Monday, April 30, 2007


I've been having a few "issues" with our broadband. Involving a number of really quite heated conversations with BT, three attempts for them to come out and fix it and eventually, a result this morning when it turned out that somehow damp had got into our phone socket and corroded the connecters. We are now the proud owners of a brand new socket. Woohoo.

This means I've been unable to blog about so many things - being forced to go and see "extreme metal" act Cradle of Filth to write a review (they were really, really tame, no blood or urine or goat sacrifices or anything), huge, huge party on Saturday night to which I went dressed as a farmer (no joke, that was the theme), various wanderings around town so that my mate could film me and E talking about how wonderful Oxford is and why people should come and visit the Cowley Road (I really, hate being on camera).

I'm off work today and tomorrow as the big weekend continues and am planning to partake in that very Oxfordy set of traditions associated with May morning. That is, I'm going to stay up all night drinking, attempt, again, to find this massive party which apparently happens in Port Meadow and go down to Magdalen Bridge to hear the choristers. Although I will have the added complication that my parents are also keen to hear the choristers so will be sleeping here. Really not keen on them seeing me after all night on the razz, so think we may divert to E's house instead.

More on that story later.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sartorial dilemma

So I'm going to a gig tonight. It's pretty mild out, so I want to wear a short skirt. But I've got a whopping great big bruise on my calf after walking into a coffee table last week when I hadn't got my contact lenses in.

This would be clearly visible in daylight, and indeed possibly on my way to the gig. But inside, it's pretty dark and will also be pretty hot (all those bodies, see) so I really don't want to wear tights.

Flaunt the bruise shamelessly? Or wuss out and pop some tights on (man I hate tights). Tricky.

In other news, I have been endeavouring to give myself super cool big rock chick hair by tying it in some twisty bun on the top of my head. When I let it down, the results were, err, interesting, to say the least. But now that I've started on this "big hair" endeavour, it's going to take an awful lot more effort to persuade it to lay flat. I think I'm going to have to go big. Really big. Didn't I just say it would be dark in there...?

More on that story later

More on that story later.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Reporting from racism central

Today has been a rather weird day. In that I have been professionally disparaged in a national newspaper, called a racist and a bigot and generally insulted.

About a month ago, I wrote an article which was of a slightly sensitive nature racially. It was, I believe, a fair and balanced story although for various reasons it was not possible to gain a response from one of the people involved - who was not, by the way, named, as I did not know this person's name nor had any way of finding it out except by using underhand and possibly illegal methods.

Today, a national newspaper printed a response from this woman. In which, although I am not named, my newspaper is named, and it is very easy from that point to identify me as the initial story is still on our website. In this response, the woman basically refutes everything said in the article to give her view of events, claims I made no attempt to contact her and that she had attempted to contact me following the initial publication of the article, through our website, and no-one had come back to her.

I'm not going to go into the details, but suffice to say there were attempts made to identify her but it was not possible, and there is no record on our website of her trying to make contact whatsoever - maybe it got lost in the ether, but we never received it.

As a result of this article, my original story - with my byline on it - has been besieged with comments (more than 80 at last count) vilifying my newspaper and me. I've been told I should be sacked if I don't apologise. I've been called a racist and a bigot; narrow-minded; a pathetic and lazy journalist; shockingly shoddy and irresponsible; a "journalist" in inverted quotes; the story described as the most pathetic article one reader had ever read and an appalling piece of bandwagon jumping. And worst of all one said that the very tone in which my article was written was racist.

This has been rather unpleasant. To say the least. I'm not a racist. I moved to Oxford because I wanted to live in a vibrant city where people of lots of different cultures and background live together. I'm not a bigot either. Nor am I a lazy journalist - but I'm not prepared to break data protection laws or harass people for a story. There's a code of conduct for journalists, believe it or not, and people who work on local papers can't afford not to follow it. I got so angry reading some of the personal, and ill-informed, comments made I had to go outside and get some air.

I hate intolerance and I hate ignorance. I mentioned earlier that there were edges of unPC comments going on in my newsroom, ironically enough. But I don't just let them go - I tell my colleagues if I think they're being out of line. So it makes me frustrated to be judged by people who don't even know me - and most of whom, it would seem, have not even bothered to properly read my story.

The ironic part of the whole thing is that this response criticised us for not showing both sides of the story. Did they contact my newspaper (which can be easily found online, in the phone book as evidenced by the fact that all of the people who read the story ended up on our website) to find out if her version of events, as to how the article was written and got printed, tallied with her own? Err, no.

Anyway, rant over.

Blimey, I've got to be at E's house in 45 minutes for a commisatory "I'm not a racist" drink and I'm still in my work clothes. Must go.

More on that story later.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Sensible shoes

My parents' barn dance band is called Sensible Shoes. Because you need to wear sensible shoes at a barn dance.

Barn dances are not the only place where it pays to be sensible when deciding what to wear. Another example is cycling (I never, ever used to blog about cycling, I don't know what's happened to me, I'm doing it all the time now).

Some of you may have noticed it was a trifle hot this weekend. I was supposed to meet E at church halfway across the city yesterday morning. I was going to cycle, as I have got in the habit of doing, but I also wanted to wear a skirt. It felt summery, and I like wearing skirts, it makes me feel like a girl.

However, cycling in a skirt is something of a challenge. I figured if I wore my sort of big circular skirt, I could tuck it up on both sides. This did not prove to be true. You kind of cycle along clutching between your legs so you don't give passersby a bit more than they bargained for. I'm told the thing to do is peg your skirt together. I'm unconvinced. Also, I have no pegs.

I cycled to work today in a different skirt. This one just rode right up in a rather alarming fashion. I arrived at work this morning on my bike wearing my skirt before dismounting rather inelegantly. One of the sub-editors was arriving at the same time, fully kitted up in some kind of special thermal cycling trousers, one of those sweat reducing jackets and a charming helmet. There was a definite disparity in our appearances. I saw him later and he looked far more normal, so I assume he must have changed. Not sure which is worse - potentially flashing your knickers at the world, or turning up in something akin to cycling shorts and having people at work seeing me like that.

Hmmm. Well, I'm driving to work tomorrow ( have to be at work obscenely early and I don't trust myself not to cycle into the river by mistake) so I don't need to worry about it then. Suggestions?

In other news, I may have chosen a church and reception venue for my wedding. I have no idea if either of these places will allow me to have the wedding there, but I have actually made initial inquiries. And met another priest.

More on that story later.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Today is exactly three months since I started my job at the Daily Planet. Which means, as of tomorrow, I should theoretically be a proper member of staff.

That is, of course, if I have "successfully" completed my probation, according to my contract. It doesn't actually look like there is any real difference from now on, in that notice terms appear to be exactly the same whether you're on probation or not. I do know of reporters whose probation was extended. That would be pretty scary. It does also say in my contract that after completing the probation, my employment will be confirmed in writing. I haven't had that yet (well, it is Sunday), wonder if that will turn up on my desk...?

At my last paper, I did actually have a little "one-on-one" chat with the big boss man after completing the probation confirming that they did want me. They're just - rather busier at my new job. It would be nice, though, to speak to our great leader again - as I have only spoken to him about twice, once when he welcomed me to the paper, then once when I was having that hacking cough and he was expressing concern about my wellbeing. Oh, and he asked me if my press card was up to date, once.

In the past three months, without wishing to cause any undue alarm, my immediate boss has threatened to beat me up if I failed to ring someone at a certain time and then demanded 12 reasons why he shouldn't (I could only think of about three, surely there's something wrong there), I've been told to "clear my desk" by the assistant ed. after a story fell through which they had been counting on, I've been referred to as "drone 1", the news ed. warned me I was still on probation and could be fired instantly after I made some smart remark, and all manner of other things.

Sounds pretty bad? Actually, all these things were done in a fairly tongue in cheek fashion. I have worked under a boss who was a real, nasty bully - and I can tell the difference. If you have a sensitive disposition, are super-sensitive to quips from a very male-dominated atmosphere with the occasional sexist/xenophobic/homophobic edge then a newsroom is no place for you. It's about giving as good as you get. And I suspect if I were a more obviously fragile person, I wouldn't have got quite the same treatment. Sparks fly in a newsroom. And I love it. After so long feeling professionally under-challenged and bored, I like a bit of edge. Plus, free entry to gigs and all that jazz!

Although I do notice, re-reading my contract, that apparently during the period of my employment I will be "required" to devote the whole of my "time, attention and abilities" in the proper fulfilment of my duties. All of my abilities? I'm a pretty good cook, not a bad recreational gymnast and I can seriously bust a move on the dance floor. Am I expected to bring all those abilities into the daily grind? Could make things interesting...

More on that story later.

*obviously it's not really called the Daily Planet, but I'm hardly about to tell you where I really work, am I?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walking on the wild side

I have recently been writing (in my work capacity) about crime rates in the area of Oxford in which I live. Which have dropped. And as part of that I was talking to various people about their experiences of and fear of crime living here.

And while most of them didn't seem that worried, every single one of them said they wouldn't walk down the Cowley Road, the social and economic hub of this part of town which is home to some quite frankly rather weird characters, on their own at night.

I do. All the time. For one, when I go out of an evening, quite often HF stays in or leaves before me, so I end up walking home on my own. It's only ten minutes, if that, and it's well lit and there's always people about. I'm not about to fork out for a taxi for such a short distance. And in fact that would probably be counter-productive as I would be standing around waiting for a while.

Make no mistake, it's an, err, interesting area. A large number of houses have been raided round here recently for growing vast quantities of cannabis. My friend, who lives round the corner, was asked one evening on her way home if she was "looking for business" - she was wearing jeans, a big coat and a bobble hat at the time. And, my personal favourite one, when I was staying with E for a few weeks, a large number of cars had 'Pimp my ride' written on the side with orange spray paint. Not, sadly, mine - would probably have been an improvement.

But I never feel threatened walking along the road, even when it's 2am and I'm half-cut after a night out. I've been approached by homeless people who've broken off from having blazing arguments with each other to politely ask me for change, but you know, it's not that daunting.

Perhaps I have a skewed idea of my own personal safety. But every cop I've ever spoken to (and in my job, it's more than two) always bangs on about how the fear of crime is much higher than the risk of being a victim. I used to walk home, a much further distance, on my own in Bournemouth when I was a student there. And lord knows I've frequented a few pubs which other people sort of went quiet about when you ask about them. I always used to say that I didn't think I would make a particularly easy target, and for the most part I think that's true - although I now realise how much my defences are diminished after a couple of JD and cokes.

Should I stop walking about in dodgy areas at night on my own? I think not. I'm not about to go to the really interesting areas of Oxford (ever heard of Blackbird Leys?) and wander around on my own, but honestly, I'm far more likely to be hit by a car.

Or, in Oxford, a bus.

Which reminds me, I really need to get a cycle helmet.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007


I've always wanted a wicked-cool nickname. Sadly, throughout my life I've never really had a good one (apart from frangelita, which is obviously ace).

My fellow schoolkids came up with nothing more imaginative than the most insulting variant of my first name (think the lead character in Mansfield Park) or, alternatively, some people seemed to think it was funny to call me after a large northern city which apparently rhymes with my full name. Then there was a brief period at college where I was known at Frank when we were doing that introduction thing and somebody got a bit confused. Everybody thought it was hilarious.

But nothing much else. Until now.

I've had a bit of a hacking cough recently - so dramatic, in fact, that my editor, with whom I have exchanged approximately eight words, twice asked solicitously after my well-being. Anyway, last week I was working late shifts and after a certain time the office goes into some weird twilight zone and any noise, particularly the coughing up of one's guts, echoes sinisterly throughout the empty press hall.

One of the reporters left on Thursday and I joined a bunch of hardened drinkers (come on, we're journos) to bid her farewell. When I arrived I was greeted by two men I had never seen before me who addressed me by name (I still find this disconcerting).

Apparently they're on sports desk. Anyway, they commented on my cough. Said they were thinking about bringing me in some cough syrup. Then, bizarrely, told me they liked my hair.

Yeah, said one of them, we call you Coppertop with a Cough.

It's got a ring to it. I kind of like it.

Anyway, that ended up being a long late night followed by approximately four and a half hours sleep before I went off to work on Good Friday. I seem to have signed myself up forEaster Monday too. After going out last night as well and somehow inviting Curtains and E back for another couple of drinks, I am feeling quite badly sleep-deprived. I'm sure it will pass. Nice, easy day today.

More on that story later.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pleasant surprises

I was shopping yesterday (as one does) and I noticed at the end of the checkouts there was a weighing machine identical to the one I used to weigh myself at at work when I was doing the old Paul McKenna and shedding the pounds like a crazy woman.

I hadn't actually weighed myself in ages and also haven't been to the gym/spinning/gymnastics since I moved to Oxford. On the other hand, I have been cycling somewhere between six and eight miles virtually every day to work. And my Dad asked me on Sunday if I'd lost weight, and he NEVER notices subtle shifts, so I figured I must be doing something right.

Anyway, about the time I stopped obsessively weighing myself, I had lost around 26lbs and then fluctuated around that figure a little bit. According to the little machine, I have lost an additional six pounds. Result!

Then, this morning, I went to sign up to the doctors and they decided to weigh me too. And on her scales, it was about another four pounds (in fairness, I hadn't eaten yet and you always weigh less in the morning, but still).

It's funny how these things creep up on you. I hadn't really expected such a significant loss (although I guess we are talking about over the course of at least a couple of months) but I did notice that all the new smart trousers I had bought for my new job were looking a tad on the loose side. The best part is, yes, I've been eating healthily for the most part, but I've also had takeaway pizza, more than a couple of JD and coke binges (no, not binges mum, just a few quiet drinks) and lots of other naughty foods. I suppose I really have learnt to stop eating when I'm full.

In other news, I am royally pissed off with Thames Water at the moment as they were supposed to come and fit a meter this morning and promised me it would be between 9am and noon. When I came downstairs at 8.20am, there was already a message on the doorstep saying they had called and been unable to get in. Did they phone the contact number to check? Err, no. Did they come at the time they had been instructed? No. I'm going to call them now and give them hell.

More on that story later.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pointless arguments

I had a quietly heated argument with HF about broadband while at work today, quiet because I was within metres of all my colleagues and my superiors, heated mostly because I really needed not to be having that conversation then.

Anyway, I'm on late shifts this week. This morning, I couldn't get the broadband to work. This was somewhat annoying, but after a couple of failed reboots, I figured I'd just leave it to fume to itself and then decide to work a bit later.

Apparently, this had not happened by the time HF came home and he rang me very angry about it, saying that the connection was all f*cked and I had locked his tools in the shed so he couldn't get them (really glad about that in retrospect, he might have blown himself and the house up) and we would have to get an engineer and I would need to sort it all in the morning.

The broadband and phone are both in his name so I pointed out this was unlikely to work. He got angry and hung up on me.

He's at a gig now. I got home at approximately 10pm and the broadband, as you can tell from the fact I am posting, is now working perfectly. Maybe he did as I suggested and called BT. Or maybe it wasn't f*cked at all, just having a minor tummy complaint.

Men really need to learn patience - and how to live without an internet connection for an evening (okay, I suspect that may sound slightly hypocritical coming from me).

In other news, the AA man changed my tyre (existing tyre absolutely shot to pieces, not sure how that wasn't picked up at my MOT last month) and I spent half an hour on the phone to 02 sorting out moving onto pay monthly. Except at the very last minute I failed the credit check.

So I'm too much of a risk for a contract phone? Life sucks. Think I will go and join in with some post-gig revelling.

More on that story later.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Ticket to ride

At this time of year it is customary to see a certain kind of person looking harrassed and a tad bleary-eyed.

Because for some reason Glastonbury festival tickets go on sale at 9am on a Sunday morning. And there're about four people after each single ticket available.

Now, we have the broadband now, so you would think the odds of being one of those lucky few were increased. But any way you look at it, we're talking a fairly anxious few hours of phone and internet bashing.

Perhaps in retrospect going out clubbing on Saturday night and not getting in until 2.30am was not the best course of action. But despite this, I was up and poised well before the 9 o'clock kick-off.

So I sat at my desk, vaguely hungover and possibly still a bit tiddly, constantly refreshing a webpage my computer seemed completely unwilling to accept, calling E, who was trying from a different source, with rising panic in my voice.

There's no way I would have got them through this bloody machine. But fortunately, E's housemate's sister (yes, this is how it apparently works) managed to get a connection at her friend's work and bought them all for us.

So I'm one of the people floating around happily safe in the knowledge that I'm going to Glastonbury baby!

On the downside, when I got home at 2.30am on Sunday morning I discovered my tyre was completely flat. I pumped it up last night, removed the pump to admire my handiwork and listened to the hissing rush of air gently coming out of my tyre.

Poo. As I am completely unable to change a tyre (how are you supposed to know how to do this if no-one's ever showed you?) and HF is even more inept when it comes to such things, I'm going to have to get the AA to come out and put my spare tyre on or at least tow me to the nearest tyre shop. Damn it. Should really have done it this morning (I'm working late shifts all this week) but for the first time in days last night I had the opportunity to have more than four hours sleep and at the time this seemed rather more important. So tomorrow, then.

In other news, I am considering getting a contract mobile phone. I have resisted this for some time (seemed entirely unnecessary) but as I am now using my phone quite a lot for work I think it's just going to make things rather easier. I bloody hate phone companies, though.

Oh, and by the way, the chef called at about 7.30pm last night. Ironically enough, I was cutting up chicken ready to cook a delicious pie at the time.

More on that story later.

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