One long post… backdated to April!

Some time in April
The sun has been shining happily for the last week! It’s put the whole nation in a good mood and in true British fashion, no matter what the temperature, if the sun is out, everyone gathers to worship it.

It’s an excuse for men to display chests that are so white they’re almost blue, for bikers to take their take their dolly birds out for a spin, for the well off to drive their sports cars with the tops down, for the houseproud to give the garden a make over and fire up the barbecue and for herds and herds of people to flock to the pubs to fight for space in the beer gardens. Even the BBC breakfast news is doing 10 minute slots on mastering the BBQ menu.

I’ve also been taking advantage of the weather, spending time walking, gardening and having picnics with friends – who would have thought it for April?! At the moment no-one is complaining, the air is fresh and crisp, the blossom is on the trees and everyone is joyous – even I could be persuaded that climate change is a good thing (oooh controversial)!!

It’s the first proper sunny spell of the year, but have no fear, come mid –summer, in the sweltering heat of the office, our British penchant for whinging will take full effect. I guarantee there will be news stories about changing the laws for comfortable working temperatures and we’ll probably experience yet another set of hosepipe bans. My water butt is already half empty and there is still no sign of rain (for the moment).

Plenty of things have happened over the last few weeks. L had her first set if interviews for the next stage of her medical career. We were glad that she actually got an interview considering there were only 30 jobs for 273 applicants!! If you’ve been listening to the news you’ll know that the online new system for job applications in the NHS has caused mayhem. L and thousands of other young doctors have had their lives turned upside down and will not find out where their next job is until six weeks before it starts. This gives little time for house buying/selling, moving and settling! And to top it all off the online system accidentally made public every doctors personal details online – a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

So far L has had two interviews on in Liverpool and the other in Newcastle. We are still waiting to hear if she’ll get another one in Sheffield but since the online saga, the system has been shut down so no doctors can check their details.

Liverpool put us off almost immediately. It was probably partly to do with the fact that we arrived around midnight after a 4.5 hour drive from London. After a good dose of poor-direction-induced-arguments and copious wrong turns, we arrived at a Travel Lodge in the dodgiest part of the city. Still fuming from the journey we were less than happy when we saw the state of the room. Very grungy and basic, the only benefit it offered was being within walking distance of the interviews.

The next day we woke up fully prepared for the greasy misery of a Little Chef breakfast but found that the only food place around was McDonald’s, 15 minutes down the road! With no other choice, we resigned to have a McBreakfast Bagel. At no point did the “meal” represent breakfast or bagel. It might as well have been a McMoldy Flip Flop garnished with Cardboard. We should have known this was a sign of things to come.

L arrived at the interview 5 minutes before the allocated time, smartly dressed in a new suit and a snazzy shirt that said “hey! I’m a professional but I also want you to think I’m a bit quirky”.

Thinking she’d be about an hour, I decided to make myself busy by, giving the car a wash and a hoover at the local garage. 40 minutes later, just as I was putting away the useless vaccum that didn’t suck so much as gently inhale dust motes, I had a text from L to say she still hadn’t gone in. Hmmm how to make myself busy? Perhaps I’ll go exploring…

2 and half hours later after I’d driven around some of the grungiest streets of Liverpool, read a newspaper, wondered around Albert Docks, briefly visited an exhibition and dozed for 20 minutes Lindsay called to say she was only just about to go in!!! I could feel my blood boiling and my anger was reflected in L’s voice. What kind of system was this?? And what was the point of Lindsay booking an interview slot when they couldn’t even stick to the schedule?
To top it off, they didn’t have the courtesy to give L a full interview, nor did they look at her portfolio so the whole thing was a complete waste of time. Boy were we glad to see the back of Liverpool.

By contrast, Newcastle was much better. We spent time with one of my friends and had a relaxing day walking in the Cheviot hills, rock balancing and enjoying the countryside and the nearby beaches. The interview itself was on time and, according to L, very thorough. We had a good feeling about it and I started fostering images of life in the North… well it will be some time yet before we know where we’ll be posted.

2nd May
Oh my god… today I discovered that one of the large supermarkets in the UK sells packets of dried apricots. This is not odd, I hear you say, but get this, they are individually wrapped!!!! Has this world gone completely packaging nuts???

Last weekend, my friend came to stay. She had been making digs about me refusing plastic bags everywhere I went. She couldn’t understand why I preferred my tomatoes and carrots rolling around in the basket instead of suffocated by a flimsy plastic bag that can’t even be reused as a bathroom bin bag! I wasn’t sure she’d really got my point but one lunch time I think she was finally swayed.

Our Dining place of choice was a well- known takeaway (or eat in) sandwich restaurant called Subway. Now, when I asked the lady not to give me a plastic bag because I was eating it in the restaurant, she said “you HAVE to have one! It the LAW”!! I was really mad… The sandwich was already mummified by metres of wax paper and the plastic bag was used for less than 30 seconds while I walked a yard from the counter to the table. Everyday they give away hundreds of these bags and they just end up in the bin or hanging from a tree or littering lay-bys!! Why don’t they use paper ones??? …Probably because it’s the LAW!

Anyway, that afternoon, I wrote them a stern email expressing my disgust! I haven’t had a response. Not surprisingly! But as my own little protest, I shan’t be going there again!

May 3rd
I have been earning some extra cash by opening and counting votes for the local elections. It sounds rather tedious but actually I had a good time. Apart from having a good old chit chat with some of my old workmates (from the local Council), I was intrigued by the process and was particularly impressed with the ergonomic letter opener. Ooops it somehow managed to find its way into my bag and all the way back to my house!

On the actual day of the elections we were lined up at long, classroom desks laid out boardroom style in a shabby, dark sports hall. We spent seven solid hours verifying votes from around the borough counting and re counting while the councillors peered over our shoulders and being awkward. “STOP, go back three….hmmm…. ok… carry on” as if we were incapable of counting accurately. They’d challenge tiny little pencil marks on the voting sheets and had arguments over whether a single line was classed as a vote! Adjudicators were hurrying to and fro tempering frayed emotions.

I was shocked more than ever to discover the large number of British National Party candidates. They lurked in the corner, talking amongst themselves, looking shifty and bigoted! Actually, most of them looked fairly normal i.e. there was only one skin- head and no one was brandishing the swastika… regardless, their mere presence made my blood curdle …………. they could have been puppy loving, granny caring environmentalists and I still couldn’t have brought myself to talk to them. I can’t believe there are still people in this world who harbour such hideous ideals and I’m sad to say that they actually managed to win an election in one of the local wards. I think it’s disgusting.

Anyway – on the bright side it was a little bit of extra cash…emphasis on little! I think they paid me incorrectly and they charged me tax which I’ll have to claim back because of my student status! Sheesh

14th May
L and I have just spent a fantastic weekend in Dorset in a fabulous old farmhouse on the outskirts of a quaint little village crammed with thatched cottages and surrounding areas that have names like the River Piddle, Puddletown and Durdledoor! The reason? To celebrate my soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s hen do!

Normally the idea of a hen do would put shivers down my spine…. tottering around some city all wearing pink leotards, sparkly tiaras and waving wands while the hen is forced to wear L plates and down as many shots as she can before throwing up and falling unconscious in the middle of the street. At which point she would be rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped and all the other hens would be sitting in the waiting room for hours, developing hangovers, holding broken wands and looking slightly gothic because of the black streaks of mascara running down their faces. You might think I have a wild imagination but I’m sure it happens! Thankfully this weekend was nothing like that.

Organised by the bride-to-be’s (B2B) closest friends, the weekend was packed with fabulous food, entertainment, dancing, singing (mainly into salt and pepper shakers), a trip to the beach, very competitive games of twister and last but not least, a NAKED butler!

Unbeknownst to the other hens, the naked butler had been organised instead of a stripper… which we were, under no circumstances, allowed to book unless we wanted the B2B to sever all ties with us. Actually, I think the idea of a greased up stripper, thrusting his private parts around the place was a rather un-attractive prospect to most of the girls in our company.

But, I hear you say, the butler was naked! Well yes, he was…except for a strategically placed apron, some cuffs and a bow tie. When he first walked in to introduce himself and offer us canapés, the room fell deathly silent. The temperature rose several degrees with copious amounts of blushing.

Soon the nervous, school girl tittering subsided and was replaced by conversations about the well defined, yet pimply backside of the butler and orders to wash the dishes, mix cocktails to our tastes and pose for photographs. He politely declined to play a game of twister for obvious reasons, but was happy to regale us with stories of more riotous parties he’d attended. I think we were pretty sedate compared to his usual clientele – at no point did anyone try to grab his bum, or untie his apron, no matter how tempted they may have been.

So there are only a couple of weeks left before the big day. L and I have been practicing wearing our high heels. High heels are a new experience for us. We have been clomping around the house in a stiff, ungainly fashion not unlike an extra from Priscilla Queen of the Desert …. in fact a transvestite might do it better!

My mother is probably suffering from raised blood pressure as she worries unnecessarily about which of the three wedding outfits she’s bought will be best. My dad has been dragged on several marathon shopping sprees through every boutique, every department store and every dressmakers Geneva has to offer for a “back up” wedding outfit in case the other three aren’t suitable!

The wedding 26th May
I think I will gloss over this event except to say that it was a truly emotional time. It’s eye opening being part of a wedding and seeing it from the family’s point of view rather than as a guest.

All the ferreting, worrying and organising that goes hand in hand with ‘the best day of the couple’s life’ is exhausting. If you’ve never been part of the behind-the-scenes-action, I don’t think you can quite understand the build up of emotions which suddenly gush to the surface on the day.

My brother was overcome with emotion during his vows taking a good couple of tear-jerking minutes to re-compose himself. He cried so much that the registrar was compelled to ask whether he actually wanted to go through with the marriage.

Once we had all recovered from the ceremony, we were again moved to tears by the first dance. And so it goes on, tears, laughter, more tears, alcohol, more tears and the next day its all over. The bubble pops, the happy couple drive off into the sunset (the driving rain), hop on a plane to Italy and leave the rest of the family feeling slightly and somewhat bereft.

Now we must spend our time reminiscing and mulling over copious photos, dissecting people’s behaviour and choice of dress. Discussing who said what to whom, who argued, who left early, who outstayed their welcome and so on and so on. Next….we wait for news of a grandchild/neice or nephew at which point we can turn our conversations to appropriate children’s names, whether morning sickness is an issue, home births are preferable and the latest Lamaze class.

June 19th 2007
With university off for the summer and L cashing in on her last few days of annual leave, we are holidaying in the sunny county of Cornwall (three days of continuous rainfall so far). L has developed one of her holiday illnesses. Typically after several months of staving off all number of infectious diseases in hospital, the moment she has time to relax, she is consumed with bacteria and her white blood cells give up the ghost.

We are now surrounded by crusty, used tissues, empty packets of paracetemol, cough mixtures and homemade flu remedies. We’ve barely set foot outside the house and are slowly developing cabin fever (literally). I have read one and a half books in the last three days and am contemplating a trip to ASDA just for something to do. Oh the joys of the British Summer.

I must also mention that we are here with L parents so I’m on my best be-polite-and-charming-in-front-of-the-parents behaviour, which is also taking its toll. I have been told I’m a narcissist for pouring my thoughts and stories onto the web for everyone to view. Well, never mind at least someone is reading it and coming back for more.

Over the last two weeks we also dived straight into the challenging process of deciding where our next house is going to be. Things are on the move – the ball is rolling – after 7 years in one our little house and a good deal of itching for change. Why, well L has been offered and accepted a job for the next 6 years (thank god – we had started to discuss joint shifts at Sainsbury’s). I’m busy making arrangements for the house to be valued and choosing suitable upgrades in between worrying about dissertation subjects and what I’m going to do when I finish university. For the most part it is very exciting but it takes far too much time for my liking. Why can’t we just decide where we want to be, sell the house, get a mortgage, move the contents and settle in to a new place in the next month?

The worst of this has got to be the de-cluttering/de-personalisation of our house so that potential buyers aren’t put off by our… um…junk. Yes it can only be described as junk… mountains of knick knacks, useless kitchen utensils and tupperware, old books, boxes, cd’s, videos (who watches videos anymore?), half burnt candles, disused bags, shoes, moth-eaten clothes, broken electrical equipment, wadges of my old sketches, notes from university the first time round…my god… HOW HAVE WE ACCUMULATED SOOO MUCH!

Anyway, change is needed and I certainly have my work cut out for me over the summer. I need to find some paid work in Sainsbury’s or Marks & Spencers when what I’d really like to do is live a life of leisure and pray I win the lottery. Dribs and drabs of design work are floating in but I’m sure its not enough to keep the bills at bay – woe is me! I’m going to have to get back the real world.

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