Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Houses galore

I had today off work. Skiving already? Not exactly. I have, so far, looked round what seems like 8,000 houses. Actually, I think it was only eight. And I'm going to see another one tonight. And two more on Saturday.

As HF is working in Reading and only started his job yesterday (which is a whole nother story) I've been going round on my own, and it's bloody knackering. The first estate agent was half an hour late. I had made up my mind not to do anything with him, then he showed me round the flat (which is currently being built, bit worryin) and I had to grudgingly admit it was quite nice. The next one was council estate block of flats hell with spew yellow walls. Then I had ten minutes to go home for a cup of tea. Then it was the next bloke, who was on time (I was meeting him at his office, after all) and the first place was okay, but not available until March 15, the next two places were teeny tiny and the fourth one he showed me had a lot of potential but needed quite a bit of work. And the bathroom was a bit grim. And it was also probably a bit out of my price range.

I then had a two-hour break, so I decided to fix my bike or possibly take it to a man with nuts and spanners who could do it for me. Turns out I had a screw loose. No jokes, please. So I cycled into town to see how long it would take and pay in a cheque but sort of forgot to eat first so I felt a bit funny. And sort of fell off my bike through sheer ineptitude. It seems to be working fine, though.

Then I met a rather attractive black man in another area of Oxford and saw a flat that I have decided I really want and can afford - but someone has already put an offer in. It may fall through...the pretty man is going to call me later on and tell me what's going down. He showed me another flat, too, which was nice but a bit, well, green. And also probably a bit too pricey.

I do feel better for having seen what's out there, though, cos now I know there are some places in our budget that are feasible. I suspect I'm not going to get the really nice one. I might cry.

Between each viewing I felt I needed a cup of tea, now I feel a bit tea-ed out. Maybe I should start drinking wine.

Anyway, E has come in and I must give her the lowdown. She's offered me tea, I don't know whether I should go for it or not...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Onward and upward?

I've now been living and working in Oxford for a week and a half and it's getting better, I think. I still haven't figured out what people do about lunch, although everyone keeps telling me to take a lunch hour. Then asks me to do eight things which I strongly suspect need doing IMMEDIATELY. So I'm too scared to actually bugger off for an hour when I know there's masses to do.

At least twice I think I have genuinely impressed my bosses. But I suspect I may have irritated them beyond belief through not knowing what they were talking about a few more times. I have interviewed a movie star (no, you probably haven't heard of him, google Toby Jones) and his mum, a really quite famous Oxford author and been shown around a £500 a night suite which has previously housed Michael Douglas, Bill Clinton and Pierce Brosnan. I have also been issued with a company bike (with the name of my employer emblazoned on the side) and been asked to cycle up and down the canal towpath. Twice. The fact that I haven't had a chance to sign up to a gym yet is more than made up for by me walking 45 minutes to and from work most days. Plus, obviously, the towpath cycling.

So yeah, the work is getting less scary and confusing (helped by the fact that the bods in the canteen are well nice and bacon sarnies are only £1). But the other big change is that, for now, I'm living in a houseshare for the first time since uni. I've lived either on my own or with my fiance (still not used to that phrase) for about 4 1/2 years.

I have had..mixed... experiences of houseshares. On the one hand, I met HF through a house share when we were at uni together (another story and one I probably shouldn't tell under the watchful eyes of me mum). But the last time I shared a house with a bunch of girls, I ended up getting ketchup in my bed. It's true - girls are very bitchy. And often strangely protective about selected crockery.

This time, I'm staying with my friend E, her two girl housemates and an often absent archaeologist, whose room I sleep in when he's not there. And actually, so far it's been really good fun. There are no protests when I want to watch Desperate Housewives. Me and E are sharing cooking and shopping together (which me and HF do ostensibly, but really, he's more of a helper than an actual cook). There are often nice smells when I come home - I returned home one day to find E cooking a delicious pie. And so far, very little overlap in the bathroom, which was my biggest fear. They have the broadband, so I can use their laptops for the interweb. There are more tampons in the house than you can shake a stick at. E makes cakes. And I can live wild crazy lives with new men vicariously through them and suck up the salacious gossip. Actually, there's not been too much of that yet, I'm trying to find some hot men at work for them but the hottest man so far was very obviously married. Pity.

It's more like I always used to think living in a big house together would be before I experienced it at university. Even if K says I have whore-pants.

Maybe going back to coupledom is going to be the difficult thing? Mind you, with prices round here what they are, there's no immediate danger of that.

Good advice I've been given this week - don't cycle into the river.

Damn, that was my plan!

Friday, January 19, 2007

An Oxford story

Work is getting on apace. While I'm still not feeling exactly part of the team, I'm sort of getting to know people. Although when I called to tell them some hot news from home (roof blew off a building, employees evacuated - storm related), the person I spoke to thought I was called Sam and didn't knwo who the hell I was. Oh well.

No-one saw fit to tell me that Friday was "cazh" so I turned up all smart (well, as smart as I get) and felt like a sore thumb. More than normal.

Also, I decided to get all Oxfordy and ride my bike in to work. I'm fairly inexperienced at cycling in cities so I was going to cycle in to the cinema with E first. Except my back wheel fell off. Turns out when I took the bike apart I didn't quite successfully put it together again. Had to take the bus. In fact, had to run for the bus. Then caused the driver much hilarity, when after running for the bus, I forgot to take my change. And on the way back, I was talking to HF on the phone when I ran for the bus again. I missed it, so I kept on walking briskly. I had been walking for nearly 10 minutes before I realised I was walking in the wrong direction.

It's quite funny, I was walking past roadworks and at the front of the queue was about 20 people on bikes.

Oxford is going to take a little getting used to. Soon I'll start wearing stripey scarves and fashionably cazh jeans tucked into suedy boots.

Monday, January 15, 2007

First impressions

So today was the first day at the Big House*. I timed my starting of a new job really well - the same day two major sets of roadworks start in the area. Didn't sleep much last night - nerves and the like - and woke up with a bit of a headache and confusion. Not too different from usual, then.

Anyway, this place is REALLY different from my old job. Instead of a staff of 15, there is a staff of around 300. I work in a giant "press hall" with a strange ceiling and a strong scent of bad man's aftershave. There is a canteen, for which a weekly menu is published on the intranet. The toilets smell faintly of fish and while one side is really smart, the other has a massive hole in the wall (no, you couldn't peer through at the men's, I did check) with a big wrench at the side of the hole. And the drinking fountain has a message on it warning against trying to flush pot noodles down the drain.

And most reassuringly of all, the one person at the company I had met, the one who actually hired me, no longer works there.


So for everyone else, taking me on is like a huge gamble. I expect they're going to flick bogeys at me, just to see how I react and check I'm normal enough for the hack trade. My direct boss sounds disconcertingly like Zane Lowe, but talks at 150mph. Seems nice enough, though. They all do, but seriously, 300 people? It's all open plan, too. So everyone can see and hear everyone else. Which I discovered early on, before they actually gave me anything to do, when the people at the other side of the hall (approximately 5 miles away) were having some kind of presentation and every now and again there was a gentle, slightly muffled round of applause. Which Zane appeared to find entertaining. Didn't give me a round of applause, though, did he.

Anyway, after a rather uncomfortable morning not being able to do anything because systems hadn't got round to me yet, I was too nervous to take a proper lunch break (even though I was assured that everyone did) because I couldn't really figure out what anyone else was doing. I did eventually get logged on and shown how to use my machine and even did some work.


Then the boss told me I could go home. At which point, the woman I had called five times in the past hour actually answered her phone and kept me talking for about another half hour. Bum.

I had planned to go out for a drink with my girlie friends to celebrate my first day (I quite like living with girls again, it's fun) but the headache was lingering so instead I came home and E made me a pie. It was a damn good pie.

Thanks to everyone who wished me luck, I think there's still a bit of acclimatization to be dealt with. I don't think I've spelt that right.

I think I'll go to bed now.

*No, I don't know what that means either but I quite liked the sound of it.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Turns out they were there after all.

Check out the devil eyes...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another farewell

It was my last day at my job yesterday. I didn't cry. Neither did anyone else (bastards, I thought they were supposed to be bereft and confused without me). They made a pretend front page with pictures of me looking, variously, fat, gormless, idiotic and like a stripper (the pole I was swinging around may have had something to do with that). They gave me a wedding album and some quite acceptable jewellery (a little girly, but hey, it's purple which is good enough for me). Then we went out for a nice meal and some debauched drinking.

Well, that was the plan but they all had to go to work the next day so it was more like two drinks in the pub afterwards. I was up for dancing but where do you go to dance in Newmarket on a Wednesday night? Oh yes - the strip club. We decided that was probably too expensive.

Anyway, I took lots of nice pictures on my new video/still camera - including several of me which were instantly deleted because it looked like I had a double chin, and some absolutely hilarious ones of my friend W who, although reasonably hot in the flesh, looks like a goit in every single picture I've ever seen of him.

Then I went home and put in a new memory card and formatted it (this was the following day) and mistakenly deleted every single one of the lovely pictures I'd taken,


Anyway, it was the end of a four-year stint at my first proper job. Or hob, as I just typed. Blimey, that would be some serious cooking. And in some ways, I was sad to go - after time you get comfortable in somewhere like that, I know the names of all the important people and some of their phone numbers off by heart, I know all the big stories past, current, and potentially future (well, obviously I can't predict the future but I know they're, for example, building a new swimming pool). At my new job, I know diddly squat. I don't know anybody there, I have only spoken to my immediate boss-to-be on the phone and I only really know Oxford as a visitor - a frequent visitor, but still a visitor.

That said, there will be a lot of things I won't miss. But this isn't the place for a bitter diatribe, cos really, I'm not bitter, just ready to move on. I am pretty excited about starting my new job because, actually, that crap you spout in interviews is really true for me. I want to be more challenged - I'm looking forward to more pressing deadlines because I do genuinely do my best work under pressure. And I'm pretty sure it's not going to be boring. Not for a while at least.

It's all going to be a bit weird though. Like being the new girl at school half way through term, because it's not like when I started as a trainee - then you're not expected to know anything, not really. I'm going in as a "senior" reporter. And I bet they don't let you wear jeans when it's cold and the heating's not working.

Wish me luck people - I just hope I don't end the day hiding in the toilets. Not that I ever did that at my old job, or anything

More on that story later.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

End of an era

I may have mentioned a few times about the gymnastics club I coach at every week. As I'm leaving for Oxford, sadly I have to leave the club as well - two and a half hours being a little too long a commute for three hours coaching.

Anyway, as it happens, the other qualified coach has just had a baby and she had to have a caesarian which means she can't coach for six weeks so they've actually had to shut down the club for a few weeks. Which makes me feel very guilty but there's not a lot I can do about it.

My last coaching session was on Saturday, and despite the mild hangover following my first of two leaving dos at work (details to follow perhaps) it was a bit emotional. When the first lot left at 11am they all came up and gave me a big hug, and then I got lots more hugs at the end.

There's one girl Zoe, who I will particularly miss. She had more potential than any of the other kids I had worked at at 7 and we sent her up to an elite gym club with purpose-built facilities, but she didn't like the discipline so she still trains with us. She's a mouthy little thing and she shouted at me telling me I shouldn't leave. I said jokily "why, are you going to miss me". She said grumpily "maybe" and stormed off. She came up to me at the end and I said "You're not going to hug me, are you?"

"No," said eight-year-old Zoe, "I'm going to shake your hand."

I shall miss them all. Hopefully I will be able to find a gymnastics club where I can help out in Oxford but it won't be the same.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another shot

I'm just giving this another go. If it doesn't work, I may give up vlogging altogether (I'm told that's the official term)

New Year's Eve Fireworks 2007

Bardsfest NYE, 2007, Marlston.

See, I knew I'd learn how to do it eventually!
Oh crap, just realised I forgot to take the sound off. Okay, I would recommend you watch this with the sound turned OFF because the, err, commentary is highly embarrassing. Please? I only sound like that when I've had a few drinks...

Update: Ok as per comments, the ruddy thing no longer appears to be working. But you can find it here

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Doing exactly the opposite of what I'm told

So a few months ago HF took a first aid course for work. He's been rather...irritating... about safety issues ever since and keeps importantly announcing things about elevating things and suchlike. He hasn't had an accident to deal with yet.

Until this afternoon.

We were talking about corned beef at work today (I have no idea why, I suspect I brought it up) and I said "The thing I hate about corned beef is that I am incapable of opening the tin without cutting myself."

(I know you can already see where this is going, but bear with me)

So when I went home tonight, I thought it might be quite nice to crack open the tin of corned beef I had at the back of the cupboard and tuck in to all that alleged horsemeat goodness. The tin had, as they inexplicably do for corned beef but no other tin that I can think of, a key which unwrapped the top of the tin. This never works. I tried it a few times, then the key fell off, so I got out the tin opener. Of course, the tin isn't round like normal tins. So once I had forced the opener all the way round the edge I had to wedge something under the partially opened lid to break the remaining seal.

As I did this, HF remarked, " You'd better not cut yourself".

I turned to him and said "Don't be ridiculous" and promptly nearly cut the top of my thumb off.

When I say nearly cut, I did slice it nastily, just not all the way through.

Calm first aider HF's first reaction, naturally, was to shout at me and tell me I was a prat. As I rushed to the sink his training switched in and he kept telling me to "elevate the wound" and warning me that a plaster wouldn't do - interspersing all these instructions with the words "you prat" (I think this was the most offensive thing he could bring himself to call me).

Anyway, I now have my thumb wrapped in, variously, a small piece of old t-shirt, clingfilm to hold it in place and a couple of plasters to put pressure on it. I don't know if this was recognised procedure, but hey, it was 10pm and I don't have much more in the house. I'm now sitting on the sofa feeling slightly guilty for having eaten all the biscuits in the house (loss of blood, potential faintness and all that). And my thumb still hurts. A lot. I'm seriously going to get the piss ripped out of me at work tomorrow.

It occurs to me that I haven't described my New Year's celebrations or detailed any resolutions for this year. If you want a rundown of the New Year's bardsfest, try Thursday or my mum.
I actually filmed the annual firework show (which lasted about 40 minutes this year, it gets longer and more dangerous every year) but after several attempts to upload the video on dial-up I gave up. Suffice to say, it was a good event - we ate, we drank, we openly cheated at the quiz (google on the mobile) and won but felt guilty and undeserving so returned the prize, we all put Sadam Hussein in for the hat game (again, see my mum's description).

Here's a picture of the bonfire, which only apparently took after one of the many men (possibly my sister's new fella) attacked it with an axe. I have no idea how this helped, but soon afterwards we were surrounded by a swirling dervish of polyester-fleece melting sparks, so it must have done something. That and all the flammable liquids I suspect were poured over it.

As for resolutions - not much this time. But I'd like to lose another two stone and make at least one definite decision about the wedding. And, of course, write more fiction as always.

Incidentally, I found the e-mail I sent my mum about my idea for the story which was just like Night At The Museum. Maybe they somehow hacked into it...in which case also look out for a story about an ancient murder on an archaeological dig and something about an asian girl going back on the tube after the London bombings.

More on that story later.

Monday, January 01, 2007