Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here comes another one

I'm sitting on my couch deliberating whether or not to go to the dump. Wow, NYE is going to be thrilling this year. I still haven't decided whether or not to drive the 100+ miles to my parents' bichin' new year's eve party (which would have been a nice surprise for them if HF hadn't told them last week that we might be coming) or to stay here and drink champagne. In fairness, both courses of action probably involve champagne.

But before I make any such decisions, I think it's time to take stock. Last year I wrote this re: New Year's Resolutions: -

I'm going to reiterate my intentions to lose weight (Yes! nearly two stones worth at last count) and find some job satisfaction...either where I am now or elsewhere (Oxford job starts on January 15, I'm so not prepared) and add a couple.
  • I will make my gym membership worth paying £28 a month for (which means I only need to go twice a week and I already do yoga once a week so it can't be that hard). I've been going spinning up to three times a week so yes, I think this was money well spent.
  • I will start learning to speak Arabic (an invaluable skill, I feel, for journalists today) I can say thank you and be quiet but I could do that before so, no, not really.
  • I will start taking dance classes so I actually look those bods of Strictly Come Dancing instead of imagining that I do. Err, not so much, but I did do that one pole-dancing class. Hmm, less said about that the better.

And some hopes for the new year...

  • Go to Thailand (Yes, we went, we swam, we snorkelled. Oh yeah, and I got slightly proposed to.)
  • That some of the people in my life who have had a very bad year for one reason or another have good times ahead. (My friend who I asked people to pray for last Christmas has found a new job, love and happiness and is getting married next year. I couldn't be more happy for him).
  • I finally have the courage to start writing one of the many books I have stored not very safely up in my head. (Alright I didn't start the book. But I've written several short stories, one of which will be published in an anthology in March, so I think that deseves a big WOOHOO.)
I also printed some of the highlights of 2005.

Here are some of mine...

  • Winning a writing award (no fear, it wasn't for blogging)
  • Spending two weeks travelling in Israel with my best friend
  • Getting wet, loud and joyful at Glastonbury festival
  • A night spent with my two gay best friends at Heaven, the biggest gay nightclub in the world (apparently)
I suppose I should follow with some highlights of 2006. I think the simplest way of describing the highlights is to say finding happiness being myself. And the proposal. And also, probably, when I saw my best friend's mum for the first time in nearly a year and she said she almost wouldn't have recognised me, I'd lost so much weight. Also, my masked ball was pretty bitchin' as parties go.

Anyway, enough of all this taking stock, I think it's about time to decide what needs to go to the dump. And about the rest of the plans for the evening.

Refreshing, though, to have to think just about plans for the evening when plans for, well, the rest of my life, seem to be getting along so well.

Have a Happy New Year folks.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pictures from my new tiny camera

This gift from HF (which I'm v excited about) is technically a video camera but as it only has enough internal memory to record 44 seconds and I am yet to buy one of them SD card things so at the moment I've mostly used it for pictures. Here are some...

See, now that shows the redness of the hair much better.

There was a lot of good hair going on at my parents' house on Christmas Day. Theirs isn't even dyed.

More on that story later.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ho ho ho

Blimey I'm still tired. I seem to have gone through Christmas in a bit of a daze. But managed to somehow pick up the smallest digital video camera in the world (ha, if you keep saying you want the same thing over and over again, eventually it starts to sink in), some excellent purple pyjamas (not sure if I mentioned it but I have a bit of a thing about purple), a couple of books, a couple of cds, and some wicked cool black weather gloves which bring me a lot closer to looking like a ninja.

Teamed with my brother's girlfriend's new balaclava (I think it's for snowboarding rather than robbing banks) I could commit all manner of heinous crimes and no-one know *insert image of frangelita putting evilly gloved hands together*

I do have a more sombre thing to add. As some of you may be aware, I work for a local newspaper in Suffolk - close enough to Ipswich that I hear much more than I want to about the "Suffolk Strangler" but not so close that I have to actually write about it.

Anyway, fairly frequently we get press releases through from various police forces telling us about various people who have gone missing. Most of the time, they have just gone off without telling anyone and they're found fairly quickly - sometimes even between when we go to press and when the paper comes out. So when a press release came in the Friday before Christmas about a woman who had gone missing, I didn't think too much of it. There were contact details for the woman's sister so I called her up and chatted to her about her sister.

Unfortunately, this story was never going to have a happy ending. The woman was an insulin dependent diabetic who was being treated for depression. All pharmacies and doctor's surgeries had been informed and not seen her so she had been most likely off her medication for over a week. Her sister confided in me that there was really no chance of finding her alive at this point.

Christmas was good for me this year - I was surrounded by people I loved in a warm, loving atmosphere, fed lots of good food and showered with material things. But all through Christmas I could feel the shadow of this woman's tragic story hanging over me.

However much anyone's holidays sucked this year, think about her and her family. And about those poor girls in Ipswich whose lives took off in a downward spiral they could never get out of. And all the other girls out there who need our help and our pity more than our disgust or mistrust, however bad some of their decisions may have been.

No-one deserves such terrible things to happen to them. Spare a thought for those whose Christmases were indescribably awful and who cannot hope for a better new year.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It must be Christmas

Season's greetings one and all. I am home for Christmas, having successfully managed to fill my not-really-new car up with what seemed like dozens of boxes of belongings, negotiate the holiday traffic including the lovely M25 and M4, and, more to the point, successfully pacify my father and grandfather with ample hugs, tea, gin and tonic to finally be left alone for five minutes.

Christmas at home is all very well - lots of presents and festive foods that you don't have to pay for, but it's all a bit stressful. The house, rather than echoing with merry laughter and the joyous cries of people opening presents, tends to ring to the sound of my dad swearing at the giant rib of beef he has inexplicably ordered to feed five because the meat thermometer says it's still not warm after eight hours of cooking. Then there's the fact that there are (currently) three rather tender male egos to be massaged and not rubbed up against each other in the wrong way. Then there was the fact that my second Christmas do was on Friday night and three glasses of wine seemed to cause a pretty much permanent headache the following day.

On the plus side, I get to show off my ring to all my parents friends so they can all go "ooh" and "aah" ( actually, no-one's really done that) and there is as much booze and chocolate as I could possibly consume. And it has been a pretty fab year so there's a lot to talk about.

It's just...I'm really tired and I think what I actually want to do is spend the next couple of days in bed. But I don't think anyone is going to bring me turkey and baileys in bed. It's worth a try, mind you...

More on that story later.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Things people said to me at our work do

1) My wife refers to you as "that woman in the office who fancies you".

2) Yes, well, you would like doing blogs because you are a bit me, me, me.

3) No, you'd better not take the cheque for the driver Frangelita because you will be far too drunk (this turned out to be true).

4) You're so sweet! (read 'oh my god you're so drunk why are you telling me this')

Hmm. These people are supposed to be my friends. I think they were probably just jealous of my righteous dance moves (someone else's words, not mine. I don't think I would know a righteous move if it hit me in the face with flailing arm).

I bought a car today. Ha! Not that kind of car. The ten years old second-hand kind. It's still the newest vehicle I've ever had - apart, of course, from the brand new bicycle I bought with the plan of cycling seven miles to work (never happened, not once). It's also kinda whizzy. It has all kinds of things I've never had before - like electric windows, electric mirrors, power steering, ABS - hell, the radio even works. And, the guy who I bought it from who tells me he's selling it cos he now has a company car so doesn't need it (bastard) threw in the tape/mp3 player converter which actually seems to work. Woo hoo.

It's a bit, err, bigger than my previous car. And our street requires parallel parking in small spaces. Which I did. I'm usually ace at the parking (as with so much in life) but it took me rather more attempts than it normally does. With HF standing laughing at me.

He can laugh all he wants, I'm still a better driver than he is.

More on that story later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

And here it is!

No laughing.

Focal point

My hair isn't quite as ridiculously red as I originally thought. It's actually much the colour I wanted it to be. I was almost disappointed that I wasn't going to stop traffic anytime soon (unless, of course, I went for a major job change involving lollipop in the job title).

But, as always, it made me think. Anyone who was hoping for something amusing, witty and incisive had better switch off now.

When I first dyed it, I thought "oh my God, it's so bright everybody is going to be staring at me". But when I thought about it some more, I realised that wasn't actually the case. If you do something dramatic to your appearance, for example to your hair, it doesn't really make people look at YOU any closer - they are in fact drawn to that one thing. If I think about the comments/compliments I've had about my scarlet locks, they are all along the lines of "your hair looks great" or if I ask what they think they say "it looks really nice" (come on, I work in journalism, everybody is great at lying so nobody's going to tell me if I look like a dog with one notable exception*).

Notice they are not saying "you look good", they are only commenting on that one thing. In fact, by making something stand out, you are drawing attention away from yourself. And I think it applies to other extremes too, like slutty clothes (of which I am a big fan, naturally) . So all those goths you see with eye-catching outfits and unusual-looking hair are actually hiding behind these accoutrements.

I started dying my hair when I was in my teens and yes, I was kind of keen for people not to notice me. When I got my nose pierced, however, it was a pure act of rebellion and - oh, yes, I think that I wanted people to be looking at that, not me. And when I became more confident, happy in love, I took out my nose ring (no, I never wore a nose ring, I'm not a cow, it was a tasteful diamante stud or something) and stopped dying my hair.

Although if I continue along these lines, why did I decide now that I wanted to hide? Actually, this time I don't think I did want to hide. Which is probably why I was a bit taken aback when it came out quite so bright. I would like to think this is just enhancing my natural assets (along with a well-fitting wonderbra), not drawing attention away from the things I am less impressed with. Oh, and there are still plenty of those.

Give me a minute and I might manage to sort out a picture.

*One of my colleagues has a thing about hair cuts. She feels strongly it is inadvisible to do your own hair. She didn't say anything when I came in glowing like the hot end of a poker. When pressed, she said she said she preferred me as "a rich brunette" rather than with actual red hair. I put salt in her tea later.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hair today, gone tomorrow

With all this exciting action going on in my life, I decided it was time to dye my hair again and as it seemed to work fairly well last time I did it, I bought the permanent stuff instead of the semi-permanent.

I think dying your hair must be like child-birth in that immediately after having done it, the benefits make you forget how hellish the experience was. Let's just say that this particular brand of hair dye was supposed to be applied to dry hair which you then pile on top of your head and leave. Any mixture on the skin has to be wiped off with a damp towel. But what with my hair not being wet, it wouldn't just pile neatly, it kept falling over my face and smearing great big rusty brown marks all over my nose. And little strands wiping bloody looking stripes on my shoulders. The pack said don't dye your hair while wearing contact lenses so I took them out - meaning I couldn't see a bloody thing. I ended up getting red on HFs favourite trousers (at which point he stormed off and refused to help me anymore) and getting so annoyed with not being able to touch anything (dyed gloves, you see) that I ripped off the gloves meaning my hands are now rather pinker than they ought to be. Well, oranger, actually. And it took me bloody ages to get all the dye out of my hair and by the time it did, I was convinved I had knotted up my hair so nicely half of it would fall off before I could get a comb through it.

Ha! It's a miracle that conditioner stuff. I wish I knew how it worked - does it just make your hair super slippy so that it just falls out of knots? If anyone knows, do tell.

The dye is rather, err, redder than I expected. In that it's actually the colour on the box and HF will not only be able to pick me out of a crowd but also spot me from space, should he happen to go there. I think it's festive.

The worst of it is that because it's permanent, it won't slowly fade, I'll get roots and I'll have to do clever touch up stuff. Maybe I should just shave it off. It would save on shampoo.

More on that story later.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Someone up there likes me

It seems like only yesterday I was writing with the exciting engagement and book publishing deal announcement (okay, I'm aware that that is a bit of an exaggeration, it being just one short story in a book of 16 although I did get a really posh contract for it and everything). It was in fact only a few weeks ago.

What with the proposal, the fact I've lost about 2 stones in weight this year, and the fact I'm going to be published, I had achieved pretty much all last year's New Year's resolutions.

Except one.

I have been looking for a new job for some time and have had a frustrating time of it (was beginning to think that I just give off "Don't employ me, I'm weird and inadequate" vibes in interviews).

I think, since I passed my professional exams at the end of 2004, I have had about six job interviews - all unsuccessful.

Until, and now we get to the point of the post, I got a phone call from the news editor of an undisclosed publication based in Oxfordshire, on Wednesday.

The upshot is, I have been offered a senior reporter job starting in January which I have accepted.


That's the good news. The bad news is, now I have to uproot my life, let down my gymnastics club (the only other fully qualified coach, is due to give birth any minute) and accept that me and my fab fiance will have to live apart during the week for at least a short period of time. He too is hoping to make the move to the dreaming spires, but is still waiting to hear from the archaeology types (who pay almost as well as newspapers do) on one job.

It's a pretty scary thing, actually - we haven't lived apart for a long time. Plus due to money considerations, I'm probably going to be staying on floors and sofa beds with friends and back at home for a few weeks. It's a bit of a daunting prospect living with my parents again. I'm so used to living with HF, doing things my way. We're both pretty easy-going. My dad, much as I love him, is rather more hard-work. He might just drive me up the wall. But then, he has been pestering me to make a start on writing his memoires. I'm pretty sure I've spelt that wrongly.

More on that story later.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Plagiarism, deadly weapons, unexpected slippages

A few months ago, I visited the Oxford Museum of Natural History. It was really cool, a mixture of dinosaur bones, stuffed animals and exhibits about extinct creatures.

These were the kind of creatures who would never have inhabited the earth together and the museum was a really stunning, open building - but small. Also, the real bones were mixed in with replicas of what the bones would have looked like.

Having the kind of mind that I do, I thought how it would make a really good short story about all these different creatures coming to life - exactly as they were displayed - and only the ones which had once been part of a living creature doing it. So there would be incomplete dinosaurs running around along with stuffed tigers and the like.

I built this up in my mind, imagining two students getting a bit tiddly and visiting the museum just before closing then stowing away in one of the offices when it got locked up. Then everything comes back to life and they try to hide and run etc before realising that actually, a heap of bones isn't very threatening.

They make it out and are arrested by police, who discover that the museum is wrecked. On closer examination of the CCTV, however, they see there was definitely something odd going on...

Anyway, that was as far as I got with my story. Until, yesterday, I saw a trailer for Night at the Museum which is apparently based on almost exactly the same premise.

How annoying. I bet mine would have been better. It definitely wouldn't have had Ben Stiller in it, anyway.

I had two fairly bizarre experiences yesterday - firstly, I was walking along a road in the centre of town when a man came round the corner carrying a large, unprotected axe.
The man was wearing a lumberjack shirt and sunglasses (in December) and looked a bit weathered.

He obviously saw me looking at his huge weapon and said: "Don't worry pet, I'm not dangerous," and went on his merry way.

Then, in the supermarket, a woman fell over on something which had been spilled on the floor. A group gathered round her, discussing what had happened. One woman frowned and said: "It looks like an egg."
Well, I found it funny, anyway.