Tuesday, 19 January 2010

New year, not quite so new me

It's just over two weeks into the new year. I haven't made any new years resolutions. They don't seem to work - I think it's the feeling obliged to do something that makes me not want to. Like when I go on a diet I think constantly about eating chocolate, whereas normally I can take it or leave it. I've only once successfully managed to stick to any resolutions, and that was a couple of years back when I made five: lose weight, wear high heels more, have more sex, cook more, and learn how to play pool. By the end of the year, I had broken up with the guy who was encouraging me to cook and teaching me to play pool, and a couple of the other resolutions besides, and they fell by the wayside but I had made it to October, so I was pretty proud of myself.

So there are no resolutions. Nothing about losing weight. Or being more healthy. Or detoxing through January. Or resting my liver following a hectic December.

Because December turned into one big long night out.

There were gigs: Florence and the Machine (I'm thinking I still want to be her) and Spiritualized (I reckon the strobes have altered my vision forever) and Depeche Mode in a VIP box, where I got so incredibly drunk (a mix of bubbles, beer and vodka doesn't work on an empty stomach - who knew?) and had to be taken home in a taxi by Big Brother.

Dinners out in swanky restaurants: one unfortunately described as poncey by the leader of our party on what seemed like every time a member of staff wandered into earshot (the wine and the champagne was fabulous although not too sure about the parsnip tart) and another which featured both mushroom and bubble gum ice-cream (at opposite ends of the menu obviously) more fabulous wine and champagne, and toilets in singular egg-shaped pods.

And the Christmas drinks which ranged from small groups of friends catching up over a bottle of wine to the Christmas party in an 80's themed nightclub with bowls of cocktails, ridiculous dancing and a kiss with a cute stranger, to the jagerbomb fuelled Christmas Eve starting at lunchtime, which had promised to be "just a couple", and had me suffering from heart palpitations the next morning.

The few days between Christmas and New Years calmed down a little to feature a couple of football matches (one win, one loss), a curry in the east end, a cheese and wine party, pantomine, lovely dinner cooked by a friend, and New Years Eve in a nightclub, dressed as a saloon girl with the BF and scouser and some of the boys - the cocktails flowed and the snow fell as we walked home.

So should there be resolutions? After all that, probably yes. I should go to bed earlier, drink less, save more, eat healthier, do more exercise, work harder, blog more... Maybe I'll try and stick to one. I don't want to overdo it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The birthday

So, the week leading up to my birthday wasn't quite what I had been expecting. It was hard to muster any enthusiasm for organising celebrations or going out on the sunday, but eventually at the end of the week I got my arse into gear and came up with a plan.

In the meantime I had the rest of the week to get through, notably the evening I should have been going out with he who is no longer here. It's fair to say that I struggled through that night, having agreed with miss sunshine that I shouldn't be at home, but instead should go out to dinner with her. Of course the wonderful things about friends who've known you since a nipper, or those who are the best friends, is that you don't have to explain, they can read you, and so she let me talk, and knew when I didn't want to. It was a relief not to be at home with my thoughts.

Talking of best friends, the birthday girl, from here on in to be known as the BF, travelled to town from the east on the friday and we headed to a Thai bar/restaurant near my work to join the brunette, scouser, saffa and others for a couple of drinks. My boss, the saviour, got the ball rolling by buying us both a couple of long island iced teas, the first of which can only have included the merest dash of coke; we choked as we sipped them, but managed to finish them off fairly quickly. A mai tai, a woo woo, another mai tai and another woo woo followed, and then more and then we lost count and the night started to get hazy. The BF and I took it upon ourselves to keep number one and the man who can updated with our evening by way of texts and calls. She went to extremes when deciding that she couldn't hear the man who can and so elbowed the fire alarm in order to hear him better... Not sure of the logic there, but the result was the emptying of the bar and restaurant with the exception of our group who stayed at our table, sipping our drinks as the staff politely tidied up around us. I fear we won't be going back there for a while.

The next morning was a haze of flashbacks as we pieced the night together, occasionally prompted by a text or a call. When the man who can messaged to ask where it was again that I lived, it transpired that invitations had been flung out to all to come on down and take part in the rest of the birthday weekend. The harsh light of morning made us realise that there simply weren't enough beds in my home, and so the BF and I stuck to the original plan of football with mr bump (a 5-3 win for my team should have been considerably more decisive than it was), X-Factor (looky-likey's looky-likey has made it through to the final) and then a late lunch followed by bubbles in the city on sunday. Not the weekend I would have envisaged a couple of weeks ago, but a good weekend nonetheless.

Monday, 23 November 2009

There is no God

I've been meaning to write for ages, but things keep getting in the way, as they do. Maybe my commitment is lacking. Maybe I've other things to do. Whatever the reason, I haven't updated this for a while. This is neither the result of extreme excitement nor extreme boredom - the last couple of weeks have just been life, going out, getting on, stuff happening, how you expect life to be.

And then something happens that turns it all on its head. This morning was a normal monday morning, and just after 11am I was sitting having a slice of cake with some of my friends as is our want on monday mornings. And then the brunette gets a phone call with some dreadful news of an accident and the death of a colleague and a friend, except he's more than a friend to me. And as soon as I hear his name I know it's the worst of news. And the world stops. Shock is overwhelming. I can't take it in. My eyes prickle and fill with tears and other than repeating "I don't believe it", I can't speak. My mouth hangs slack, and I stare into space for the rest of the day which seems like an eternity of tightening throat, hot eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks and incomprehension.

How can this have happened to him? Why? Things like this don't happen to people I know. A man with his life ahead of him. The father of two young boys. A man who served his country. Things like this happen in the paper, to other people, something you skip over on page 5, thinking how very sad it is, and getting on with life. Except today, it's not just sad, it's devastating, and it feels like a heculean effort to get on with life.

We tried. I have the best friends and they all wanted to make sure I wasn't alone tonight and eventually, the brunette and I went for a bottle of wine and we toasted and talked of him and another who had died too young. It wasn't the normal MNC, but normal doesn't seem right today.

So, life isn't fair. There is no God. The good die young. Endless cliches. But they're cliches because they are true.

In the meantime, R.I.P Nick. A good guy.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Sat navs and SeaWorld

On more than one occasion today I have felt like crying. Not because I've seen a sad film, or a puppy being mistreated, or an old person shopping on their own (this used to break my heart when I was a checkout girl many moons ago), but through frustration caused by technology of the satellite navigation variety.

It all seemed so easy when the brother was driving over the weekend and the sat-nav told him with lots of advance warning that there was a turning coming up, which lane to be in and when we had "reached your destination". We managed to get to SeaWorld from the hotel, and then back to the state's west coast, found an IHop and then got home with no problems.

(BTW, SeaWorld was fabulous. We started off watching the dolphin show (are these shows cruel? I can't decide), then wandered around watching more dolphins, manatees, alligators, sea lions and seals, and sharks, then headed off to the Manta, a rollercoaster which starts by dragging us and the other riders face down staring at the ground up a massive hill before spinning and whipping us round all a twisty-turny track for a couple of minutes. I felt a bit sick. The afternoon was spent at the Shamu show - watching an enormous killer whale splash hundreds of surprised folk (despite them being sat in the "soak zone") - and getting drenched on the log flume. Just before leaving, i fed some sting-rays (raw prawns, fish-food-fans) which was fabulous, watching them flap and splash their way over to me, then gliding over my hand with a slight tickling and sucking sensation as they gobbled up the prawns out of my fingers.

After SeaWorld, it was back home, via an IHOP (International House of Pancakes), which has been on my wish-list since I arrived. Any place that sells itself on providing pancakes with all its meals is a winner to me. I had a spinach, mushroom and cheese omelette which arrived with three buttermilk pancakes, covered in syrup; the big brother had an all-day breakfast with a side order of pecan pie pancakes. It's just brilliant, like a pancake version of the Little Chef.)

Anyway, today the big brother went back to work and it was up to me to pick up the hire car I had booked to get around, see something of the city and, most importantly, do some shopping (clothes; I have managed to resist the lure of the supermarkets today), all in the company of the posh-lady-voiced sat nav, who insisted (I believe) on sending me off on to random highways, interstates, and other roads which turned 3 mile nip-down-the-shops into 28 mile round-trips across very long bridges. And so there were almost tears accompanying moans of "why? why have you sent me this way?? how do i get home?" All very distressing. And this was even before it took me ten minutes to realise that I had to have my foot on the brake to move the automatic gear stick into drive; I was on the verge of calling the big brother to ask him to come and get me from the shopping mall carpark.

So maybe I just don't get on with technology? Or roads? Or American cars (a chevvy by the way, i feel like an extra from a road movie)? Put all of the above together and it becomes a recipe for disaster. Tomorrow I'm heading for the beach, which is apparently "turn right out of the hotel and keep going until you get to the sea." My flight home is at 19.45. Hmmm...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Supermarket sweep

I love food shopping and I can spend hours in supermarkets, wandering up and down the aisle, browsing the shelves, choosing and then returning packets or bottles or boxes. I can be there, looking at pickle and then glance at my watch and realise that I've been in the store for a couple of hours and haven't even managed half the aisles.

There's something comforting about supermarkets (I'm not quite sure what it is though), and I'm equally enamoured of ones overseas. When I lived in Sydney, I truly felt at home when I moved into a house, not because I particularly loved the house (although I continue to be amazed by the number of people you can fit into a backpackers house), but because I could start doing my weekly shop in Coles or Woolworths (R.I.P).

Since arriving stateside to meet the brother we've been to a supermarket everyday. I love this. I don't mind that it's perhaps not how people would wish to spend time on holiday, but to me, it's fantastic. It's not like we're in there for hours at a time, we just nip in to get something for breakfast or some beers, but it makes me feel like I know my way around; I'm already planning a trip when the big brother has gone back to work and I can go and get some sweets for the folk at work at home.

It hasn't only been a supermarket-shopping holiday though. Yesterday we went to the beach, saw an incredibly pointy high bridge and then headed to an ice-hockey game; I remain astounded by the patriotism I see around me and the singing of the national anthem at the most regional of events. I was a little disappointed in the hockey, both in the lack of fights during the match (we only witnessed one, and then the protagonists spent five minutes on the sidelines, which from what I could gather was only marginally more than the rest of the team, who seemed to hop on and off - over the barrier which i quite liked - whenever they felt like it) and the sorry state of the hotdog I had during one of the intervals. An hour or so drive later saw us in the theme park heaven that is Orlando, and more specifically saw me shopping in an outlet park until almost midnight.

Today we went further east to the coast, to the Kennedy Space Centre, a truly fantastic and inspiring place. We saw one of the shuttles on its stand at the launchpad ready to go up into space in the next couple of weeks, and the size of it was astounding, as was the Saturn 5 rocket. I've heard the rumours of the faked moon-landings, and having been there and seen the scale of the NASA organisation, it seems an insane conspiracy, although granted the lunar buggies and landing craft which can only be described as wrapped in tin-foil look incapable of weathering a small rain shower, let alone zero-gravity.

We finished off the day with dinner in downtown Disney, amongst the most excitable of Americans, who were describing this Yarmouth-in-Florida as awesome (had they even been up the road??), and then made a trip to the Publix supermarket close to our apartment to pick up some beer. Just perfect.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The sunshine state

Well I survived the flight.

In fact it was almost enjoyable. One small blip a couple of minutes after take off when it felt like the engines had stopped, but other than that all ok, which was lucky as I had managed not to be sat next to an attractive chap who wouldn't have minded holding my hand while I panicked mildly, and instead was next to a senior-parent age couple who bickered the length of the journey. The food was shockingly bad - some potato and sun-dried tomato salad in a mistard dressing (which surely should have been nice??), chicken curry and a strawberry cheesecake - but coming on the heels of a double vodka and diet coke and accompanied by a bottle of white wine, I ate it anyway. I managed to cram in 4 films, literally vibrating with laughter during The Hangover (which I saw earlier this year with the boy nextdoor but was more than happy to watch again), did some brain training on the ds, and had a bit of a listen to the iPod and then we were landing in sunny Florida.

Immigration seemed to take forever which I still don't understand as when I was called I whizzed through the electronic finger-printing and eye-picture palaver (oh how it took me back to the happy day of trying to cross the US border from Vancouver and facing fifteen minutes of aggressive questioning from a border-control man with the emotional empathy of a newt), rescued my case from the conveyor belt and headed out into the muggy heat. BB was there, ready to chauffeur me back to the hotel before introducing me to a work colleague and the three of us heading out for dinner where I was confronted with an enormous caesar salad with croutons the size of a small baby and which, despite my protestations that I really wasn't hungry, I almost managed to polish off.

Today was jetlag recovery day which saw me wander down to the hotel pool about half past ten to discover that I would be its only inhabitant for most of the day. I watched geckos climb trees and jump on to signposts, read, swam, sang along to the iPod, spotted dolphins frolicking in the bay, drank water, floated in the pool, completed some puzzles and turned a glowing shade of red, delirious that had I been at home I would have spent the day in work. BB suggested we finish it off by driving to the beach to watch the sun set across white sand and the Gulf of Mexico before heading to Frenchy's for grouper sandwiches and Bud Light Lime, which sounds rank but is actually a revelation. All in all, a pretty good friday, although my slightly warm back would currently suggest otherwise.

So it's an early night tonight, after a soak in some aftersun.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


I hate flying. Taking off specifically. I haven’t always hated it – I remember flights as a child when I was buzzing with excitement at the airport and again as we wooshed up the runway, and then at everything from the toilets in the plane to the trays with sections for the food to the boiled sweets to stop my ears popping. But as I’ve got older, I enjoy it less and less, which I put down to a rather unpleasant short-haul budget airline flight a few years ago; I now spend take-off either gripping the hand of my companion or holding my St Christopher (not religious, I just like it). I love airports though, and once I’m up in the air, I’m fine, it’s just that take off bit that I particularly hate. Anyway this is all very problematic as I'm currently sat in an airport about to board a plane for about twelve hours heading to the states to meet up with the big brother. Soon I’ll be going through the routine of counting the seatbacks to the nearest exit as I board (apparently it could save me in the event of a dark descent), working out what I can watch on the tv to while away the many hours, and debating whether aspirin to thin the blood will react badly with sleeping tablets which will have me prone in a DVT-inviting position for daylight hours. In the meantime there is shopping to be done.

I haven’t flown solo for years, not since I was travelling. The last few plane trips I’ve taken have been package holidays or short trips abroad, and I’ve always been with a friend, so they’re on hand to keep me entertained with food and drink and thinking about things other than take-off. Shopping in the terminal and wondering about the contents of the snack packs made up (either by the birthday girl or me) to compensate for not having paid for the over-priced and underly-pleasant sandwiches or hot meals handed round on planes these days (I'm sure the meals were better in the old days in those sectioned trays) managed to hold my attention. But today it's just little old me - I imagine there will be wine involved very soon…

Which is bad as I have a small hangover this morning. Went out last night with the lawyer to see a singer/DJ/producer who had us dancing and waving our hands in the air for what seemed like hours, but was in fact seventy minutes. I'm not sure if that was in part due to the vodka consumed before, or cider consumed during, or a dinner of a handful of chocolate minstrels. Either way, it was a fabulous night, and the journey home seemed to flash by in a tipsy haze. Nice.

It seems like I've been drinking since last week as the weekend was another one spent in the east. A night out with the bst friend and the young uns on friday was enlightening as I made cultural references to long-gone TV shows which made me realise the eight years or so that I have on them, although strangely when I'm actually with them, I don't seem to feel that way. I think in my head I'm somewhere between 19 and 24 anyway. Saturday night we celebrated another 30th birthday with a meal and a couple of drinks, and then a longing to get home and get to bed... Football on sunday saw my team stage a glorious comeback to draw with a richer, better, more glamourous club. Fabulous, well done boys.

And then there was MNC. The boy nextdoor came along with the brunette and I for an evening of cocktails and deal-food in a restaurant not far from the office. A lemon sherbert (vodka, limoncello, sugar and ice) was pure alcohol which i blamed for my inability to get my words out later in the evening. A mango and bourbon creation later on wasn't anywhere near as fun which was a shame. The brunette and I had more than our share of cheap house white wine (the boy wasn't drinking) and by about 9.30 I was giggling. Although that could have been some of the inappropriate conversations we were having; it's my mission in life to make the boy nextdoor blush, poor lamb.

So it's time for me to go. The gate is open. Wish me luck.

BB here I come.