I came to have her number.

The following morning a call came through. It was Mark. He didn't beat about the bush. He wanted to meet me. It was to be daylight so I could see what an upfront guy he was and it had to be that weekend, Saturday 15 February. I couldn't think of a good enough reason to protest, so I didn't.

As the weekend drew nearer my doubts increased in direct correllation with the intensity of his telephone calls. I knew the location, layout, age and historical value of his house; a summary of his complete relationship experience to date; his dogs' names and medical complaints; his employment status and career prospects with full financial analysis; his favourite colour/ music/ side of the bed. I was also starting to suspect he was a bit of a w*nker.

I'm a firm believer that one must finish what one has started so I determined to see it through to the bitter end. I now realise that it's sometimes better to quit before things get any worse which is a perfect point at which to close this post for today.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Date, Rattle and Roll

I have a friend who doesn't yet have her own home internet connection. This leaves her at a serious disadvantage when it comes to online dating. I have tried to convince her of the error of her ways on more than one occasion but have thus far had to admit defeat and with a shrug of my shoulders, try to conceal the relief that there is one less fishette in the competitive cyber sea.

I am not completely without hope for her. She ticks with the natural instincts of a single, childless woman approaching her mid 30s and is starting to come up with the sort of ingenious methods for meeting men which I have employed for a number of years. She appears to be having similar success to me judging by her most recent experience.

Imagine a musty church hall on a midweek evening full of excitable older men and ladies of a certain age in their dancing finery. Add an incredibly overweight middle aged man with interesting facial hair and a head microphone on a stage demonstrating the steps and you’re starting to get the picture that I stumbled upon last night.

We had to line up with a male partner and hold hands, ladies on one side, men on the other. My first partner was shorter than me
( She is about 4' 11 in her stockinged feet- Ed.) with an elaborate comb-over, after a few steps and twirls he was replaced by another tiny man with a very thick head of white hair. And so the night went on, we got to hold hands and bump thighs and stroke the shoulders (don’t ask!) of all the men in the room (about 40 men, it’s very popular!) After 20 minutes I asked my then-partner how long the class went on for. Until 10.30! Nearly 3 hours, and then it was over to The Tiger for ‘free’ sandwiches (we paid £6 for the experience)

After the first hour we got to freestyle for half an hour and drink at the bar. Miraculously I was asked to dance by a succession of men all of whom appeared to be very keen to show off their advanced moves. I was whirled and twirled and pulled around the dance floor.

At the end of this they all rowed up again for the next stage of the night, which to our horror involved the man picking up the lady and throwing her a few feet (coronaries and broken ankles all round?) Fortunately the friend who'd dragged me along asked me if I’d had enough and I was only too happy to confirm that I had. We both agreed that I was unlikely to find my future husband at the Wednesday night jive class. Back to the drawing board.

Personally, I don't think it sounds all that bad.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Take it or Leave it

I haven't been to work today. I spent the afternoon in a Manchester hotel with a married man. It was most enjoyable. Modesty prevents me telling you what we did but it seemed to go well so there's a chance that we might be doing it again in a few weeks time when I might be a little more forthcoming.

I'm feeling fabulous.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cold Comfort Farm

There's a great big bath in the cottage in which we stayed. It is deep with a roll top and claw feet, designed for indulgent Flake-inspired long soaks with lots of bubbles and heavenly scents. Unfortunately, such inactivities require a certain amount of hot water. We were completely out of it. Not a drop. The boiler had packed up and no amount of prodding it was going to convince it otherwise.

The plumber looked a bit nervous when he answered the emergency call-out to find 6 eager women huddled under a duvet. He backed out slowly and only delivered the news that he wouldn't be able to get the spare part until Thursday when he was within jumping distance of his van.

We comforted ourselves with perpetual bowls of crisps, dips and chocolates, enjoyed beside the lovingly tended coal fire, our only source of heating, notwithstanding all the hot air that only half a dozen women can generate sans chaps.

The weekend (not our armpits) went hummingly, bracing headland walks, sheltered woodland hillsides stretching down to deserted windswept beaches, pub grub, pounding waves, lazy hours reading magazines, uninterrupted back-to-back Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, George Peppard ( young and bare-chested) and local ghost stories. I'm not sure if that's what left me feeling so refreshed and invigorated or the real cause of excutive stress is simply having to blow dry one's hair on a daily basis.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Seven Go To Pampers Point

Jilly, Di and Anne, Loll, Sophie and Bella the Dog will be joining me in Camaes Bay for a weekend of adventure. This will comprise mainly of face packs, bubble baths, bubbly drinks, olives, cheese, big comfy sofas, large roomy sweaters, fireside sitting, weepy movie watching, early nights, late mornings, bonios and bacon sandwiches.

We shall chase off any pesky boys that try to bother us and may well find ourselves chased in turn by kite-surfers in skintight neoprene wetsuits if we are really really lucky.

It's going to be spiffing. See you next Wednesday x

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where the Bee Sucks

We don't do Weather very well in Britain. The first autumn breezes bring the rail network to a grinding halt with leaves on the line. More than 4 hours of consecutive summer sunshine and the use of all hosepipes is banned. 2 inches of rain and everywhere floods, especially Norfolk which has barely risen out of the North Sea in the past 2 millenia.

The current gale force winds are causing mayhem up and down the country. The Dartford Bridge over the River Thames and the Severn Bridge across, well, the Severn have both been closed all day. Motorways have become long, rather narrow car parks as commuters find themselves unable to get home, their paths blocked by overturned lorries. Walls have collapsed, trees blown down and serious damage caused to Lords' Cricket Ground ( though not to their trophy cabinet). The official advice is " Stay Indoors". If a journey isn't essential, don't make it.

There's just one tiny oasis of calm amongst this turbulence. The Humber Bridge. Unflappable in her 25 years, she has been closed only once, briefly in 1989, when a van was blown over blocking the carriageway. Today she happily bore all but her high-sided traffic. A couple of caravans came a cropper, their roofs pressed to the crash barriers. I've little sympathy for them. They have no business on the roads in January. Actually, I have no sympathy for them whatever the month.

I did have a brief moment of concern when I received a text message ( from a handsome hockey player - eek!) suggesting the Bridge was closed and that I might be marooned in Hull for the evening. Fortunately, the rumour turned out to be false but I used the excuse to leave the office early for an important appointment. The journey home was quite surreal. Hedgerows festooned with wind-blown debris, like a procession of Used Car lots, danced in the mauve glow as the sun set. The river boiled angrily, sending spray across the windscreen - the cleanest it's been in weeks.

I should have been at a Nazi rally tonight, or rather planning a programme with a personal trainer. I was all set to go when I received a call from Jack to say a tree had come down and I'd have to take a 10 mile detour to get to the gym.

I put the phone down, removed my trainers, reached for the nearest magazine and shall spend the rest of the evening flicking through the AutoTrader desperately looking for a high-sided vehicle available immediately so I don't have to get out of bed until the wind drops.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Merde, She Wrote

I cannot, by any method of psychological profiling, be classed as anally retentive. Admittedly, I choose not to use the Official Ladies' Loo at work, mainly as it is directly opposite the boss' office and he has a permanent open door policy ( his office, not the toilets). I prefer the privacy of the Gents', tucked away on its own landing. There's always some back copies of the Gazette although if I go in after one of my taller colleagues, I sometimes have to climb up on a stack of toilet rolls to reach it from the top of the cupboard. I can then sit back merrily whilst the running tap cunningly ensures the true motive for my occasional visits are discreetly masked, flicking through the Discplinary Tribunal Reports to see if I recognise anyone.

It's not so easy to exercise such techniques when staying as a house guest in a large home with air vents in every door. First of all, it takes a few attempts to work out the optimum position to ensure a noiseless trickle down the porcelain, rather than a full, echoing gush into the centre of the bowl, no matter how much control one might have over the appropriate musculature. I believe there are some that prefer to place paper on the surface before commencing such activities but I'm not one of them, nor do I whistle - it has something to do with whistling women and crowing hens but I can't for the life of me remember exactly what Grandma said should happen to them.

I tend to just try and time it whilst the host is in the shower or otherwise occupied to slip in and be quick.

More problematic is the question of "Number Twos". I know it may come as a shock to some, but I, like the Queen, do occasionally have to go. I worry about leaving behind any tell-tale aromas. It's not everyone who appreciates the scent of lavender and violets ( which is, of course, how my s**t smells). If the stay is a short one, less than 2 weeks for example, I find it is easier just to clench and bear it, avoiding all invitations to Indian restaurants or prune juice.

This topic has pressed heavily and uncomfortably upon me as I negotiated the 3 hour drive back 'Oop North this evening. Can anyone else offer suggestions as to how one can overcome such etiquette issues? ( mathematicians amongst you may try to work it out with a pencil).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Is Truth stranger than Fiction?

This weekend I shall be

a) leading the British Formation Space-Hopping team at the International Games in Sisimuit. I am optimistic we will be returning with medals

b) filming an exercise DVD with similar celebrity gym junkies ( Dawn French and Jo Brand are rumoured to be taking part)

c) stalking Stephen Fry whilst detoxing quietly in a tiny corner of Norfolk with a teetotal fossil collecting clergyman.
Can you guess which?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No Pain No Gain - Why should I return again?

My bottom has never been so stiff. It is gradually returning to its natural soft, flobby self and is not yet showing signs of firmness. I am finally managing to walk almost upright and am now able to move my fingers without inducing excruciating pain in places I haven't seen for years, sufficient to strike the keyboard with enough force to form a letter. I don't think I can maintain it for very long. This will be a very short post.

Fortunately I had a 3 hour long Bored (sic) meeting this evening so did not feel compelled to return to the Forest Pains Grim, as it shall henceforth affectionately be known. Rest assured ( the only kind of rest I shall be allowing myself for the foreseeable future) I shall redouble my efforts tomorrow evening. I have it on good authority the hockey team train there on Thursdays.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It's life, Jim

I can hardly believe it's over 6 years since I last did it. I'd almost resigned myself to never doing it again. I did my best to put all thoughts of it to the back of my mind, successfully most of the time, comfort eating being a significant substitute activity.

There was a time when I couldn't get enough of it, some would say I was addicted. 7 days a week, for at least an hour and a half a time, sometimes twice a day. I was insatiable, pushing on, harder and harder til I felt the delicious burn deep inside, my breath coming short and rapid, beads of sweat forming on my back and top lip, enjoying the sensation of blood pumping around my body, feeling alive, invigorated as I twisted and contorted into shapes I can hardly contemplate now. Supple was not the word. I could have cracked walnuts with my thighs.

There was no decisive finale, no fanfare or fireworks on the last occasion. I can't remember how I performed, or even where. I simply showered and walked away without a backward glance, probably expecting to return for another session a few days later but I never did. Days turned to weeks, then to months. I kept a bag in the boot of my car for at least 2 years, kidding myself that I was ready to go at the first chance.

Lately, I'd found myself thinking about it more and more, mainly during idle moments or in the lonely small hours of the night. I tried to dismiss it, convincing myself that I didn't have the time even if I had the opportunity.

Yesterday brought it to a head. First I saw a picture of myself which made a mockery of any ideas I might have of being in the running, let alone pipping others to the post. Then a friend texted me with details that seemed perfect.

This afternoon I decided to act. I was nervous, worried they might laugh at me, not just at my flabby figure but also my old and worn equipment, clearly state of the art in its day though risibly outdated now. I took Jack along for moral support. He's a grown man and old enough to witness these things for himself, even take part. I made him a member too figuring the time has come when he has to be initiated into these things, and preferring to know it's within safe, secure surroundings with professionals.

We're going back in 5 minutes for our first go. Jack's so excited, whereas I'm quietly cautious.

I'll let you know how I get on, if I'm still walking that is, after my long-awaited return to the gym class.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


A couple came to see me today. They are well into their 80s and want to spend their last few years enjoying themselves, seeing their family right and not having to worry about mounting expenses and the cost of living.

I normally counsel against such instant cures as Equity Release and weight my advice with words of compound interest doom, urging them to seek other sources of relief which give slightly reduced instant benefits but infinitely better interest rates. Today I didn't.

I'd spoken to the chap on the phone( including all such serious concerns). He had everything about him, which had probably induced terse, borderline-haughty responses from me when he'd caught me mid-way through the ever-urgent property business that consumes my day. He'd been quite persistent, phoning almost every other day since he'd decided upon this course. I'd built up a picture of an awkward bloody-minded old sod who wouldn't listen to reason even when confronted with hard figures.

I met, instead, a diminutive, smart moustachioued dashing gent with a blushing, albeit 80-odd year old bride on his arm. He'd been worried about her ability to get into the office because of her heart condition. I'd explained that I could make a home visit but it would cost them extra so had instead agreed to be available at short notice should his wife feel fit enough to take a taxi for an office appointment. We met less than 12 hours after I received their papers.

I detected an accent from her immediately and was itching to look at her Passport to place it. We went throught the rudiments and my already softened persona breathed softly and gently as he took an age to give me the two envelopes containing their ID, willing him not to have to read through every single word on each document when I could already see it was exactly what I required.

I was expecting Germany or some other Eastern European outpost. Not India. I mentioned this as I arrived back from having copied their ID, necessary to ensure they'd be banged to rights should they be hardened money launderists.

The lady foiled me by taking out a small, crumpled envelope from her handbag. She passed me the contents. It was a small black and white photograph of a beautiful brunette on her Wedding Day to a dashing wavy-haired RAF Officer 60 years ago in Lucknow, India. She told me all about how they had met in the Himalayas when they were both on R&R during the Second World War. He interjected how the hairs on the back of his neck had bristled as this beautiful erect woman had entered the Mess and stolen all thoughts from him other than to dance with her and make her his bride before the night was over. The rest was history but that same passionate love filled the little interview room that I had booked to save them walking up the stairs to my office.

My usual professional cool completely eluded me. I cried. Embarrassed, I mumbled an excuse about being in the middle of reading a book about Monte Cassino and recently having lost a grandfather. He actually died almost 10 years ago but the Cassino bit was true. I think I got away with it, recovering myself almost instantly and chatting for a further 5 minutes before showing them to the Reception to await a taxi.

I'm not sure if I was crying at the beauty of their story, magnified by their still apparent love for one another so many years hence, the positive result from such a terrible war which saw countless futile losses, or the dawning realisation that I'll never have such tales to tell to my grandchildren or even eager-listening office clerks that many years from now.

They were warm tears. I'm glad I shed them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bloggers Melt My Heart

I love my cute and functional hand warmers. They are great to slip in a pocket for match days. Activated at half time, they serve to make the whole rugby spectating thing bearable, even in the depths of winter when horizontal rain threatens the outer dermis of your cheeks and a freak hail storm may take your eye out. They are usually still squidgy enough to play with afterwards in the clubhouse, thus safely diffusing any pent-up energy which might otherwise erupt from the intoxicating smells of wintergreen, adrenalin and burly second-row sweat.

They are re-usable too. All you have to do is pop them in a pan of boiling water and sit down to your blogroll for 10 minutes. Check whether the baby has arrived yet; laugh, cry and marvel at a wonderful warm raw woman; take an art lesson; hope for better cricket scores; consult the Oracle; read some poetry; restore your faith that there are some nice Americans; despair that such prime beefcake is going spare so far away; contemplate humanity and find everything but the posts wanting; see how real writers do it and spend a few moments rubbing alongside all the other friends you've grown to know and love, admire, worry about and envy when they come up with really clever, original pieces to which you could never hope to aspire.

Notice the strong solvent smell wafting through the gap in the wall. Wonder where it is coming from for a second, before dismissing it and continuing to end of blogroll.

Finally, discover thick, acrid smoke where the kitchen should be. Crawl on hands and knees to locate key for window locks. Hold hand over mouth whilst climbing onto sink drainer to open window. Turn off gas burner which is displaying a rather alarming, aggressive orange flame in place of the usual mild blue glow. And relax.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Alphabetti Fillspacey

Tags are great for those occasions when such wonderfully exciting developments are taking place in your life that you couldn't possibly write about them for fear of disaffecting less fortunate mortals or winding up in the gossip columns. Again. Now might be just such an occasion*

Sharon has provided the perfect foil. I am conscious that Ces and Menchie have also offered similar exercises which will no doubt come in handy as off-blog developments reach a crescendo**.

A is for AGE: 35 - I know, I can hardly believe it myself
B is for BEER of choice: well, maybe Polar, Panda but not Dancing. Oh! Beer! No, thank you
C is for CAREER: International Sex Symbol ( damn, I was meant to be keeping reality out of this)
D is for favourite DRINK: Non alcoholic - Strong coffee Alcoholic – Frequently.
E is for ESSENTIAL item you use every day: My Toothbrush.
F is for FAVOURITE song at the moment: Grace Kelly by MIKA.
G is for favourite GAME: Scrabble
H is for …. huh? Why is H not on the list? The answer's 'Pink with a fur lining' anyway
I is for INSTRUMENTS played: Piano, saxophone, harp, and the alphorn ( only 2 of these are true)
J is for favourite JUICE: Tomato, with vodka, worcestershire sauce and a celery stick.
K is for KIDS: One. That's sufficient, thankyou very much
L is for LAST KISS: Is a Pearl Jam cover of a 1964 hit by the Cavaliers.
M is for MARRIAGE: is an Institution. I'm not ready to be institutionalised yet.
N is for full NAME: Kate MiddletonMiss Cherrypie007. I've a feeling this could be My Year.
O is for OVERNIGHT hospital stays: Tonsilectomy at 7, Burst appendix at 12, 5 nights in Special Baby Care at 19, wisdom teeth removed at 25
P is for PHOBIAS: Nobody mention the n-e-e-d-l-e word
Q is for QUOTE: If it's the media again, tell them "No Comment".
R is for biggest REGRET: I don't do regrets, but I think I've been a few
S is for SPORT: Hunting, sharking, baiting, sitting back and reeling them in
T is for TIME you wake up: Never late enough.
U is for colour of UNDERWEAR: That's always supposing I'm wearing any ( but see H above)
V is for VEGETABLE you love: I don’t ‘love’ any vegetables. This is not that kind of site ( although I'm rather partial to Jerusalem Artichokes)
W is for WORST habit: Always being right. And please don't try to tell me I have worse. You're wrong.
X is for X-RAYS you’ve had: My most recent was a chest x-ray!
Y is for YUMMY food you make: I taught Nigella all she knows. She even stole my tee-shirts.
Z is for ZODIAC sign: Taurus - strong-willed, headstrong, not often welcome in Chinese retail establishments.

That was fun. Have a go if, like me, you need to deflect attention from your imminent engagement to the future kingmiserable existence.

* or maybe there's just bu&&er all of any interest happening during these dark, grim early days of the year beyond eating, sleeping and occasional burping.

** or if something, anything, even an ingrowing toenail doesn't come along to break up the monotony of the longest, dreariest stretch between pay days of the year.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolve

The ONLY kind worth having
Kul 'aam u antum salimoun: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo:
Chu Shen Tan: Scastny Novy Rok: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta:
Bonne Annee: Prosit Neujahr: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos:
L'Shannah Tovah Tikatevu: Niya Saa Moobaarak:
Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit:
Buon Capodanno: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei: Sabai dee pee mai: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku:
Feliz Ano Novo: S Novim Godom: Scecna nova godina:
Feliz Ano NeuvoProspero Ano Nuevo:
Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun:
Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan