Thursday, 30 October 2008

Blast from the past

When I was going into London on Wednesday morning, the train was delayed as we approached Waterloo. We sat still, and then inched forwards, then sat still a bit more.

And so the long day wore on.

After about 10 minutes of this, the charming Polish (I think) guard's voice came over the intercom. She apologised for the delay, and then said "It is because of.....(pause)....a train from the past."

A train from the past eh?

No wonder we were delayed. I was most disappointed when I got out at Waterloo not to see Stephenson's "Rocket" parked up on the next platform, with the bloke with the red flag looking sheepish, apologising to all the grumpy delayed commmuters.

Other news: It snowed! It was minus 4 degrees at 0700 when I was scraping the ice off my car, and by the time the train got to Basingstoke there was significant snow on the ground. And it's not even Halloween yet. Tch.

New job is going ok, I am starting to get to grips with some of the stuff around the edges, which is encouraging. Might even feel semi-competent by Christmas at this rate.

But lawyers. Brrrrrrrrrrr.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


This week I have mostly been learning about transport around London. I found out how to check how much credit is on my Oyster card*, how to get a seat on the Tube**, and how to get to the front of the queue on the escalator***.

It's been a week of making learning fun.

I stayed at Middle Sis's house on Monday night, which was nice, although I was so knackered that I went to bed before the children did. How sad and old am I, eh?

Due to my stupid initial "being flexible" approach, I have to go into the office on Wednesday (ie tomorrow), making it 3 days in a row in town. Gah. Still, I have now blanked out Wednesdays and Fridays on my calendar and told people I am not in London on those days. I will probably end up having a reputation as an awkward old bag, but hey, I'll get to do my 2 days a week working at home, which was one of the provisos of me taking the job in the first place.

Other news: Went to see my gorgeous guitar teacher's band at the weekend, which was entertaining. On Saturday I went with Bestest Mate to Shaftesbury where we wandered about admiring the surreal shop window displays.

My favourite was the one which had two mannequins with hilariously poor Beatles wigs and guitars, and a series of round flat black plates (I think) with home-made labels on them saying things like "Penny Lane", (had a penny taped to the label), "Love Me Do" (had a load of glittery hearts scattered around) and various others, all in slightly different fonts and layouts. It was like an episode of Father Ted.

Somebody wants to win a prize.

Also, my mate Andy was here this evening for a flying visit, and brought his guitar, so we had a bit of a jam together. Was marvellous. He is really good, and can sing so we did a few songs together that sounded really nice. Unfortunately I am still coughing too much to sing decently, but it was nice to see him and have a go.

Had a message on the answerphone from Mr WithaY in Mexico. He sounds well, and it was lovely to hear his voice. I am pining a bit, it has to be said. What a sap I am.

Right. It's after 10...I need to go to bed or I won't be able to leap out of bed at 0600 with a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. Gah.

*the internet, obviously
**Cough and glare like a madwoman
***shove and barge, and cough as if you are dying of TB

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Started so I'll finish

So, first week in the new job is over.

Of the three days I went to London, I was trapped for ages at Waterloo by train delays and cancellations on two of them. This does not bode well.

I hope it was just an unfortunate glitch, having two out of the three home-bound trains so comprehensively messed up. If not, commuting is going to be a lot more trying than I had originally planned for.

I have slightly amended my plans as to which days I will be in London, too. I will do Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the office, and Wednesdays and Fridays at home.

I am giving it a couple of weeks before I start to insist on having my 2 days a week at home, as I think it's important to get as many first meetings in as possible, and if I am hard to reach it will not create a good impression.

Once I have a better handle on what I am doing, I will be able to say "Sorry, that is one of the days I work at home" if people try to set up meetings. Otherwise I'll end up going into the office every day, and that will kill me.

London though. Blimey. Busy, isn't it? And people are so pushy! And I need to re-adjust my thinking to "London rates" for the cost of things like a lunchtime sandwich.

I have an Oyster card! I am so proud.

I decided to walk up the escalator at Waterloo on my way home on Thursday, as I was anxious not to miss my train again. Foolishly, I committed to walking before I looked up at see how long the escalator was.

It was a looooong way up, and I was too embarrassed to then sheepishly step sideways into the line of "Are you kidding, we're not climbing all that way" people on the right. I thought I would die when I stepped off at the top.

Didn't though, so a bonus there. Was a bit red and wheezy while I stood reading the Delayed notice for my bloody train though.

Other news: Had my first guitar lesson last night for about 5 weeks and it was bloody excellent. It's incredible how much muscle strength I have lost in my hands just in that short time. I didn't have the heart to play much while I had bronchitis as I felt so crap, and couldn't sing at all. My voice is still sounding flaky. Hopefully another week or so will sort it.

I need to spend a lot of time practicing my barre chords and stretches, as I really struggled with the progression on "Back in Black", which I used to do reasonably easily.

Did anyone manage to get AC/DC tickets? I didn't. Gah.

Off to see my gorgeous guitar teacher's band tonight with my bestest mate, so am looking forward to that very much. Yay. Live music.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


Gosh, so much to tell.

First thing, Mr WithaY got off to Mexico safe and sound. But you know that because he's commented on the blog to tell me.

I can recommend the Sofitel hotel at Gatwick North. The room was more than adequate, the bed was large and comfy and the room service brought us pints of cider. Hurrah! We watched "Prince Caspian" on the in-house movie channel, and had a very pleasant evening.

The trip was enlivened by the lifts. The hotel is built with reception on the first floor, so when you walk in from the car park you have to go up a level. Once you check in they give you an electronic key card thingy so you can operate the main lifts to the bedroom floors and get into your room.

We checked in, were given the cards and headed off to the lifts, hauling all Mr WithaY's huge dive bags along with us. There were 2 lifts, both full of families with many huge bags, so we waited for them to get out and then send the lifts back down.

Lift number one went up and down several times, then finally came back to our floor, but another family with a ton of bags hopped in, so we waited for lift number two. It went to Floor 7, then Floor 4, then back to our floor. The doors opened and the same family were stood in there that we had watched get in several minutes earlier. We exchanged smiles in a "Tch, technology" way, and they vanished up to Floor 7 again. Then Floor 4, then back to us, and the doors opened and there they were again.

"Hello" we said to each other, still smiling. Off they went again. Level 7. Level 4. Back down to us. The doors opened. The little girl squealed with delight and jumped up and down when she saw us. The dad looked at us and muttered "Don't say a bloody word" as the doors closed.

We took the other lift, but not before I made some Americans laugh. They were waiting for the lift, and looking anxiously at the illuminated numbers as it went up.

"Does it come back down?" asked one?

"Oh yes, it goes both ways" I replied smart-arsedly. Heh.

Anyway, we had a very nice evening, and Mr WithaY was up in plenty of time for his 6am check-in. I drove home a little later and spent the rest of the day sorting stuff out for my scary new job.

Which I started on Monday.

It was ok, the journey is bloody long, and it takes me a whisker under 3 hours door to door, but it is do-able. Monday was fine. Tuesday, on the other hand...

I left the office at about 16:25 to get to Waterloo in time to catch the 16:50, which gets me home by about 7pm. I missed it literally by a minute, thanks to the dithering bastards on the Tube who were blocking doors and stairways, and then stopping dead the instant they got off the escalator. Fuckwits.

Not to worry, I thought. I can catch the next train at 17:20. But wait! What's this? The 17:20 to Exeter is CANCELLED.

Why? Fuck knows.

So. Me and about 300 other disgruntled West Country commuters mungoed about on the concourse, gawping hopefully up at the signs, as if that would magic the train up for us.

But then I spotted a crowd gathering on Platform 6. And, ahahahahaaaaaa, the helpful railway chap who I spoke to earlier had shown me the secret special timetable, which said that my train (the 17:50) would be coming to Platform 6. So, I joined the crowd and waited on Platform 6, hoping that was indeed where the train would show up.

Every now and again we caught the tail end of an announcement being made, one of which said our train was Delayed. Arse. The crowd was rapidly becoming a mob, but a British one, so there was a lot of harrumphing and sighing and rustling of newspapers, instead of pitchforks and broken windows and fire.

Eventually, 15 minutes late, the 17:50 rocked up and we stormed onto it, regardless of the poor rail staff trying to make us wait.

Two women had joined the crowd about 25 minutes after me, and were having a loud conversation about how funny it was to be so late. They were both of a certain age*, and were desperate for people to notice them. Desperate.

The fatter of the two started pushing her way to the front of the crowd, closer to the platform edge, making loud remarks about "I bet this is where the train doors will be when it gets here" while her quieter and thinner friend giggled stupidly.

The fat one then buttoned her cape-like coat up and stuck her chest out, making it look like she was heavily pregnant. "Now I'll get a seat" she smirked, making her witless companion laugh even harder.

I moved slightly so that she couldn't get any closer to the platform edge without shoving me, and the chap (about 6 foot 4, I reckon) I had been chatting to did the same, winking conspiratorially at me as he did so.

When the train arrived I took a great delight in standing on the witless one's feet as she tried to follow her fat unpleasant friend as she barged into the carriage in front of people who had been there a lot longer**. They were both very nasty and I hope they get boils. On their arses.

But apart from that, the job. Yes. Well, it is safe to say I am both a small fish in a big pond and a fish out of water. At the bottom of a steep learning curve. Without a paddle.

It will get better. Brrrrrr. Lawyers though. Brrrrrrrrr.

I am having to resist the urge to offer to draw schematic diagrams of the technical equipment procurement process, or explain how to steer a tank, just to try and contribute something.

And there are mice in the office. But apart from that, it's fine.

Other news: Went to see Father-in-Law WithaY in hospital this evening, which was good as he was a bit fed up. I left when the nurses were starting to get him ready for a session on the Walking Around Machine.

And I think the mole is definitely dead. Hurrah. Not that the bloody Mole-Away Techno-stick did any good. Money well spent there. Not.

*Probably slightly older than me, but not much.

**eg me

Saturday, 18 October 2008


Well, today we go up to Gatwick airport, stay in a hotel overnight, and I then drop Mr WithaY at the airport for his unbelievably early check-in on Sunday morning.

Why? Well, glad you asked, dear reader.

Because he is off to live on a boat out in the ocean off the coast of Mexico for 3 weeks as part of a marine biology shark tagging expedition. Guadalupe and the Revillagigedo (Socorro) Islands, off the Pacific coast of Mexico, to be precise.

And not just little cute Finding Nemo vegetarian sharks*, either. No, these are Scalloped Hammerheads and Great Whites. The plan, as far as I can deduce, is that they take turns being lowered into the ocean inside a cage, then poke the sharks with pointy sticks, trying to give them a funky fin piercing.

Now, is it just me, or does that sound like the kind of behaviour that would earn you an unexpected ride in an ambulance on a Saturday night, never mind attempting it with some of the largest marine predators around?


I do have an irrational fear of big fish, so my views on this are bound to be slightly prejudiced. But even so. Sharks! Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

The science bit:

It's all being done in conjunction with the Shark Research Institute (SRI), Centro De Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste, S.C. (CiB) and the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR), La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Check them out if you are interested.

*Apart from the Whale Sharks.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Slippery customer

Picture the scene. A large lady of a certain age* is resting on a satin chaise longue**, reading an improving book*** and nibbling on candied fruits****. From time to time she coughs delicately***** into a fine lace handkerchief.

Her beloved spouse returns to the family home, flushed with the success of his latest garnering mission.

"Hello darling" he says, cheerfully, bending to kiss his radient wife gently on the cheek.

"Hello darling," she replies. "Did you find what you needed at Mole Valley Farmers? I know you wanted to examine their range of excellent solid fuel stoves and fireplaces." We talk like that in the WithaY household.

"Oh yes," he replies. "But look what else I got!"


What does one say? No etiquette book I've ever read covers this eventuality.

The man is away at the weekend for a 3 week trip in a boat off the coast of Mexico, tagging huge fuck-off sharks. With a load of divers. And he comes home from Mole Valley Farmers with a litre of lambing lube.

For his wetsuit, I now know.

Well, I had to ask.

**red sofa
***Terry Pratchett
****digestive biscuits
*****makes noises like a cat bringing up a furball

Sunday, 12 October 2008


Lordy I am tired of being ill. I still have bronchitis, I am still coughing like Old Man Steptoe and I am still on a ton of drugs. Gah.

No news, no exciting events, nothing of any note other than more bloody whinging about being ill, which everyone is sick of. Especially me.

The single activity this week to take me out of the village consisted of driving to the railway station and buying my season ticket. I got about halfway before I had to pull over because I was coughing so much I thought I might explode my eyeballs out of my head.*

Have done a bit of ironing, a bit of laundry, a bit of cleaning, all in short bursts because I can't bloody BREATHE.

Gah. And Pah.

*I didn't, but it was close

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Whiskers on kettles

...or something.

I have nicked this from Belgian Waffle because I feel crap and want to think about nice stuff to cheer myself up.

So. Favourite things....

Clothes shop: Used to be Long Tall Sally (due to my freakish height) but I have discovered several other shops that cater to ladies of a certain stature. And therefore the winner of this category is (fanfare) Monsoon. The clothes are usually pretty, but the reason they get my vote is this. I went on a clothes shopping trip to Salisbury a while back to get some confidence-building workwear for my scary new job. I went into Monsoon and looked sadly at the rails, thinking everything would be too short/too small/tou young for me, like I do in clothes shops.

An elegant and charming assistant came up and asked me if I wanted any help. I muttered "Nurrrr...sarrite, kthnxbai" at her and continued dejectedly looking at stuff. Eventually, I picked up a pretty black top, which I thought might be ok, and went and draped scarves over it to see if I could make myself look stylish*.

She came back and said "Are you trying to find something to match that top, madam?" I said I was, so she asked me what I was looking for. I (bravely, I thought) then told her about the impending new job, lack of funky clothes, and fear of ridicule from the chic city types when I wandered through London in my trousers held up with baler twine.

She asked me what kind of clothes I was planning to wear, so I showed her my smart work trousers (I was wearing them at the time, handily), and said I usually wore black. She looked at me appraisingly, looked at the top I had in my hand, then scooted round the shop picking up a variety of tops in all kinds of colours. She put them in the changing room, told me to go and try them, and handed me a few scarves to accessorise with. It was great. I ended up buying a load of great stuff, all of which looks really nice, and felt like a new woman. When I left, she and her colleague both wished me good luck with the new job and told me I'd be fine. So. Monsoon.

Furniture Shop: Multiyork. They make magnificent sofas.

Sweet: Depends. I like Montezuma's chocolate very much but not sure if this qualifies, really. So, favourite sweet, of the sort that you can get at a petrol station, I'd say was Toblerone.

Music: Love love love AC/DC. I go through phases, and at the moment it's Tom Petty. Because I am trying hard to learn a load of his songs, I am paying a lot more attention to how he puts stuff together. It's all in the timing. And I adore his voice.

TV Series: Futurama. Bender is my hero. But am enjoying watching Scrubs which I hadn't seen before.

Film: The film I will cheerfully watch on any given rainy Sunday the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. Alan Rickman. Actually, love him in Galaxy Quest too.

Workout: When I actually get my lardy arse to the gym, I like using a cross trainer. I can waddle along for ages (listening to AC/DC on my iPod) and it doesn't feel like hell on toast, even though my legs are all wobbly when I stop.

Pastries: How European. Do pies count? And sausage rolls? If so, my home-made Christmas sausage rolls are in the top 3. Otherwise it's lardy cake, closely followed by the chocolate twist thingies they sell in the coffee shop** in Fish Row in Salisbury.

Coffee: I seldom drink coffee, not having much of a taste for it. I do like Lady Grey tea though, if that helps.

There. Now you know exactly how dull I really am. Enjoy.

*No, I can't.
**Might be Costa Coffee, not sure about that.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Chest update

Not what you think, probably.

I have been diagnised with acute bronchitis. Yay me! I'm cute!

I have a big box of extra strength antibiotics the size of marbles, which I have to take two (TWO! They're enormous!) twice a day.

Also, to add to my joy, I have a box of steroid pills, which I have to take six of once a day.

I read the enclosed leaflet.

Side effects include vomiting, psychosis and "hairyness". Reminds me, I must watch "An American Werewolf in London" again sometime.

I have been signed off work for "up to" 10 days but I think I will see how I feel after the end of this week and then decide whether to go in or not early next week.

I'd sigh deeply but it would make me cough.

Hack III - The Revenge

So. Absolutely nothing of any interest has happened to me in the last few days. Mainly because I have been spending my time alternating between:

1) Coughing until the top of my head feels like it is coming off and my lungs will shortly be appearing out of my nose.

2) Trying not to cough, then remembering that I am supposed to in order to expel the goo demons inhabiting my lungs.

3) Taking antibiotics. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. They've prescribed me the ones they give to people who have been exposed to Anthrax. Which makes me feel a bit special and Secret Agent-y.

4) Drinking water. It says I have to on my Anthrax-b-Gone pill packet.

5) Crying like a big girl. This mostly happens at night when I am exhausted and unable to sleep because of activities (1) and (2). I am currently exiled to the spare room, so that Mr WithaY can get some sleep and doesn't try to kill me in the night after I keep him awake with activities (1), (2) and (5). On the plus side, I get to wake up and do the "Where am I?" thing every day, looking adorably like Clara Bow.*.

6) Listening to my chest rattle. This is both gross and alarming but unavoidable when I lay down to begin my nightly cough/hack/weep/cough routine.

7) Phoning my new boss and trying to croak down the phone at him until he understands that his shiny new team member is both unreliable and a sickly old bat. He must be delighted.

8) Trying to read the huge scary heap of documents I brought home last week and realising I am so far out of my depth with my new job that I don't even know where to start.

9) Trying to get another appointment with the doctor** to see if I am improving or just sinking into a Romantic Poet stylee decline.

Still. Mustn't grumble.

*In my head

**2.30 today. Hurrah. They just called me back.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


I have a chest infection.


I went to the doctor today as I have been coughing more and more since Saturday. He listened to my chest, and said I was rattling. Ugh. I have a week's worth of antibiotics and some really horrible cough medicine.

One amusing thing. It wasn;t my usual doctor, and as he looked at my records on the computer, he seemed puzzled.

Doctor: Have you ever been much (pause) heavier than you are now?

Me: Um, no, I think this is about as fat as I've ever been*. Why do you ask?

Doctor: Well, according to your records, you weigh 245 Kg. How tall are you?

Me: Five foot ten.

Doctor: That gives you a body mass index of about 75. (Looks at me again) Hmm, that can't be right.

He then insisted on weighing me, just to make sure I didn't in fact weigh as much as a small bus.

So. Even a trained medical professional had to check that I am not quite so huge that walls would need to be demolished to get me out of his office. Gah.

*Thanks for asking you git