Monday, 27 August 2007

Happy little surfer

Sometimes I like the internet.

For one, you get sites like this one:

As well as providing amusement, my other half has decided that he needs to train to win at what I call paper, scissors, stone and so we have to play for virtually any task. Which does mean that I have got out of a lot of things I would normally have to do, being as I am better than he.

Then you get useful sites. The Motley Fool is great, it allows me to feel like I am in control of my finances for a good few minutes of delusion when I first check my email, everyone should sign up to their mailing list. I pulled this out of my spam filter as I realised I was actually reading it out of my spam folder. Hmm. Today's hints on living below your means (an alien concept to she-who-likes-lipsticks-and-smoked-salmon) led me to the following website:

which literally tells you what's in season foodwise. I've been looking for this for ages! You can't trust the shops, they have the same thing year round, just most of the year it tastes rank.

And I am utterly addicted to facebook. It has endless things to do to pass the time.

Happiness is a laptop called laptop.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Oh dear

I am feeling very sorry for myself.


Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The joy of jobseeking

Well, due to the fact that children selfishly need nappies and food and other things that cost money, it has come to that time where I need to sell my soul and get a job. Being mostly unemployable doesn't help much as I now have very limited hours to add to my failings.

The obvious local employer has signs everywhere you turn asking for staff. Apparently they are desperate for staff, they have exhausted the workshy labourforce of this slothful town and so I put in an application and waited. Today I decided I was fed up waiting and telephoned them to see what was what. "We are experiencing a high volume of calls, please leave a message". Grand. Because it is possible to speak to an answerphone without sounding retarded? No, it is not. So probably scratch that one.

Employer option 2, sent in application, fed up waiting, called recruitment hotline for "immediate telephone interview". High volume of calls, spoke to a person who took a message, better, but still not actually spoken to anyone. Is the whole of Fife looking for a call centre job today? Why?

Employer option 3, local council, put in two applications. I expect to hear a) nothing or b) something in October. I shall have another look and ponder how many times you can submit an identical application form - it is all entirely factual so there is no room for making it relevant to the job, thus making it unique, or indeed for demonstrating your suitability for the job. And it being the council, it takes them 7 weeks to open the application, 14 weeks to read it, 4 weeks to shortlist [10 minutes warning for interview], 3 weeks to make a decision, 2 weeks to tell you.

Employer option 4, Sainsburys keep their vacancies a big secret. Apparently they reveal them for ten seconds each year at the Jobcentre, but it would seem you actually have to be in the Jobcentre at this golden time.

Employer option 5, Asda. Please God, no.

Employer option 6, McDonalds. The house will be sold before this happens.

Marcus Brigstocke

Tonight's entertainment was the very wonderful Marcus Brigstocke.

I am in love. No, really.

He was very funny, very clever, and he ranted amusingly about all the things I like to rant about: 4x4s, Poles, Europe, debt consolidation adverts, right wing parental utterances, global warming, God and many others I forget.

A truly fabulous show. My husband thought he was a bit smug, but I thought he was magnificent - he put on accurate accents and was really rather different. And very clever. And very funny. And extremely attractive. Sorry, that's irrelevant, isn't it?

Hmm. I have lost all eloquence. He's ace.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Early teenager

At the grand old age of 19 months, Oliver has become concerned with his appearance. Should his mother choose an item of clothing that he doesn't like, he refuses to wear it, pulling it off and fighting the process. So a choice is required, only a selected item will be acceptable. Normal nappies are out of the question, grown up boys apparently will only permit pull ons. Stupid mothers that try to put a little boy nappy on young Oliver get rewarded with tantrums and removal of said nappy. And none of those romper suits for bedtime thank you all the same, Oliver will be wearing pyjamas.

This morning a fight nearly broke out as Oliver wanted to wear the top I was putting on Rob. Luckily this was a gift, so there are two of the same top; peace was restored when the second top was produced and Oliver could wear it as well.

The future of clothing my (fractionally) younger son looks ominous. There are two saving graces - one, Rob couldn't care less as long as the whole process is over as quickly as possible; two, St Daddy of Daddydom can put on whatever he likes, he's Daddy after all and if Daddy thinks it's good, it must be good.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

My life in books

I was reading a magazine (don't ask which one, it was more than an hour ago) and it was interviewing some celebrity (again, don't ask who) about books. They stated the books that had meant a lot to them over the years, so I started thinking about the books I have loved. I pinched the title "my life in books" from that article by the way, it's not remotely a reflection of my life. But onward...

he first book I remember loving was "A Child's Garden of Verse" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was hugely into this at about the age of 5, providing huge amusement to my parents by referring to the author's middle name as "Louise". I think I liked this because it referred to his childhood in Edinburgh, like mine. My most favourite poem from that was The Lamplighter:

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

A little older and I read "101 Dalmations" by Dodie Smith. I loved this book so much, thankfully nobody subjected me to the Disney travesty by the same name (Perdita's the liver spotted stray, her name means "lost"; the female protagonist is called Missus;). This is just an utterly beautiful book, I read it and read it and read it. Some years later I discovered "The Starlight Barking" which is the sequel to this, also lovely.

My mother was keen to introduce me to the books she'd enjoyed as a child and so she bought me Anne of Green Gables which I adored and read all of the sequels (which did get progressively less good, but never mind). A girl with an imagination even more vivid than my own! And of course I read Little Women, which remains one of my favourite books of all time. I cried when Beth died, I so wanted Jo to fall in love with Laurie, I wanted to be Amy. The sequels to this did match up to the original and even the Hollywood Winona Rider effort was fitting (except Clare Danes was dreadful as Beth).

From here I forget the chronological order of everything...

Pride and Prejudice gained me a B for Higher English. I read this of my own accord (I hated the dissection by English classes) and having been completely traumatised by the lack of poetry and presence of a Macbeth question in Paper I, I was overjoyed to have a question that could be perfectly answered about Pride and Prejudice in Paper II. It thus holds a special place for me, as well as the fact that I'd really like to be Elizabeth Bennett (although I think Darcy could do with a little more spark).

When Andrew Lloyd Webber did The Phantom of the Opera, I fell totally in love with all of it - Michael Crawford and all. I'm not big on musicals, but I love all the music from this
. I listened to the vinyl of the entire recording incessantly and finally a couple of years ago managed to get a CD of the original cast. Aside from the music though, this is a lovely story, so when I saw the book by Gaston Leroux I was intrigued to read it. It is a fabulous book, it is written as a piece of investigative journalism and even though I knew the story from the musical, I was hooked. The film, although good, is based on the musical rather than the book, the script appears to be the same. Gerard Butler as the Phantom comes pretty damned close to fantasy.

Having always loved Christmas and also the Muppets' Christmas Carol, I am not sure why I never thought to read the Christmas Books by Charles Dickens until a few years ago. Still, I did and they are/it is fabulous. Dickens writes superbly, he really does make you feel like you have seen what he describes.

Now, I don't have any aversion whatsoever to Chick Lit, it's mindless escapism and a very easy way to spend time and lose yourself in a story, even if real life doesn't ever emulate it in its annoying tendency to be real. Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes, anything by Freya North and the utterly silly and adorable Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella are my favourites. The Old Girl Network by Catherine Alliott is the book I'd have written if I had the talent/inclination/timing.

I read a lot of self help books, especially ones that promise to fix things that I really ought to be able to fix myself without reading a book. Most of them I discard in disdain, most of them are useless, but at a particularly low point, I read Fiona Harrold's "Be Your Own Life Coach" (I know... I have lots of "Be Your Own X" and "Change Y in Z days", I believe in miracles) and it really did somehow hit the right spot. Almost overnight I was able to change my views on many things and it literally did cure a bout of near-depression.

Finally, I must include Jasper Fforde. I don't mean a specific book, the first one I read was the first Nursery Crime one, The Big Over Easy, but all of his books are in a similar vein and they are clever without being taxing for a poor child frazzled brain. The Thursday Next series are all fabulous and everyone should read them. Immediately.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A danger on the roads

I keep nearly crashing my car as I negotiate a double bend with this in giant form ahead of me:

It's not safe, I tell you. How's a girl meant to look at the road with those delicious eyes in front of her???


So I added myself to facebook finally. Why do I do this? Ego, I guess, but there's a possibility of keeping up with folk. And hey, maybe poking all my friends is fun, who knows?

Although now I've actually created a place where "real" people, who know all the real stuff, can integrate with "virtual" people, who probably don't.


Thursday, 9 August 2007

The banks that like to say "duh"

Due to a number of extremely irate secure messages being sent to the wondrous websites that operate my finances, I have two most grovelling messages today:

(a little paraphrasing *may* be involved)

Message no. 1:

We at are complete imbeciles and realise that we have cost you money because we are incompetent morons that can't actually keep track of what our automated system is doing. We do realise that this system cocked up big time and our morons couldn't help you. Unfortunately for us you do in fact have a series of messages that confirm this, therefore, if you send us a copy of your bank statement, we shall refund all bank charges caused by us.

Subsequent (automated) message :

PS We've already refunded our own charges because we thought we'd look better if we wiped them off your account almost as if we'd never charged them. You didn't mention this and it's nothing whatsoever to do with your complaint but hopefully this'll confuse you and you won't send your statements as previously stated.

Message no. 2

We at Numptycocks Building Society are utterly incompetent and have disabled monkeys working in our customer care centres. Some muppet managed to change your address and even though you told us about this 6 weeks ago, we weren't able to work out why. Now it transpires that it was in fact another member that "misquoted a number" and mysteriously pulled up your previous address. Yes, that's right, the one with the dodgy subsequent tenants and bad credit rating. What a coincidence is it not? Anyway, we're very sorry and it's all fixed now, and look, your account is all shiny again and we've written to Experian for you, just in case. I guess you probably want to complain, so here's the link to do so. Please don't ask any more questions, we're a little embarrassed, but if you really have to, here's the phone number of someone that can string an entire sentence together and knows a little about banking.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

My tunes

There are certain songs that I can hear again and again and they always make me smile, or sigh, depending on the song. I've been formulating a list in my head, it changes constantly, but I shall try to remember the songs that really have meant a lot to me...

Hallelujah by John Cale.
This is just lovely. I think I heard it for the first time when I saw Shrek, it's relatively new to me. I simply can't listen to it enough, once I finally got hold of "I'm Your Fan". If it wasn't good enough, my children respond to it like some sort of magic - they stop whatever they are doing (particularly good if what they are doing is having a tantrum) and gaze in awe at the speakers. They both now attempt to sing along, which is cute if entirely inaccurate. When I played them the Jeff Buckley cover, they looked in astonishment, then gazed on in semi-awe.

When You Grow by Bernard Butler
While I'm on the subject of the children, this song calmed me manys a time when I was pregnant, I simply couldn't listen to it enough. I will always think fondly of it because of that.

Always on my Mind by the Pet Shop Boys
This was the first 7" single I bought for myself. I loved it, I played it to death, I still love it. It was Christmas #1 in 1987 and it stayed there right until a couple of days before my 13th birthday, where it was knocked off by Belinda Carlisle with Heaven is a Place on Earth. Grr.

Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground
I'm not sure when I first heard this, sometime between meeting their biggest fan and marrying him. It's just a perfect song.

The Mighty Quinn by Manfred Mann
Friends of ours used to run a 60s night in a club owned by another friend, and every single week they'd play this, I'd think "that's a fantastic song" and ask Ryan what it was called. Every week. Eventually, after many weeks of annoying poor Ryan, it penetrated my brain and I managed to buy it. This is just one of those songs that every time I hear it I think, that's a fantastic song...

Days of Pearly Spencer by David McWilliams
I have no idea when I first heard this, I just hear it every so often and think "wow".

Altogether Now by The Farm
I loved this. If it played on the radio before I went to school, it was a good day. If it was possible to wear out a CD single with overplay, I did it to this. Despite the fact that The Farm weren't very good and were utterly appalling live, I still love this, I like the subject, I like the tune, I like it.

Broken Heart by Spiritualized
I'm not entirely sure why I bought the Abbey Road EP by Spiritualized, but as it had the live version of Broken Heart on it, I am so very glad I did. What a beautiful song and what a wonderful introduction to a wonderful band.

Everybody Hurts by REM
Yes, I know, it's a cliche. But I listened to this every time I was sad, every time I needed a good cry, when I was in my late teens. When we saw REM live at Loch Lomond, the crowd all swayed together and sang this as it got dark, it was lovely. On the day of the London bombings, Jeremy Vine read out all the confirmed fatalities and then played this, it was a very poignant moment.

I'm sure there must be more recent ones, but for now I must stop because I need my sleep.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Exercising those laughing muscles

Well, being the cheapskates that we are, we got 3 pairs of tickets for the preview week of the Fringe and thus spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights childfree and chortlesome.

Thursday night we saw Frankie Boyle and I have to say I was rather disappointed. The main reason for this is that several of his jokes had been on the previous week's Mock the Week and when we got home and watched the replay of that night's Mock the Week, there were most of the other jokes. This would seem to be the downside of being topical, but it still rankled rather. I would expect most fans of Frankie Boyle would watch Mock the Week, that being the show that he is known for. He was still funny, and a few of his jokes were shockingly and side splittingly politically incorrect (including referring to political correctness itself being "spastic gay talk"). A little difficult to like, he was offensive to just about everyone, but amusing all the same.

Friday night we saw Jason Byrne who is incredibly funny and adorably nice, I have no idea why he is not massively well known. He does a lot of audience participation (aka picking on the front row) which makes his show unique, but what makes him stand out is that he can talk about the most cliched of topics and make it really, really funny. Dylan Moran disappointed me a little last year when he started talking about parenthood, it just made him sound all grown up and a little middle aged even if he was being undoubtedly amusing. Jason Byrne however made parenthood sound like a fun adventure and while he has clearly matured somewhat from when we first saw him four years ago, he is no less funny. Everyone should see this man perform, he is funnier than anyone else I have ever seen (praise indeed as the first time I saw him was straight after Bill Bailey).

Saturday night we saw Russell Howard, also known for appearing on Mock the Week but, unlike Mr Boyle, did not resort to using the same jokes. This show was entitled "Adventures" and indeed he made everything he had done sound like a big adventure. He was accused by a heckler of "pissing and moaning" which was entirely unfair as he focussed a lot on the really good things in life. He was almost entirely free from being offensive, he was nice about most people, and he was endlessly extremely funny. I would recommend anyone to go and see this guy, you will come out with the biggest smile on your face and a sore side from laughing too much. He's only 26 and I sincerely hope he becomes a very big name in comedy, he's naturally brilliant.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

I think...

In my usual indecisive way I shall blog a little bit longer because otherwise my things-to-bore-with meter will explode.

Yeah, I know.

Tonight I am going to see Frankie Boyle. I must have an outlet for oohs.