Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stuff I cannot do

This is not an entirely original idea for a post, I realise. It has been done, and probably much better, by many others. But I have been rather lax of late, work being rather hectic, at posting at all. I had a couple of half-thought out posts in mind - one about memories, one about people who have influenced me.

But I decided that was a crock of old shit, so instead, here is a list of stuff I can't do. I should point out it's not an exhaustive list as there are probably many thousands of things I didn't know anybody could do, let alone me, so I will stick to the regulation 10-point list.
Here goes.

1. Draw. While creative in many respects, ask me to do a little picture of anything and it turns out looking like a badly-drawn pile of rubbish. This seems to me to be highly unfair, as my mum dabbled as an artist for some time (she was pretty good), and my brother and sister have both demonstrated a fair degree of talent. This appears to be one area where I take after my father.

2. Reach and link my hands behind my back, in the style of the Cow's Head Pose in yoga. Even in my most bendy and flexible days when I was doing gymnastics and all sorts, I could never do this.

3. Lie convincingly. Bit of a pain this one as it can land me in all sorts of bother when all that is needed is a little white lie. But being the forthright, outspoken type, I find it very hard to tell an untruth without giving off all kinds of lie signals.

4. Understand the rules of cricket. To be fair, I have never tried, but tell me the score of a game (or do they call them matches?) and I literally wouldn't know which side was winning. This is one failing I feel I can quite easily make my peace with.

5. Belch on demand. But then, why would I want to? I am, after all, a lady.

6. Play a musical instrument and sing at the same time. I've always wanted to be able to accompany myself singing, it's why I learnt to play the piano and why I tried to learn the guitar. But with the piano, I have great difficulty even thinking about the fact that two hands are operating INDEPENDENTLY of each other, let alone singing beautifully over the top. And I'm just not very good at the guitar at all.

7. Juggle three balls. I can just about manage it with scarves - the extra time in the air allows my brain to work out where I need to put my hands, but if you give me anything that moves a bit faster, I just lose it. My dad, on the other hand, can juggle five balls or three fire clubs and do tricks and passing and all sorts. He used to perform at fetes and everything.

8. Ride a motorcycle. I mean, I don't know for sure, I've never tried. But after watching Ewan Mcgregor *uncontrollable drooling starts up again* dropping his motorbike repeatedly on that round the world bike trip he did, I'm pretty sure I would fail at this.

9. Fly any kind of aircraft. Again, never been up in a real one. But I did fly in an aircraft simulator once (used to know a BA pilot who was being trained to train people in them and needed some guineapigs). I was supposed to do a short flight over a simulated New York City. And, err, I crashed into the World Trade Centre. So I'm pretty sure about my inability to do this one.

10. Surf. I've tentatively tried this a few times and fallen off in a suitably embarrassing fashion. But given time and training from a Patrick Swayze lookalike surf dude, I reckon I could do this one.

So there you have it. Next time - stuff I can do.
More on that story later.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Tricks

I'm always keen to find a new way to kill some time during the less exciting work hours, so was quite pleased when one of my colleagues, out of the blue, told us this keyboard shortcut to write a half as a fraction.

His mum, apparently, had told him how to do it and he'd forgotten until now. Apparently, there were other such shortcuts.

So I tried the one he'd shown me, but changing a couple of keys. Sure enough, it did something a bit weird. Suddenly I was overtaken by a frenzy of alt key shortcuts. It turned out there were several different ways of doing a half. During the next ten minutes, I managed to produce a smiley face, a musical note (quaver), two musical notes, (two quavers), a coloured in smiley face, various arrows pointing up, down and sideways, accents including circumflex, umlaut, accute, grave, and the one which looks like a little circle that I don't know what it's called. Also I managed to write a three in the air (signifying cube). Along with a couple of shortcuts which involved pressing about four different keys to get a z or a number 7. Possibly not so useful.

Of course, in all that excitement, I didn't write any of them down - leaving it open for me to waste an even longer period at a later date.

Now, I just have to figure out a way of getting some arrows and musical notation into one of my stories. Any ideas?

More on that story later.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In which Frangelita learns rather more about "studs" than desired

Ever wondered about the genesis of the expression stud in reference to a rather attractive young man?

A short trip to the National Stud (alas, nowhere near as exciting as it sounds) over the Easter weekend has given me a fairly detailed understanding of how stud stallions spread the love - and more importantly, their seed.

Our journey into the dark and murky world of mares who pay for sex with stallions began, innocuously enough, on a tour bus full of happy families and horse lovers (behave) of all descriptions.

And, despite some rather unwelcome rain, it continued rather pleasantly with a visit to some very cute foals with spindly wee legs, gallivanting in paddocks with their mothers.

It was not until we reached one ominous-looking barn that the truth about horse sex emerged.

Now these stallions were pretty hot stuff - Classic-winning thoroughbreds. So as you might expect, you have to pay through the nose for a roll in the hay (yes, really) with these stud-muffins. To have your mare "covered" by the finest piece of stallion ass in the place will cost a cool £10,000.

The nice gentleman guide took us through the whole procedure - still, rather bewilderingly, calling the act of horse sex "covers". Stallions are apparently limited to 100 "covers" in a season - they have special little diaries with morning, lunchtime and afternoon sex slots.

100 different partners! Per shagging season!

Onto the act itself - many of the mares apparently have "foals at foot" and it would be too disturbing for them to be separated during the sex act. So it is considered in everyone's best interest for foal to watch mummy being boffed by a new stallion. Now in the human world, I'm pretty sure that would be called child abuse - there's definitely something wrong there...

And how long do you get with your hunk in hooves? The act itself lasts between 30 seconds and 1 minute. But if a scan shows you aint preggers, you get two more "covers" and if you still aren't up the duff, you get your money back.

As for the tricks of the trade, well, the mare has to wear some frightening-looking hoof-covers, just in case she doesn't like the cut of his jib and lashes out during the act. The lady is not forgotten either, she gets to wear a massive, thick, ridged coat in case the horny beggar gets a bit bitey.

More bewildering - a strange looped device used to tug on the mare's lip if she's not in the mood to make her more docile (something to do with pheromones? Should have listened harder).

*note to self - when feeling angry/stressed/not up for it, will try trick of tugging on lip*

Now these mares are divided into two camps - the "walk-ins" (think of this as a one-night stand, mare comes in, gets the business, doesn't stay the night) and those who stay in to give birth (now that could be construed, in some circumstances, as overstaying your welcome, not that she gets any more action off the stallion unless the "covering" was unsuccessful).

So, guys, fancy being a stud? Make sure you've won a few races, (egg and spoon probably not expected) and you're up for impregnating up to four women a day, step up. Think about it, all you need to do is last for a minute, tops, and you don't ever have to call her.

Of course, there is some performance pressure - if your swimmers aren't up to scratch, you don't get the cash.

Any takers?

More on that story later.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sometimes I just don't know my own strength

In some crazy confusion, I appear to have signed myself up* for some form of Israeli self-defence known as Krav Maga. This is apparently really vicious eye-gouging type stuff.

This will not be my first foray into the world of martial arts. Oh no. When I was really quite small (maybe six or seven), a man who was entertainingly enough called Mr Small (and he was really quite small) started teaching judo at my school.

My Dad felt it was VERY IMPORTANT for women to learn self-defence so decided this was exactly what I wanted to do.

I was alright at it and even got a special belt (err, I think it was only yellow. Or maybe orange) . Generally speaking I was the smallest one there, and one of only a couple of girls who decided to take it up, so whenever it got to displays, they always picked me to chuck the biggest boy over my shoulder (this is really surprisingly easy when they are bracing themselves for it, I guarantee you can throw any man if he actually wants you to).

But inevitably, the only other girl eventually left and I got bored. They made you do an awful lot of squats, see, and the initial thrill of having a cool uniform which actually felt like wearing nasty curtains wore off pretty quickly.

Instead of admitting to my parents that I didn't really like it, I told them that it was all a bit violent and I was being pushed around - not bullied or anything, just thrown a bit.

Apparently, Mr Small said: "Well, actually Frangelita is one of the most aggressive with the little ones."


Anyway, I gave that up. But I'm still a fairly hands-on person. Me and HF invented a game once called the pushing game. You just put your hands together and push really hard until the other person falls over. And we sort of wrestle sometimes, it usually ends when I get a bit violent and he bangs something. Me and my gay friends Dan take it even further - we did a whole dance at Heaven nightclub once where we were literally just shoving each other to the ground. We found it hilarious. Everyone else just gave us a bit of a wide berth. Although I have noticed that Dan occasionally flinches when I go towards him...

The worst thing happened the other day. I was a bit bored and HF was doing something else. To try and distract him, for some reason I pushed my finger on his throat. It emitted a weird, strangled sound**. My look of horror and immediate soothing motions caused some hilarity. I didn't realise it was going to do THAT.

One thing my father has never learned is that it really, really hurts when he tickles you, because my dad is a bloody huge lump of muscle built up from thatching roofs all day long and he seems incapable of making those muscles work gently and soothingly. He just doesn't know his own strength or how to curb it.

I sometimes wonder I may be going down the same route...

*For work, this is, not for fun, I hasten to add. Lord only knows what they'll have me doing, I've got my fingers crossed for lessons on eye-gouging and fish-hooking techniques.

**I didn't cause any actual damage, it just scared me a bit.

More on that story later.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Banned words

Higher-up people at my work (the sort I never actually see, only hear directives they have issued) have decided we need to give people more opportunities to interact with us online. They fear this may cause some problems in that people could seriously defame other people, or say things which are obscene or offensive. And let's be honest, they probably would.

So they have put some safeguards in place. One of them involves a list of banned words which will be filtered out of any comments (I don't know whether they will just come up as blank spaces, bleeps or whether the whole comment will be deleted, who knows). Anyway, we were presented with this list of words.

I'm not sure I've ever laughed quite so hard in my life. Someone, somewhere - in fact probably several people - have spent time and effort coming up with a list of these banned words. Three pages of A4 filled with obscenities.

It starts innocuously enough with arse before moving to the sort of expressions I don't think I've ever heard anyone in real life actually say. Something involving cheese, for example, something involving curtains. I can't bring myself to even write them down. My favourite part was when one of my colleagues, mystified, asked "what's smegma?" and the new girl answered "Umm, I think the answer's just above cottaging". How often could these sort of conversations take place?

Anyway, while the list was in many ways surprisingly imaginative, some of it was clearly unrealistic - what's wrong with the word blow? And there are so many things which are actually not really rude words at all, it's just the context - banned words included pearl necklace, nude, spanking, school kids and underage. I can see why they could be used in an inappropriate context, but considering I personally have written numerous innocent stories about school children, underage drinking, people wanting to open nude lapdancing clubs, I think there is a real potential this could stifle debate.

Plus, they forgot anus, anal, minge, fuckittage, flange and dogging. Although we were invited to add any more words we felt should be excluded. One of my colleagues was writing down a list of these words on a random piece of paper and then realised this could be taken in very much the wrong way, so destroyed it.

Worryingly, when I mentioned this to HF, he kept trying to come up with other words. Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but seeping and gash are not rude words. Not particularly pleasant words, I agree, but they're hardly swearing. I think there's something deeply wrong with him. I shall investigate.

More on that story later.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Swearing, baking and jewellery (not necessarily in that order)

I have had a few (well, two) queries about my jewellery dummy. It seems that outside of the enlightened county of Suffolk, not so many people are aware of this stupendous space-saving device. So here is a picture.

BTW, for those of my readers who have a criminal background and enough of a brain to work out where I live, I hasten to add that none of the jewellery pictured is worth more than about £1. I just like shiny crap (like a magpie).

Oh, damn it, there may well be people reading this who have bought me some of the said jewellery. Crap is the wrong word. I should have said, they are purely of sentimental value. No precious metals or diamonds for me. That said, if anybody out there feels overburdened with extremely expensive jewels that they are dying to offload, I'm pretty sure I could find a home for it.

Here are some more muffins that I cooked. I know what you're thinking - that stone I've lost is going to creep back before I know it. I didn't eat them all you know, I gave most of them away.

On a subject which probably deserves a post all of its own, my entire office spent most of this time reading over a fairly exhaustive list of swearwords sent to us by management for reasons I don't entirely understand but will explain later. I'm not sure I've ever heard my boss return from the toilet and say, without introduction or explanation, "anal" before today.

On second thoughts, that's probably a good thing.

More on that story later.

Some answers

A while ago, I posted some burning questions. I think it's about time I gave you some answers.

1. I still don't know. The holes are still there except now there appears to be a pile of unanswered mail on top of one of the piles of rubble.
2. Duo, in Newbury. I recommend them.
3. I prefer gay cowboy film. On second thoughts, I just wrote gay-boy. Is that better (oops, another question)?
4. No-one has admitted to it, but then, no-one has done it again. I do keep finding sweet wrappers in my bag after gym though.
5. Yes! I read it all the way through and I liked it! Next Dickens I intend to tackle - David Copperfield. Wish me luck.
6. No-one's said anything yet, and I am doing it less now.
7. Crane has gone. It was probably lifting stuff.
8. Bank pass book was handed in to bank. So I probably didn't put it somewhere safe, I dropped it. Maybe even in the bank?
9. Well, I spent the £24.99 and I haven't filed for bankruptcy yet. It's very cool, I may post a pic of it.
10. I still can't decide. But it will be olives that I eat tonight. They're cheaper and probably marginally better for you.

I doubt this will interest anyone. Never mind, eh?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Double lives

HF is leading a double-life. Not anything sinister, I hasten to add, he's not having an affair or secretly bringing down the Government as a member of Al Qaeda. More disappointingly, he's not a spy either.*

No, it's quite simple really. To all my friends, family and presumably his friends and family, HF is a mild-mannered, generally quiet and occasionally hilarious chap who rarely says mean things about anybody, swears surprisingly little for someone who effectively works on a construction site all day (as an archaeologist, not a builder). These people wouldn't dream that HF has any kind of temper - indeed, the general feeling is that he is the quiet one and I talk non-stop (perfect match, see) and he may even be a little under the thumb.

But when you put a playstation controller in his hands and a game involving blowing things up on the telebox, he becomes a seething mass of rage. Expletives come from his mouth every few seconds. He accuses the game of cheating, claims it's impossible, tells the various opponents that they are fuckers. Sometimes, when he is losing particularly badly, he even kicks stuff. I frequently attempt to remind him that it's just a game. This is met by either stony silence or bad-tempered grumbling. Generally quite touchy feely, if he is in the middle of a losing battle and I come up for a hug or a kiss, he physically pushes me away. It's quite rude, really. He's been known to storm off in search of comfort (usually fried chicken in some form, or a burger). When he's winning, he's prone to laughing maniacally at the screen and saying "take that you tosser".

The same applies if he's watching football. And generally when he watches Time Team. I make him do this in the other room now because I can't quite take the one-sided angry dialogue while he berates all the archaeologists. For what, I'm not sure. He often comes in and tells me afterwards, but these days I tend to tune out when he's talking about archaeology. I'm sure the stories would be interesting if you only heard them maybe once a month. When it's every day, sometimes the same sorry tale, it's less gripping (he knows I'm not listening but I think he just likes the sound of his voice. I think it's much the same when I come back from gym coaching full of excitement that one of my gymnasts has finally achieved a back-flip on her own).

I'm rarely allowed to play the playstation these days due to my complete inability to understand that it's VERY VERY IMPORTANT. Plus, we discovered fairly early on in our relationship that I'm far better than him at any games where you are fighting each other (stuff like wrestling, anything like the old Streetfighter games). I'm shit at racing games though, I crash into stuff.

It just goes to show - you can never tell. So if you like the look of some person, they seem quite normal and non-violent, just test them out in front of a football match or a video game before you invite them into your life. That's when the aggressive thing really kicks in.

*I sometimes think it might be quite cool to be a spy. Not in the James Bond way, more in the Olivia Joules kind of way.

More on that story later.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Muffin mad

As I may have mentioned, one of my good friends, E, kindly gave me a book of muffin recipes as a sort-of belated moving in present.

Up until now, the muffins have just remained a nice idea in the bookshelf. However, I got a bit bored the other night and decided to make some delicious muffins. This was the first batch - coconut with lime syrup. They were very tasty and I think they look quite a lot like muffins, which is something I always have difficulty achieving.

And this evening, having shared out the muffins between work friends and HF (I only had a couple, honest) I decided to make some more. Some crazy people who don't love coconut told me they were waiting until I made chocolate ones. However, as I have no chocolate, I made some almond flavoured ones with apricot jam in the middle. They were nice too, but didn't look quite as good, despite the jam glistening alluringly through cracks in the top of the muffin. Hence no pix of them.

I was thinking it had been a while since I wrote a list and was going to write a list of things I have never done until I realised that could potentially be a really long list. So instead, here's a list of the things I am currently sharing my futon with.

1. HFs laptop.
2. About six zillion pillows and cushions of varying shapes and sizes (I'm a bit addicted to cushions, me).
3. My cat Missy, who is curled up in a tiny tabby ball with a little white paw poking out.
4. Big foot bear (too embarrassed to elaborate, look it up in clinton's or something).
5. A large throw roughly the same colour as the cat (so the hair doesn't show up so much, see).
6. A bewilderingly large number of inexplicable wires, which seem to be attached variously to the laptop, the wall, and nothing in particular.
7. Two remote controls. Neither of which actually switches the telly on and off.
8. A leaflet from my doctors surgery which I haven't got round to throwing away yet cos it might end up being useful, you never know.

And that's it. Which, for my sofa, is not really very much. Not even HF (he doesn't understand about Green Wing, not a blogger you see, so is watching videos in the bedroom. Not that sort of videos as far as I know).

More on that story later.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I love it when a plan comes together

Last year was, for me, quite a difficult year. Professionally I felt stagnated, I wasn't particularly happy or fulfilled in my job and I couldn't seem to do anything to kickstart that.

My lovelife was still good, seeing as I have a long-term live-in boyfriend, but it didn't change or advance in any way (ie no proposals or break-ups etc). I had to move house, something I had been determined not to do until I had a new job. Which I hadn't.

Despite my best* efforts, including gym memberships and all sorts, I was completely failing to lose weight and transform my body into a thing of beauty.

And perhaps most importantly, I wasn't really doing any writing (other than of course the daily grind of newspaper articles which is my job).

This year, the times they are a-changing. I have managed, without inducing misery, diarrhoea, vomiting or anything else unpleasant, to lose a stone. Which is quite an achievement. And with that, some of my other issues seem to be falling into place. I've got my arse into gear to write two short stories which I've entered into writing competitions**. And I think I am beginning to see some progress on the job front.

It's almost as if by taking control of one thing which I always knew I had control over, my weight, I have managed to wrestle back some order and meaning into my life - like a kind of knock-on effect. Having the blog has helped too - it forces me to write regularly outside work, and read some inspirational writing from other people. Equally, you quite frequently read god-awful bilge which reinforces the knowledge I have, deep down inside, that I am a good writer.

So please continue to leave encouraging comments and the occasional kick-up the backside asking me what writing I'm doing.

*Well, obviously it wasn't my best efforts or it would have worked, but you know what I mean.
**I may, at some stage, post some of these on here, but am currenrtly undecided due to various copyright/professional anxiety issues.

More on that story later.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


A few months ago I went to this gastro-pub run by a woman from Barcelona and she served up these wonderful things which looked a bit like potato croquettes but tasted about a thousand times better. I asked her what was in them and she said it was parma ham. Which didn't really answer my question as what I wanted to know what the substance inside was as it clearly wasn't any kind of potato I had ever eaten.

Anyway, we came across the same thing in Barcelona - called Croquetas. Oh sweet Jesus they were good. When I came back I managed to track down some recipes with the help of the interweb. So on Thursday, desperate to taste some more of that yummy stuff, I decided to try my hand at making them. The recipe was slightly ambiguous at one point to do with quantities, but I persevered and made the sauce and left it to cool overnight.

When I returned to the gloopy mixture the following day, I was a little concerned about the texture, but I was confident with enough breadcrumbs I would be able to sort it out. I tried to form the croquetas but they weren't playing ball, they were just squidgy. With a lot of effort, I managed to cover it in breadcrumbs sufficiently to stay together. As soon as I started the frying, however, it disintegrated. Several hours slaving over a hot stove and all my milk, wasted. And not a single edible croquette.

I was very annoyed.

Weight-loss update - another pound, meaning I have now lost a stone, 14 lbs, yay!