Office Kitchen Chit Chat

Last week my good friend and colleague, V, left our little team of four to return to her homeland, Ireland.   In the year since I started, the four of us had become a well-oiled machine and despite having quite different personalities and interests, we gelled remarkably well.

V was perhaps my closest colleague and I enjoyed our daily routine of coffee making in the office kitchen where we would put the world to rights, discuss the weather, children, holidays, work and inevitably our weight.  She’d often bemoan the fact that she’d expanded out of control since having her daughter and I’d tell her how I used to play a variety of sports that meant I could see my feet without having to physically lift my belly upwards and inwards.  Ironically, and more often than not, these conversations took place as we both reached for a piece of cake from the endless supply of calorific goodies brought in by colleagues celebrating birthdays, holidays, house moves, the Grand Depart, football or just living.

There were two such conversations that still make me giggle when I think of them. The first involved an ill-fitting cream dress that V had shoehorned herself into.  She exclaimed that the multiple rolls of flab, accentuated by the tight dress made her look like a giant ‘witchetty grub’ – an image that fills me with mirth.   I hasten to add that V is not actually very large at all which makes the stories all the more entertaining.

I decided to draw the second conversation because it just sums up our chit chat.  I shall certainly miss V as I make coffee on my own and look longingly at the cakes.


A poet I am not!

My mum recently unearthed a couple of my old poems.  I assume from the handwriting I was still at primary school when these two little gems were penned. Luckily I had other talents… but it’s great to see I was conscientious about the environment from an early age. Thanks for the chuckle mum.

Artist’s block and little rewards

It’s hard work keeping a blog.  Sometimes I wonder what it’s all for. Is it for me or is it for them (the inhabitants of the blogosphere)? If it’s for me, then do I really need a blog? I could carry on doodling in my sketchbooks and half-heartedly patting myself on the back if the drawing is passable.

I suffer from chronic self-deprecation which is probably why I never made it on the creative front – I was never confident enough in my own ability and knowing how many extremely talented people there are out there, I found it difficult to find my own little patch.  But on further reflection,  I enjoy drawing and there’s a little part of me that hopes my cartoons bring a teeny tiny smile to someone’s day.    Talent shared (average or not) is happiness gained…I think.  Ooh did I just give myself a compliment?

It wasn’t until this week that I was given a little ego boost when I discovered that people do actually enjoy my work. When someone other than your family and friends says “I like your cartoons”, it makes it all worth it!  And so I must extend my gratitude to the blogger, Michelle who writes for her own blog, the Green Study.  She kindly nominated me for a Beautiful Blog Award – Thank you!  I must now bestow this kindness on someone else, but it will take time, I need to do my research…

Following the slight head inflation, I immediately sat down to draw only to find I had no inspiration. It happens to all of us no doubt.  So what better way to tackle the situation than to draw it.

Triathletes have been known to chillax!

A friend of mine who owns a sports marketing company, is fiendishly fit and who retains a number of British and World Records in swimming (yes, I so know a person like that – yay me!), recently asked me to draw a cartoon to advertise a BBQ celebrating the end of the triathlon season.  I’m tired just thinking about a whole season of triathlons.

Anyway, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to sketch some athletes relaxing around a campfire, sipping their energy drinks and toasting marshmallows.  This is my sort of relaxation (without the triathlon before hand of course).  I wonder if Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and GB’s other gold medalists can be found, eating hamburgers and swaying to bit of Bob Marley post-Olympics?

Newty da Newt

My friend Newt is gathering quite a following. He doesn’t know it but he isn’t actually a Newt and no-one dares tell him that. He’s happy as he is and you can follow him on twitter @newtydanewt. He often moves between Wales and England so I have drawn him a flag for both countries so he can display either/or, depending on where he is.

Welsh Newt

English Newt

One more day

Berries in Frost
One of several fantastic wire sculptures over looking
Lac Leman (Geneva)

Christmas has passed and I only have one day left in the bosom of my family. We’ve been slothfully but pleasurably inactive over the last couple of weeks. A typical day would be little more than moving from the warmth of our beds to the breakfast table, to the sofa in front of the fire with a good book, back to the table for a hearty lunch, to the sofa for games, tea and nibbles, to the dinner table for leftovers and finally cradling our paunches, to the sofa again to veg in front of a movie (regardless of quality) before retiring to bed. Phew it makes me feel lethargic just writing it.

Ok, we did sprinkle the weeks with a couple of small walks to prevent our joints from seizing up completely… oh and a bout of last minute shopping to spend some vouchers before they expired. But generally, if it wasn’t our table we were munching at or our sofa we were sprawled across, it was someone else’s.

Bro doing an impression of
Mr Napkin head (relevant to anyone who’s
watched Holiday)

Of course, January 2007 will start with a concerted effort to get back into the gym regime that was abandoned somewhere around the time I started university. L and I are aiming to make some changes to our physique in preparation for my Brother’s wedding in May. We have 5 whole months to transform so how hard can it be?? Yes, you’ve heard it all before, but surely THIS time.

I should mention that I’m also a bridesmaid at ‘The’ wedding so unless I want to be remembered as ‘the wobbly one bringing up the rear’, I have to do something!!! All the fondues, mince pies, roast dinners, cold chicken sandwiches, curries, cheeses, chocolates, bottles of wine, biscuits, crepes and ice cream have merrily clung to my waist line in the last 10 days. So hear my war cry “BE GONE OH POISONOUS PLEASURES – no longer shall you seduce my gorged mid rift!”

I was actually supposed to be jetting home yesterday but couldn’t face the return to the UK. The comfortable isolation of this village helps to rest the mind and clease the soul. Plus, L is ‘on nights’ and most of my friends are celebrating New Year with family or on hot, sunny islands. I think I made the decision to change my plans with one hour to spare and was quite relieved that it only cost 6 pounds for the privilege.

I’m glad I stayed. We saw the sun for the first time in a week today! Boy was that a welcome relief! My parents house is not far from Lake Geneva, at the base of the Jura mountains so it’s often shrouded in thick fog during the winter. The last few days have been dull and grey with cold hard frosts but there’s still no sign of snow. This is usually the weekend that most French people set off for their first ski of the season but unless they’re heading for the highest peaks, they’ll be terribly disappointed.

A good view of the mist in the valley


Hard Frost

Dad and I did make it to the piste at the invitation of my cousin and his family on holiday in Le Gets. However, the snow was so poor, only one icey, gritty slope was open. I quickly passed up the offer to snowboard for fear my coccyx would not survive.

Anyway, I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas and feel a little guilty that L has been working her little socks off at the hospital. Not only is she ‘on nights’ for the New Year but she had her nose to the Grindstone over Christmas too – these doctors EH!

Christmas Cheer

I’m here in France avec mes parents with only three days to go until Xmas! It has been interesting trying to shop for pressies with a student budget. No matter what your parents say, you can’t turn up empty handed and sit around a bare tree base on Christmas morning.Even if your present is little more than a few hand made cookies or some poorly sewn cushions, the gesture still has to be made. I didn’t do either but I did make an effort.

Unlike some people, I actually enjoy Christmas shopping.I love to take my time sauntering around the shops, eager to see what useless inventions they’re selling as the next MUST HAVE! The first things that spring to mind are tongs for rescuing toast from the toaster without electrocuting yourself. Sorry L, I know they were just a stocking filler but I had to mention them! I’ve survived the last 29 years spearing lost toast with a fork so why would I need tongs now? AH HAA, I get it! Once I hit thirty I’ll start to get frail and uncoordinated so they’ll definitely come in handy!Thanks for thinking of me.

Anyway, this year, shopping was frustrating – my jolly spree was downgraded to trudging around the shops, picking up the gifts I’d like to buy, checking the price tags then replacing them on the shelf! Alas the self heating slippers were not meant for dad this year.

The general feeling of melancholy was exacerbated by the hoards of people pushing and shoving through the stores to get to the novelty gifts like the electric nose hair plucker or the game of chocolate Table Top Twister!I hardly had a moment to commiserate with an interesting gift I couldn’t afford before I was swept helplessly along in the rush.

Where do these crowds come from? Every inch of Nottingham over the last few weeks has been crammed with shoppers. Even getting a cup of coffee is impossible without fighting off a flock of hot, harassed looking ladies with fists full of bags.

I’m sure this frantic last minute shopping frenzy is purely a British phenomenon.I assume this because I’ve just spent the last three hours in a mall (in Switzerland) that was positively dead by comparison.There are only two more shopping days left!In the UK the frenzy would be reaching a crescendo by now.Unlike their British counterparts, the Swiss and the French seemed relaxed and cheery as they float between shops. So, either everything in Switzerland is far too expensive (quite possible) or everyone is terribly organized and finished their shopping two months ago.

Whatever the case my shopping is complete whilst mum is still writing lists and worrying about last minute gifts.My brother arrives tonight – thankfully he didn’t fly as I hear Heathrow is cancelling flights left, right and centre because of the fog… ha hah it sounds like that 1980’s movie…. THE FOG! With the tag line ‘What you can’t see won’t hurt you… it’ll kill you!’

So the year is almost over and 2006 was the last full year as a twenty something! I’m acutely aware that I only have three months left before I need to start applying the Revitalift eye cream, thinking about botox and generally make arrangements for the downward spiral into decrepitude.

Alright! Alright! Calm down boys and girls – I know most of my friends have already made the transition and yes, I know it’s not that bad! So why does society make us believe that the big three ‘o’ should sound more like the BIG THREE OOOOOHHHH!!? By now, according to the rules of society, I should have a career, a house, a marriage and possibly children on the way. Well I can certainly tick off one of those things, namely the house!

The marriage?Hmm…after seven and half years my relationship certainly feels like a marriage. And as for the career, well you already know that the last one went out with the 2006 trash and now I’m scouring the shelves for a brand spanking new one! The course, I might add, is going well.I had a rather hectic last few days when four projects and an essay had to be handed in but surprisingly, this time round, meeting deadlines and writing essays has been sans hair loss, palpitations and general paralysis.

Hang on, where was I… ah yes Children. Well that would be great but for the moment, without a career, and therefore the income and because the next two years are dedicated to student life, they’ll have to wait. Anyway, I don’t need to worry about kids until I’m approaching my 35th birthday (the point at which your reproductive organs start to falter – delicately pointed out by L) and I’m not prepared to contemplate that yet.

Anyway I think I have ranted enough. I’m not actually this bad in real life… or am I? Well, I hope it won’t be so long until the next instalment but just in case, Merry Christmas everyone and have a Happy NEW YEAR!

Ladies with Bifocals and Cows with Bells

I’ve just spent a week in France with the parentals! It was a fairly relaxing week… I guess helping mum to decide on what colour to paint the new bathroom and tromping around every bathroom store known to the French and Swiss people (they live near Geneva) for a suitable mirror is somewhat more relaxing than thinking about my own household issues!

I took part in the obligatory “meet my mum’s friends parade” – members of the United Nations Women’s Guild no less – which is always something I detest in theory but in practice it is never as bad. I brace myself for the introduction; practice my smile, my handshake and my most charming “it’s a pleasure to meet you”. I’m then likely to be lavished with kisses, two if it’s a French friend or three if it’s a Swiss friend, and plenty of ‘OH its wonderful to finally meet you, I’ve heard so much about you’. .. to which my response is “oooh I do hope its ALL good ha ha ha”

On this particular occasion I met two lovely ladies who managed to coerce me into attending the weekly UNWG hiking group which my mother runs. “It would be lovely to have you along, it’s an easy 3 hour hike this week, hurrah”

Well, the UNWG is primarily made up of over 60’s with a handful of ladies who are on the approach. It was insightful to say the least – adorned with bifocals, large print maps, walking sticks, first aid kits, medicines for cramp and most importantly a variety of edible goodies (for energy) we set off up a mountain. It was slow, steady progress…plenty of stops to catch your breath or to wait for the less energetic members of the group to catch up. Stop for a banana break here, a dried fruit break there, stop to search for a pair of lost glasses, someone quips ‘are we going the right way?’, stop to consider the direction. We double back on ourselves, “where’s so and so?”, stop to wait for her to catch up… it goes on and 3 hours turns into 6!

The walk was pretty tough and the descent in my mind was particularly treacherous. At half their age, I was struggling with sore knees, unsuitable footwear and keeping upright. I couldn’t bear to watch as some ladies teetered dangerously close to the edge of a steep drop. Every time I heard the sound of sliding gravel under foot I half expected to have my feet whipped out from under me in a ball of bifocals, rucksacks and dried fruit, then plunge to my death. But thankfully there were only a few wet bottoms and no major incidents. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty grim with heavy mist and drizzle so I can’t regale you with stories of awe inspiring vistas.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting insight into my mum’s generation! There was lots of raucous laughter (which hindered the wildlife spotting) and plenty of debate about how girls these days wore G-strings, memory loss, which part of the body is malfunctioning and whether it was good or bad to be offered a seat on the bus. My interpretation of the offer or don’t offer scenario is:

If a lady is in a good mood its bad – “how dare someone assume I’m not young enough or healthy enough to stand on my own two feet”. BUT, if a lady is carrying lots of heavy bags, feeling tired and grouchy then a nice, pre warmed seat is welcomed.

The week was good fun and was rounded off with a visit from L who was suffering from a raging cold and had just finished a week nights at the hospital. On arrival, hardly two words were exchanged before she slinked off for a cat nap and some well deserved rest.

The next morning we were up early to engage in all things Swiss. Des Alpes is an annual festival where the cows are herded down from the mountains for the winter but not before they are made to look utterly ridiculous. Christmas trees covered in paper flowers are tied to their heads and huge bells slung around their necks before they are paraded down the streets crammed with spectators. There are mountain dogs pulling milk floats, alp horns, yoddlers and St. Bernards carrying barrels of whisky around their neck – it’s a bizarre site and this photo doesn’t do it justice: