Friday, 31 December 2010

Not with a bang...

I won't be doing any firework-gazing, binge drinking or shrill cheering to see in the new year. I may have a cup of tea, though...

The reason for this is that I am absolutely exhausted after this week's work experience. Today was excellent, but likewise tiring. I was back on the Register to help out with odds and ends again. I got to open two big stacks of letters to the editor. I was warned to weigh the letters in my hand before opening them, and not to open any with objects in them. All a bit alarming, but I got to use a letter opener, so I was feeling rather intrepid. I had to sort the letters into usable, nutcases, and subscription complaints. There were more nutters than anything else.  My top three were a psychic who knew how to locate Madeline McCann, a 93½-year-old man who was upset that Sophia (capital of Georgia) is included in the weather forecasts as he doesn't want to go there, and a man who has discovered that the police are Satanists.

I was also asked to come up with a list of fun or interesting websites. Anyone who has spent a Mundane Monday in my company (in fact, anyone who knows me at all well) will have a good idea of my vigour completing this task. I even discovered a few that were new to me!

The rest of the day was taken up with proofreading, writing a brief saint's day entry, checking details for the birthday bit and more website hunting. All very good fun, but my head was spinning slightly by the end. The lovely (and scarily young) lady ostensibly in charge of me bought me lunch at Pret and we discussed the world of journalism and Michael Bublé. 

I stayed at the flat last night, as The Godmother was kind enough to let me join her on her production shift, which is why there was no post yesterday. It was very good fun, lots of rushing around and reading things over people's shoulders. Some people remembered me! I was very flattered. I mean, they're bona fide (and very busy) journalists, and I was there for one evening over a month ago. 

Now I am going to see in the new year in bed, with my mother's delicious lebkuchen and maybe a cup of tea if I can be bothered to get up and make one. Not very glamourous or sociable of me, but exactly what I feel like.

Happy 2011, hope it lives up to expectations!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tea (go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!)

Resistance is futile

Never underestimate the power of tea. This is mostly what I am learning on work experience (in addition to al that researching/writing/ethics stuff). The Godmother keeps her own stash of teabags in her desk, as making your own is much nicer than drinking the stuff from the rather intimidating vending machine (it has a card-scanner and as such is off-limits to me) and also hot water is free. 

Tea breaks are an essential part of working life (I have now showed up to an office three days in a row and am thus more than qualified to make this argument), especially, I suspect, if you don't smoke. Sitting back and closing your eyes for a few seconds is not nearly as effective in giving your mind a break as wandering off to prepare a hot beverage (and may also get you in trouble if your boss comes round). Tea is soothing, invigorating and warming, and keeps you hydrated to boot! In short, excellent stuff. Thank you, tea, for making another day more pleasant. 

In case you were wondering if I got up to anything apart from all the tea-drinking, I should tell you that I have embarked upon a list the likes of which the world has never seen. Law students with subscriptions will be thanking me for generations to come. 

Also, bing is an entirely inferior search engine. Because I say so. 

I'm afraid that's about as much coherent thought as anyone's going to get out of me until I've slept. Very much looking forward to tomorrow, you may be bemused to hear.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tower of glass

I had a fun second day of work experience today (although I can't tell you how glad I am to be back to my laptop keyboard - the big rattly News International ones with all the extra buttons are a bit too big for my hands, I think), mostly because I got to spend the day with The Godmother. I did some writing up of an article, and some trawling the web for law-related things. It was good fun, mostly, I think, because I was sitting next to someone I know and like, and not trying to exude hire-me professionalism. 

Lunch was free again today (something to do with the bank holiday), and I had a surprisingly good chicken stirfry. In the canteen, The Godmother introduced me to a terrifyingly well-dressed woman (you know, the kind who can actually pull off minimalism. I know.) and pointed out all sorts of exciting people. Journalists are interesting, it's not just a stereotype. 

It's very good fun sitting in a newspaper's offices, listening to everyone tracking down stories and gossiping. It's also fun seeing your name in the paper! My You Are The Editor letter was published today. I know it's not a real byline, but still. My parents have been informed. 

Today, I decided to bring you a picture of the amazing building I've been spending all my time in:

There are 13 floors of this

Apologies for the picture quality, surreptitious photography is pretty difficult in a building full of journalists. It actually looks quite a bit nicer, with identical pot-plants on every floor and lots of glass everywhere. I'm seriously lusting after one of the staff ID cards that let you in everywhere - you scan the barcode to get in and out, and to pay for food etc in the canteen. Very space age!

That's pretty much all I have time for today - my brain really needs to switch off. Speaking of which, I hear there's going to be a new series of Snog, Marry, Avoid...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Short sharp shock

Today was back to work for me. Almost real work, in fact. Work experience

Anyway, today was my first day back behind the paywall and it was exhausting. I was helping out with the Register (lovely people, lots of little jobs to do so I didn't get bored) and I was asked to write another You Are The Editor piece. Apparently I picked up on something the actual editor took issue with about today's edition, so I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. Perhaps that's what I can aspire to, when I need to do the reliable income thing, instead of subdom. I think bossing people about and holding meetings would be much more fun! Also I would have excellent business cards. 

My highlights today were having (free!) lunch with the Register people and hearing all about their careers (the general consensus is that contacts are extremely important, and you should apply to places setting up new sections, especially registers, as they always need an extra pair of hands) and conducting a phone interview with a man about his two-month-old daughter. He was so enthusiastic! And he'd named his daughter after a cheese!

Still, going from festive flopping to intense screen-gazing quite wrung me out. I have recovered due to two excellent things:

1. The Godmother very kindly picking me up from the station. I was very tired and it was rather cold, and three whining old men on the train had given me a headache, so it was much appreciated. 

2. These:

Imagine choral music playing in the background

Absolutely the best thing ever. I was lucky enough to get a box for Christmas, and this evening I decided to try the (heartily recommended) resting-a-waffle-on-a-hot-cup-of-tea trick. So good. My teacup is now covered in chocolate and so am I, and I really don't care.

If you want to learn more about this most magical of snacks, check out the Tregroes website.

In other news, the Misfits Christmas Special (which really shouldn't be a real thing) was excellent. Best line: "Where are you going?" "I'm going to kill Jesus." It did compound my fear of pregnant women, however.

Must sign off now, as I am going to have to get up in the morning (again! What's with that?) and will need some time to faff around before I'm ready for the sweet oblivion of sleep.


No, you can't have one. 

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing times

In fact, today involved very few boxes and no boxing at all. Disappointed? 

What I mostly did was laze about. There was a brief period of bustling activity when everyone in the house (excluding W who had dragged himself off to work) joined forces to create a lasagne, chopping, stirring, grating, washing and keeping an eye on the rugby. It was most delicious, but again I ate the evidence before remembering my camera. 

This afternoon involved some excellent Girl Time, as my mother, The Godmother and I bonded over nail polish fumes. We've ended up with some pretty dashing talons: 

Guess which hand is mine!
My father was less impressed. Luckily, he had the TV and his iPad to retreat to.

We had a quite interesting (™) discussion about make-up, as well. The Godmother says that you need plenty of practice while you're younger to perfect it, and that you should check whether you need to change your make-up every decade, as your skin pigment changes. She uses it to distract from features she doesn't like. My mother has never been much of a one for make-up, and doesn't really want to suddenly start now. I enjoy make-up, and am slowly getting better at it with practice. I think it's important for definition. I used to catch glimpses of my make-upless face reflected in shop windows out and about in town and not recognise myself, my features all sort of blending together. If my daily 10 minutes in front of the mirror (at least!) has no other value, it's given me a stronger sense of myself, and I sometimes feel that by taking control of my appearance, I am in some way taking control of myself. That might sound incredibly shallow, but I think if you don't spend time getting to know your face, you're at the same disadvantage as a blind person, unable to control which emotions you display and cut off from part of the self that others interact with. This logic also makes the hours I spent in front of mirrors teaching myself to raise one eyebrow worthwhile.

Rhetoric over, and it's time for bed again! I'm going behind the paywall again for another week of work experience starting tomorrow, so I will need my beauty sleep!

Wish me luck!


For those of you who hadn't noticed, today was Christmas. In fact, for me, last night was also Christmas, as we've had something of a two-day Yuletide extravaganza. 

At about 4pm yesterday, we packed up all the presents and lovingly wrapped stocking fillers into may parents' and The Godmother and W's car and headed for Sussex. There was method in our madness, however, as this is where W's sister lives, above her restaurant. After dropping our bags off at the traditional (for The Godmother and W, anyway) B&B up the road, we meandered down to the Old Forge (W's sister's restaurant) for supper. Her two children and a family friend were there, her husband having swanned off to Australia to participate in some sport-related male bonding ritual. 

It was all rather festive:

The waiter had a somewhat frosty demeanour, ho ho
The meal (a chicken basque pre-prepared by my mother and The Godmother while we were out shopping during the day and carefully packed for the journey) went down very well, and it all got decidedly congenial as a round of extremely bad jokes reduced The Godmother to hysterics, from which she did not entirely recover for the rest of the night. There was also a lot of cricket talk, but I managed to tune it out. 

After pudding (apple and plum crumble, and jelly made from the grapes grown in The Godmother's garden), we staggered back up the hill in the cold. It was about half 11, and the church we passed was ringing its bells enthusiastically, and had parishioners filing in for some sort of midnight mass. Much more sensibly, we all went to the B&B and to bed. 

I was sharing a room with Hodge, my (by that stage rather merry) little brother.

Look at the excitement on his little face!
 I would like to say that I got a good night's sleep like a grown-up who is only proportionately excited about Christmas, but sadly Hodge's alarm went off at 6am and I had quite a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. I did manage to pass out before the 8am bells, though (apparently Sussex is the true home of festive campanology) which everyone else apparently heard.

As soon as I was sufficiently upright, I tiptoed downstairs to my parents' room to unwrap my stocking, bringing my mother's (by now overflowing) stocking with me.

I got a pretty good haul in my spotty sock!

Pre-shower, post-frenzied unwrapping
 Stocking highlights included: some lovely warm gloves (with fingers! A new experience for me this year), stationery, gorgeous nail polishes, a year's supply of toiletries (very nice ones, too!), a shoe polishing kit, a chocolate Father Christmas (so I can show my gratitude by... eating him) and some fancy pens.

When we were ready (they complained that I took too long, but then I didn't end up leaving things hanging up in the wardrobe, did I, Hodge?) we trooped back down to the Old Forge for breakfast, and later a marathon of present opening. W was just about buried under his pile of presents and although he stared unwrapping first, he finished well after everyone else (although admittedly he was somewhat held up by trying to remove a new glass Christmas plate from a box of polystyrene balls without snowing all over the floor. He failed miserably, but did give an impromptu and accidental demonstration of the power of static electricity). We were all very spoiled, and rather than list the loot, I bring you probably the best-suited present of the day:

Whisky cheese
Yes, you read that right. Hodge was delighted.

After listlessly kicking the discarded wrapping paper into a sort-of-pile, we gathered around the restaurant's largest table for lunch.

Once again, I completely forgot to take a picture of the food before devouring it, but luckily my mother eats much slower than me:

Christmas dinner, featuring a pumpkin home-grown by The Godmother
There was about 10 minutes of absolute silence as we demolished the food, before silliness broke out again. The crackers came with one or two, well, crackers: 

Surprise guest Hercule Poirot getting into the festive spirit
It had to happen, really. There were more bad jokes, as I had found a small tin marked 'Silliest Jokes' in my stocking. We passed it around the table, taking it in turns to read them out. My two favourites were:

Q: What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup?
A: Anyone can roast beef. 

Q: Where do you find a dog with no legs?
A: Right where you left him. 

Jokes were followed by biscuits and Christmas pudding. As I have absolutely no interest in Christmas pudding or its accoutrements, here is the dazzling array of biscuits:

I'm not even going to try to name them all. Just imagine something unpronouncably German and you're halfway there.
After the pudding had been speedily demolished and several cups of tea and coffee quaffed, we all helped tidy up. I dried quite a few glasses and was very glad this isn't my day job.

Candles were lit on the Christmas tree, and everything got very Teutonically festive:

New prettiest fire hazard of the week!
When we did eventually take our leave, we were all rather sad to be heading off into the cold night. I got over it by sleeping for most of the hour-long drive. This evening, we have 'flopped around in helpless apathy', as the Godmother would say, and watched some Poirot. I made a bit of carbonara for supper, but only Hodge had space to join me, and even then only wanted a tiny plate. I was reproached for not having gorged myself properly. Is this how rebellious hyenas feel?

I'm quite full now, in any case, having had supper and rather a few Fruit Pastilles (also from my stocking) while watching Doctor Who. I'll sleep well tonight!

Speaking of, have a great day tomorrow, hope you have lots of fun with boxes!

(For any non-UK readers (including the boyf), Boxing Day coincides with St Stephen's Day and is usually a bank holiday. It is apparently so-named due to a Victorian custom of packing boxes to give to the needy to spread the Christmas cheer. Don't worry about it too much.)

Friday, 24 December 2010


All bustle etc here as we prepare to set off on an expedition... somewhere. Before I go, I have to say: Merry Christmas one and all! (And to all a good night!)

Festive cheer and wrapping paper

 Absolutely knackering, excellent day today. This morning, after a brief stint as chief pannettone-toaster, I caught a lift into Woking and did a quick stocking-filler shop with my mother, mostly featuring a trip to the conveniently located South African food shop (for those who don't know, my parents are bona fide South Africans (and thus technically Dirty Immigrants), and I come from a background of boerewors, braais, koeksisters and biltong) near the station. Then it was onto a train to Waterloo to meet Whizzkid and Percy (another university friend (this nickname is long-standing, I'm sure you can work out why) who is similarly awesome) for lunch.

We ate at Maxwell's in Covent Garden. The food was OK, but not really up to the prices (although I had my first milkshake in months, so I wasn't complaining) and we were probably the worst behaved people in a restaurant full of children.

Despite Percy's apprehensive expression, he's actually the one taking the picture
Having demolished lunch at superhuman speed, we embarked upon some pretty efficient Christmas shopping before I had to catch my train.

Whizzkid was trying to find something for each of his parents, and having absolutely slated my first idea (so angrily that I won't even repeat it here), he decided my somewhat snarky suggestion of 'a tie or something' was exactly right. A quick search on his Gadget revealed that the only tie shops in London that aren't bondage-related are Tie Rack, so that is where we went.

Searching for a tie that fit Whizzkid's rather exacting standards got boring quite fast, so we became the worst behaved people in Tie Rack, too.

What can I say? Hats are exciting:

This should be a movie poster
On the hunt for maternally-appropriate presents, we of course headed straight to Muji, where I discovered I would quite like a cape. Percy was rather taken with the 19th-century-ness of the one I tried on (sadly no picture, maybe next time I stop by) and it was surprisingly snug, but sadly cost much more than the Uniqlo coat I've had my eye on, so I don't think this will be my alternative. 

After a few smart buys, we left and I had to rush off back to Woking to meet my imminently-arriving father and brother. 

It has been excellent to see them again, but as they brought all the presents with them, this evening has been hard graft. So much wrapping!

My mother and I breezed through the actual Christmas presents, and then started on the mountain of stocking fillers. My back hurts.

Hours of wrapping, soon to be minutes of shredding
Each of those bags is for a different person. It took a while.

Stockings are a Christmas tradition that I'm glad we've kept despite growing up. The unwrapping is half the fun! It follows, therefore, that in a balanced universe, the wrapping should be some sort of negative fun... 

The stockings this year are very cute, though:

It seems a shame to hideously distend them with gifts...
Now I really must go to bed, as there are probably all sorts of things to do tomorrow. 

I may be setting off into an internetless void tomorrow, so if I am, have a great Christmas and remember not to take anything too seriously!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The N-word...

Today was all very Journalism School-y, Public Affairs, Law etc etc but more importantly, I got to go to my happy place!

Nando's. I live for that sweet, spicy chicken.

Apparently peri peri sauce has side effects...
I rushed to Waterloo this evening after Law (Wheelie (I keep changing his nickname! What's his actual name, again?) invited us to the pub to meet his brother! Sadly I had a prior commitment I just couldn't ignore) to get the train back to semi-thawed Woking, where I met my mother for dinner. Before entering the Hallowed Halls of Nando's, we did a bit of shopping. I tried on some very nice dresses in New Look (sadly my photos didn't turn out well, due to some pretty weird lighting in the changing rooms), she bought a rather pretty jumper from H&M (she's not sure whether further clothing supplies will in fact be arriving with my father and brother) and we had a general wander, getting slightly lost on the way to Nando's. I love shopping with my mother. We can talk and ramble around and admire things without getting too caught up. I also like the fact that she has quite exacting standards about what she will and will not wear. It can make, say, jumper shopping, a bit more challenging, but I'm glad to know it's not just me.

Dinner was delicious, of course, but I think I talked too much. I always talk too much, though, so my mother is probably used to it. I would have loved to have tried one of the puddings that always look so good on the menu, but sadly the main course portions at Nando's are exactly the right size to fill me up completely (especially with a bottomless soft drink - if I don't have at least two refills, it's not value for money). Perhaps one day I'll go just for pudding, but that would mean passing up on the chicken... it's a tough one, and no mistake.

Merry Christmas to everyone at Journalism School, who I am not going to see until after the new year, what with one thing and another (OK, mostly work experience).

Now it is yet again bedtime, so I must sign off as I am going to be very busy tomorrow and it was extremely difficult getting out of bed this morning.

Current festive status: full and sleepy

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cold hands type fast!

Good news: the snow appears to be melting. A bit. Well, at least there's snow and slush rather than snow and ice, in these parts. Got to stay positive, or I'll end up disembowelling someone with their ice-scraper. 

This morning, with the video camera still not returned to Journalism School, I took the executive decision to get the last bit of filming done while I had the chance, rather than sit in Public Affairs for three hours. My mother and The Godmother had stayed in the flat overnight, and very kindly brought the camera along to Spitalfields Market where I (eventually) met them (and The Other Godmother (I have three. These two are the most recent, but I see them the most), who had come to spend some quality time with her two university buddies. And me, possibly). I got a few more establishing shots, two more voxpops, and then the camera ran out of battery. But at least I managed to assuage my fear of not having nearly enough footage to piece together a film. A bit, anyway. I still have to do the dreaded Piece To Camera (last time they let me in front of a camera, I spontaneously invented a TV show called 'Pubs!' in blind panic), but I think I can do that somewhere snowy or markety in January and get away with it. 

Spitalfields Market was having a jewellery day, and had I not been hampered by that infernal tripod, you would have lots and lots of sparkly pictures to admire. I have given it all back, so hopefully you can look forward to a veritable album tomorrow, with both my hands free. I did have to take a couple of shots, however, when we wandered into Foxbat, a shop in the main market building. 

It was all very colourful and exciting, not least because they turned out to stock a kind of handbag that The Godmother has been looking for for a very long time. 

The clothes! The prices! (Maybe when I'm rich...)

They had some very nice coats, and a huge square purple silk tunic printed with pandas, which was rather mesmerising. 

You'll be pleased to hear that I made it back in time for Law. Sadly, Wheels set us homework (the vile machinations of the Tornado at work), which I must now do. He was very apologetic about it, but there are also lots of questions. Hmm. 

That's it. I am quite exhausted after going to bed a little bit too late last night and all the exciting physical exertions of filming again today (it doesn't seem fair to call Whizzkid up on the pretext of hanging out, only to have him lug the tripod about for me), and I have a lot of legal ramblings to rattle off, so I'll leave it there. 

Current festive status: frazzled

Land of the midnight sun

Well, not quite, but you could forgive me for thinking I was in the Arctic circle today:

Taken this morning, just before it started snowing again. 
Yes, snow! I survived it, although Superchef was apparently trapped in Doncaster and then taken ill (whether from the weather or from Doncaster, we may never know), so let that be a lesson to you all. Or something.

This has to be a very quick post as I've just got back from London Town, after a very delicious dinner with The Godmother and my mother (who made it through the snow from Edinburgh! Hooray!) at the poshest kebab shop in town (no, really (I would have taken pictures, but I got distracted by eating everything (the best bread in town, too!))). The overground wasn't working, so I had to get a bus and then take a couple of tubes, but the important thing is I eventually made it home.

Got a good lot of filming done today. Hopefully the end will soon be nigh for my VJ project! Also met the manager of Camden Market, who was very nice and didn't even kick me out for not having permission to film! Actually, I was feeling like a hard-nosed journo, as I'd already finished filming and wouldn't have much minded being escorted off the premises as I was in a bit of a hurry to go and meet my mother at King's Cross. Good thing it all worked out in the end!

Right, must actually collapse into a dazed slumber now, as I have even more Weather to brave tomorrow. Goodnight!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The little things

As I'm sure the last thing anyone needs is more whining about snow, I have decided on a more positive post for today (I'll save the weather rants for tomorrow, when I've actually attempted travel). 

At the risk of sounding a total Pollyanna, here are some of the little things that cheer me up on grey days:

...I'm such a girl
1. My purple umbrella (yes, that's what that odd cylindrical thing is). I got it from M&S years ago and still enjoy surrounding my head with colour when it's raining. 

2. My favourite socks (not all pictured). For some reason, a lot of my favourite socks have animals on them. The pink pig ones are my absolute favourites at the moment. Who could be gloomy wearing those?

3. My most colourful scarf. Knitted by my mother, with enough colours in it to go with anything. Also very warm, which is much appreciated at the moment!

4. Nail polishes. Somewhat hypocritical of me to include these, as I still haven't got around to repainting my nails despite a weekend of doing precisely nothing, but they snuck in anyway. I'm quite tempted to go straight back to blue, actually...

5. Books! I'm still devouring My Name Is Red on my train journeys (and often my bus journeys as well, although that's more risky), but I've included its precedents. Norwegian Wood was amazing, and Year Of The Flood was the sequel I didn't know I was looking for, so I'm pretty pleased with my choices! I can live without books, but it feels like something's missing (similar to music). Wedged in between irritable commuters for half an hour, reading is time travel!

6. Magazines! (Under there somewhere... You can just see Carey Mulligan peeking out.) I read these much, much slower than books, but they still never seem to last. My chosen field of work, so yeah... I read quite a lot of them. Can't say I find it a chore, though!

7. Jewellery. Man, I love shiny things. (This isn't a fraction of my collection - most of it's still in Scotland, and I have to admit I miss it.)

8. My iPod. No, it's not a shiny new touch-screen thingamabob with bells and whistles, but it compensates with a very decent battery life, and as all I want it for is music, that's fine by me! Currently playing quite a lot of Christmas carols (it's time!).

9. Crafts (represented by my pincushion). I really like making things! Not much of a seamstress yet, but I'll get there. I really like being able to fix my own belongings, though. In my university days, my sewing kit did sterling service. Make do and mend!

10. Make-up (there are a few representatives dotted around the place). I'm not really into heavy make-up (I hope... this is one of those areas where you set your own standards) but I do like a bit of colour, especially on grey days! This winter, I have turned to blusher to make me look alive. Sometimes, make-up is the enemy, as demonstrated by the whole Black Lipstick Affair (as it shall now be known), but on the whole I like the way it makes every day a little bit special.

What little things cheer you up?

On the subject of cheeriness... We've had an email telling us that our video journalism teacher has been struck down by flu, and what with the weather and everything, those of us who do want to turn up to Journalism School tomorrow should leave it until noon, at least, and phone up ahead of time to make sure there's actually someone there to have unlocked. The rest of the week may be similar. Exciting times!

Sad person that I am, I actually want to go in tomorrow, as I really need to get all the filming for my VJ project done. Whether I manage or not remains to be seen... It'll be good to be able to clock off at my own discretion, though, as my mother is coming down tomorrow! I really hope she makes it, although she is the sort of person to initiate a spontaneous sing-song on a stranded train so I'm sure she'll be fine whatever happens. I do very much want to see her, though!

Right, that's quite enough blogging for now. Time for bed, methinks.

Goodnight, and I hope no one gets stranded/snowed in/eaten by wolves!


I'm sure it will be news to no one that I opened my curtains this morning to find this:

Just another early bracing blizzard 
(Quite literally, in fact. I took these pictures only moments after having rolled out of bed, tugged back the curtains and recoiled from the blinding whiteness.)

You just know that car will be discovered a few millennia from now by wide-eyed tribesmen, in the centre of a glacier 
It turns out a new Ice Age has arrived, and soon we will be up to our eyebrows in wise-cracking sloths. 

A good portion of this morning was taken up with sitting, tea in hand, watching the snow with dawning apprehension. We can open the door, but that shouldn't be something you have to check!

Both W and The Godmother had to cancel their entire busy Saturday, and my half-formed notions of getting a bit of shopping done and later maybe baking went out of the window. 

As you can tell from the garden, I'm basically in Narnia right now 
Deprived of the outside world (yes, we probably could have gone outside, and yes, the trains etc are apparently coping much better this time around, but let's not spoil the illusion), we got down to some serious decorating:

When you can't go out to get a Christmas tree, you have to improvise. This is a money tree, and I think it's doing sterling work as a stand-in!
That is to say, I got down to some serious decorating. W. was suffering from the combination of a cold and cricket on TV, and The Godmother supervised and generally got other things done.

I'm particularly proud of the mantlepiece decoration, which I improvised (mostly from pine cones):

Good Housekeeping's due to snap me up any day now!
Note the lovely painting, which we also hung today. Quite a lot of 'right a bit... left a bit...' but we got there in the end.

I can't take credit for The Godmother's lovely candelabra and stunning candles, but I'd like to!

The prettiest fire hazard of the week!
In other news, I had to change the lightbulb in my bedroom (which caused a small but exciting power cut when it blew) and made myself pancakes for supper. It's been one of those days! I do think I needed a day like this, though. I've (weirdly) quite enjoyed going back to classroom learning (well, some of it), and my new hectic lifestyle is at least not boring (well, some of it), but I do need a break every now and then! I think having to go in for an exam last Saturday and whizzing through my Christmas shopping on Sunday might have had something to do with how tired I've been this week...

Speaking of which, I'm going to go to bed! (I really need to post in the daytime more, so  can say something more exciting!)

P.S.: Happy birthday to my wonderful aunt! 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow, markets and the world's heaviest tripod

First up, an illustration of why I hate winter:

View from the bathroom window as I was getting ready this morning
Yes, sunrises are very picturesque and everything, but I would rather they were things of rare beauty because I seldom saw them. Winter has other ideas. I just feel sorry for the student types I know who risk sleeping through the daylight hours at this time of year, and living in perpetual darkness. 

Today was Multimedia Portfolio at Journalism School, which is basically Get On With Whatever You Need To Get On With Time. Which was very much appreciated, as what with all this learning things in a classroom, I've barely got anything else done this week. 

I started my Video Journalism project today, which was a relief as I was worried that the Christmas markets I was planning to film would have packed up and gone by the time I got around to it.

My very wonderful friend Whizzkid came along to help me out. I'm not allowed help with the actual filming, but having someone there to help lug the tripod about (I could deal with heavy, awkward or snagging on my clothes. Maybe even two out of three. All three made me a bit grumpy, by the end, despite all the festiveness), tell me if I was in shot when I'm interviewing and generally keep me company was probably the only reason I survived. 

We went to the market on the South Bank (right next to the London Eye) first. It was surprisingly small and deserted, but there were a few good shops.

I was ambushed by chocolate yet again: 
Probably the most popular stall we saw, for some reason

Real snow on the stalls!

Whizzkid and his (smartphone) baby
After about half an hour freezing and filming, we trekked (quite literally) over to Hyde Park to the Winter Wonderland, which had a much more impressive market. There was an animatronic singing reindeer head, but sadly although I filmed it, I forgot to take a still picture. Whizzkid got very excited, because it was singing Auld Lang Sine, which is apparently his favourite song.

Festive Consumerism

I love helter skelters so much
After some more speedy filming (it's quite hard to set up a tripod when you're worried your fingers are going to freeze to it), we parted ways for a while, so I could return the camera kit. We met up in Covent Garden a while later, and I tried to repay him by helping him shop for a Christmas present for his girlfriend (who I have sadly yet to meet, as she is in Sweden). We wandered around looking for 'those shops that sell stuff you'd never normally look at but girls like', Whizzkid exhibited a taste for designer socks, and we eventually found a few nice things. The highlight for me was when we were in one of those crystal/incense shops, and Whizzkid got a mood ring stuck on his finger. After a few minutes of frantic tugging, he freed himself, only to complain that it still hadn't changed colour. Thankfully the staff were too busy convincing a woman she needed to make an appointment to be 'read' to notice. (Apparently tonight was a really bad time to meet a Gemini.)

It is technically tomorrow, and although I have big plans for a lie-in, I do want to get a few things done, so I will sign off for now.

Please melt, snow!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Very, very quickly

No picture tonight, and probably a distinct lack of coherence, as I am about to go to bed, having just come back from the pub where I last saw my fellow students from Journalism School. Hope they are continuing to have a good night (I hear there are plans to continue into the small hours), my bed was calling me.

The best thing about this evening was that Wheelie, our lovely law teacher, came along! He bought lots and lots of drinks for people and we got the chance to have a proper chat with him without cutting into Law Time. He really is a lovely man.

Bob came along too, but he's practically one of us as it is. He drinks Guinness. Lots and lots of Guinness.

Also I talked a lot to a lot of people and generally had a very nice time.

Hopefully I'll be more voluble tomorrow (I drank a lot of water...)


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Jeans, jeans and more jeans (featuring my favourite socks)

 This evening, after Journalism School, I went on a maternally-sanctioned hunt for a pair of jeans. This proved to be a bit of a mission, as usual, despite the fact I only went to two shops, Gap and Uniqlo (I'm going to have to start charging them for advertising), before I'd had enough and wanted to go home. I tried on lots and lots of jeans, and took pictures of the ones I quite liked. Embark with me upon a voyage of denim discovery!

First up, Gap:

I had to guesstimate my size, as it's been so long since I last tried jeans on. A 30/30 made me look a bit like a (slightly conservative) rapper. I went for 28/30, but they were still a bit roomy at the back of the waistband (usually a problem for me, admittedly), although less so with the skinny jeans.

1: 1969 Skinny (£29.50)
1: 1969 Skinny jeans, in a nice dark-washed denim.

I like the quality of jeans in Gap, which is the reason it was my first stop. These were comfy, not too tight anywhere and a useful shade of denim (although it didn't come out too well in the picture). My problem here is that I'm still not sure about skinny jeans. I may be growing to love my (mostly thermal) leggings (although I tend to wear them under trousers as well, these days...), but skinny jeans? My own boyfriend has told me I can look 'stumpy' from a distance, so clearly I need to be careful. I am also genetically blessed with cyclist's thighs. 7/10

2: 1969 Always Skinny £39.50
2: 1969 Always Skinny, washed denim

Again with the skinny jeans thing! They do fit well around the hips (too well...?) and are pretty comfy. Again, I like the colour. A lighter denim, so less easy to dress up, but will go with more of my casual clothes. 7/10

3: Long and lean Stretch (39.95)

3: Long and lean Stretch jeans, dark blue denim

These felt much more me, I must admit. Looking at the pictures, though, I'm not sure if they're as flattering... Comfortable, with a bit of a flare, but (as mentioned above) a little loose around the waist. Not sure a 26 would fit, though. I do like these, but in retrospect I don't think I liked them the most. 6/10

4: Curvy Stretch (£45) 
4: Curvy Stretch jeans, in black denim

Black is calling me again! So easy to wear, and it matches almost all my clothes! I liked the denim, and preferred the cut to the Long and leans, but they're that little bit more expensive, and they were the worst offenders on the loose-waist front. I didn't see any smaller sizes. 7/10

 Next up, Uniqlo:
(Uniqlo only does skinny jeans, or some variation thereon, as it turns out. However, they do in-between sizes, which is useful, as judging by the jeans I tried on there I am a 27/30. Sadly, their jeans come in a standard 33 length, although they do do same-day alterations)

 Maybe it's just the way I'm standing in these pictures, but wow, hips.

Also Uniqlo wins on the changing-room front.

5: Perfect Shape Straightleg Jeans (£29.95)
5: Perfect Shape Straightleg Jeans, stretchy light denim

Apart from the slightly excessive length, I rather liked these! I liked the denim colour, they were comfortable and the denim was nice and soft. On the downside, just look at my hips! Would I attain a complex wandering around wearing these? Quite light fabric, too (I resisted the thermal jeans)... They looked more skinny than straight leg. 7/10

6: Women Knit Leggings Trousers (£24.99)
6: Women Knit Leggings Trousers, stretchy jegging-type things

Aside from the fact that the name sounds like a quaint but dull headline, these were a bit of a cheat. I was  hankering after leggings again after just an hour and a half of jean shopping - they're so much easier to buy! These were the comfiest thing ever, I should add. Not really jeans, though... 6/10

There you have it! I would have been happy to own any of these, to be honest (I'm down to one regularly-worn pair of jeans these days), but I marked harshly for reviewing's sake! I may have to go jeans shopping again (I didn't actually buy any, just did a bit of industrial espionage), but not until the weekend.

I did spot a very nice coat in Uniqlo:

Down from £99.99 to £49.99. I was very tempted to just buy it then and there, but I didn't want to wipe out my funds. I do want a new coat, but I suspect it's going to have to wait until after Christmas (but I tried on the small, in case anyone extremely generous is reading this...). Seriously, though, coat shopping is so much easier than jeans shopping! You can just try one on out on the shop floor and you only have to worry about taking pictures surreptitiously. 

That's it for now, as it is late.

Goodnight, and may you dream of jeans!


Sad person that I am, I find the contents of my hotmail junk folder very exciting. I never get these emails on my other accounts, and sometimes secretly feel I am missing out on the fun. Also, it seems a shame for all the effort people put into these emails to go to waste.Therefore, this evening as an exciting bonus, I bring you all the offers I am missing out on (before they're automatically deleted):

Hello Friend, 
My name is MR. SALIF ALI, and i am the bill and exchange manager of. (B.O.A) bank of Africa here in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso West Africa, and i have a business proposal for you which valued amounted sum of ($15 Million United States Dollar) and i agreed to shear this success blessing money with you when this money has be transferring to your bank account in your country in ratio of (40% for you) and (60% for me) as a master minder of the transaction. 

If you are interested in this offer, kindly forward to me this information below to enable me give you more information on how to handle this project okay, and also you should know that you have to treat this transaction with utmost confidentiality, if you are interesting to do this business with me, kindly send me this following information's bellow to enable us commence immediately: 

(1) Full names..................................... 
(2) Private phone number........................... 
(3) Country........................................ 
(4) Occupation..................................... 
(5) Age............................................
(6) Sex............................................

Best Regards, 
Mr. Salif


Dear Friend,
RE: TRANSFER OF a total of US$12.5million TO YOUR ACCOUNT.
I feel quite safe dealing with you in this important business. 

Though this medium (Internet) has been greatly abused, I choose to reach 
you through it because it still remains the fastest medium of 

However, this correspondence is private, and it should be treated instrict 
confidence.At first I will like to assure you that this transaction is 100% risk and trouble free to both parties, In order to transfer out (US$12.500 000 00) from our bank here in Burkina Faso The fund for transfer is of clean origin. 

Therefore,i am in need of a Reliable Partner that would come forward to put
claims over the Funds for its Transfer into his/her Foreign Bank AccountThis is beacuse i am the Director of Foreign Remmittance Department of my Bank BOA for secure Transfer of this Funds without any Hinderances. 

I want you to express your interest to engage in this Business with me 
because your share is 40% of the Funds in Question so that i can send to 
you the TEXT OF APPLICATION which you have to Fill and send to the E-mail 
Address of the Bank. 

I know that this letter will come to you as a surprise as we don't know 
ourselves before, BUT BE SURE THAT IT IS REAL AND A GENUINE BUSINESS.I urgently want you to send all the demanded Personal Informations below to me as soon as you receive this PROPOSAL in order to show your readiness and Willingness in this Proposed Business. 


1) Your Full Name.......................... ... 
2) Your Age........................... ............. 
3) Your Mobile and Home Phone Number.............. 
4) Your Fax Number....................... 
5) Your Country Of Nationality................... ............ 
6) Your Occupation.................... ......... 
7) Sex........................... ..................... 



Let me hear from you.
Umar Mohamed.
Please Read And Confidential,
Greeting to you,
I know that this message will come as a surprise to you, since we don’t know
each other, but pay attention and understand my reason of contacting you
through this via email, for the purpose of introduction I am (Mr.Wahib
Dicko) and I am Credit and audits manager in our bank of Africa Development
Bank Ouagadougou Burkina Faso (A.D.B) Also I Hoped that you will not expose
or betray this trust and confident that I am about to repose on you for the
 mutual benefit of our both families.

My purpose of contacting you is because my status would not permit me to do
 this alone.

I have a business proposal in the tune of $5.5m, (Five Million Five hundred
Thousand United State Dollars only)Now I want you to help me secure this
fund to your account,after the successful transfer; we shall share in ratio
of 40% for you and 60% for me.

Finally, Should you be interested to help me out secure this Golding
opportunity, please get back to me urgently and I will prefer you to reach
me on my private phone number and email address below and after that I
shall provide you with more details and on how we operate this project, and
Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.

Please treat this business with utmost confidentiality and send me the

(1) Full names:
(2) Private phone number:
 3) Current residential address:
(4) Occupation:
(5) Age and Sex:
Kind Regards,
Mr.Wahib Dicko

Good day!
I am Mr. Salam Sudu director auditing and accounting department" bank of Africa (boa) Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso .I discovered the sum of seven million, two hundred thousand dollars (usd7.2) belonging to a deceased customer of this bank the fund has been lying in a suspense account without anybody coming to put claim over the money since the account owner late, Mr Salla khat from Lebanese who was involved in the December 28th 2006 Benin car crash.
it is therefore, upon this discovery that i decided to take this ultimatum and make this business proposal to you as the fund will be release to you as the next of kin or relation to the deceased for safety and subsequent disbursement since nobody is coming for it and i don't want this money to go into the bank treasury as unclaimed bill the banking rules here stipulates that if such money remained unclaimed after five years, the money will be transferred into the bank treasury as unclaimed fund. The request of foreigner as next of kin in this business is occasioned by the fact that the deceased customer was a foreigner and a Burkina be cannot stand as next of kin to a foreigner.
Therefore, I am soliciting for your assistance to come forward as the next of kin. I have agreed that 40% of this money will be for you as the beneficiary respect of the provision of your account and service rendered, 60% will be for me. Then immediately the money transferred to your account from this bank, I will proceed to your country for the sharing of the fund.again you can call me through my telephone number +226 76705412 for more information.
Yours faithful,

Mr.Salam Sudu

How are you today? I hope you are fine. My name is Miss Murina Bare.l am single looking for honest and nice person Somebody who i can partner with .I don't care about your colour, ethnicity, Status or Sex. Upon your reply to this mail I will tell you more about myself and send you more of my picture.I'm sending you this beautiful mail, with a wish for much happiness.

Warm regards,
Miss Murina.

Dear friend, 
My name is Mr.Suleman Muhamede, from Ouagadougou Republic of Burkina Faso, Presently I work in the Bank as telex manager but about to retire from active Bank service to start a new life but I am sceptical to reveal this particular secret to a stranger. You must assure me that everything will be handled confidentially because we are not going to suffer again in life. It has been 10 years now that most of the greedy African Politicians used our bank to launder money overseas through the help of their Political advisers, 
Most of the funds which they transferred out of the shores of Africa were gold and oil money that was supposed to have been used to develop the continent. Their Political advisers always inflated the amounts before transfer to foreign accounts, so I also used the opportunity to divert part of the funds hence I am aware that there is no official trace of how much was transferred as all the accounts used for such transfers were being closed after the transfer. 
I acted as the Bank Officer to most of the politicians and when I discovered that they were using me to succeed in their greedy act; I also cleaned some of their banking records from the Bank files and no one cared to ask me because the money was too much for them to control. They laundered over $nine Hundred Million Dollars during the process .As I am sending this message to you; I was able to divert More than thirteen Million Dollars ($13m) to an escrow account belonging to no one in the bank, 
I decided to make this proposal to you requesting if you can be honest with me to enable me release this money to you then retire and come over to meet you in your country immediately the transfer is done, please don’t be afraid of any thing because you are not going to apply to my bank and my bank will never know you rather I will use my VETO POWER to transfer the money to you smoothly with out any problem, reply urgently so as to tell you what next to do because there is no much time to delay, i need your informations such as, Full name, telephone, occupaction, age,country.
Waiting to hearing from you urgently 
Remain bless, 
Mr Suleman Muhamede

Urgent Business Proposal.
Dear Friend,
This message might meet you in utmost surprise; however, it’s just my urgent need for foreign partner that made me to contact you for this transaction. I am the director in charge of auditing and accounting section of Africa Development Bank,(ADB) Ouagadougou Burkina-faso West Africa.
I have the opportunity of transferring the left over funds, U.S $10.6M (Ten  million six hundred United States dollars).of one of my bank clients who died along with his entire family on 31 July 2000 in a plane crash.
I am therefore inviting you for a business deal where this money can be shared between us in the ratio of 50/50 if you agree to my business proposal. Further details of the transfer will be forwarded to you as soon as i receive your return mail.
Have a great day.

My dearest regards

Mr Issa Kabore

Dear Friend

We the Coris Bank International wish to say good day to you and your family and I hope all is well. I do like to let you know that a power of attorney and a Letter of Change of Ownership account has been forwarded to our bank by one MR. IBRAHIM HAMMAD BIN HAMMAD AL SABRI a Citizen of DUBAI, U.A.E, he claimed to be your family member or send by you and also stated that you sent him to receive the fund US$10.3 million on your behalf.

I want you to know that your Registered Previous Personal Details which is now in my Office was forwarded to me by the Central Bank Governor and the Transfer Unit as well. This man claimed to be the representative of your Family, and this power of attorney stated that you are dead and he brought an account to replace your account information and claimed your fund which is right now put on HOLD for these gentleman and its highly secured and protected by a high level security which makes nobody to be able to withdraw any money from the account until you or your family members confirms that you are alive by submitting all those needed documents which we have told him to submit been the three legal documents and you should come down


ACCOUNT NUMBER: 2984-0008-660.

Be inform that this power of attorney also stated that you suffered and died of a throat cancer. All you just have to do is for you to confirm if you are really alive, because its sound furious that such kind of a thing do happened, I was Instructed to find out if it real or not before the fund will be transferred to them. Please these email demands urgent response as whosoever that read these mail should urgent reply immediately.

You are therefore given 72hrs to confirm the truth in this information if you are still alive by responding back immediately with those documents needed so that these office can know next line of actions to be taken, because they are just insisting that we ORDER out the transfer of which we are writing to you now on their absent to confirm if you are still alive.

Finally if no response from you before the giving date on how you can get your fund released to you, we shall now suspect that it might be true and funny that something strange might have happened and that the story might be true, because the only evidence now is you or your family members contacting these Coris Bank International now and confirming if these people are from you, or else we will transfer the fund to them immediately they submit the three documents. Kindly Provide the following details for immediate actions to be carried out:

1: Your Full Names:
2: Your Complete address:
3: Your age :
4: Your Occupation:
5: Your Tel:
6: Your Fax:
7: Your Sex:
8: Your Bank Name:
9: Your Bank Address:
10:Your Account Number:
11:Your Country:

Thanks and be bless
Mrs Aicha Ibrahim

Dear Friend,
How are you and your family? Guess it is well with you.
I am Dr.John Gogo, I work as the Foreign Operations Manager of our bank here inBurkina Faso,West Africa. Although the world is a very small place and hard place to meet people with complete confidence, but as I have developed the trust on you, after a week fasting and praying i made up my mind  to contact you for this confidential business transaction with hope that you will not disclose the secret of this great opportunity to another person. 
There is an unclaimed sum Thirteen Million Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$13,200,000) in my bank, and when went through the records, I discovered that this fund belong to one of our foreign customer who died years ago, and no beneficiaries or claiamants were stated concerning to claim this funds. Therefore, your request as a foreigner is necessary to apply for the claim so that our bank will release the fund smoothly into your reliable bank account as the beneficiary/Foreign Business Partner to the deceased.
This fund was meant for a short term investment in my country unfortunately the beneficiary died untimely. So, if you accept to assist me, I will place your name as the person who has the right to claim the fund which will enable our bank issue you fund investment document to avoid your government or any body to question the source of the fund during the process of the transfer.
Hence you will be interested to assist me get this fund transferred in your account, I will reward you with 40% of the total sum while 60% will be for me. If you are sure of your trust, integerity for safe-keeping this fund in your account, contact me with your full detailed information including your private telephone number(mobile) for me to guide you on the best legal way to tender an application  to claim this fund successfully from our bank. Again My coming to your country once the money transferred , Me and you will exchange our photos, For you to know me in your country airport,I am waiting for your urgent response.
Yours faithfully.

Good Day,
I am Khaldoon Khalifa, the director in charge of Auditing and Accounting 
section of OCBC Bank.I have a Business Proposal of $2,300,000.00 USD for you 
to handle with me from my bank. I will need you to assist me in executing this 
Business Project from Malaysia to your country. If interested, please Kindly 
Contact me on my private email which is ( for 
more information.
Mr. Khaldoon Khalifa