Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Wake up feeling moody and down
Thinking of all the things this year that made you frown

For weeks pressure builds up to make your plans the best
Will you be having the most fun on a night better than the rest?

You feel sad over those loved and lost family
And disappointment at the friends who've let you down sadly

All day, shops are bustling as people buy their drink and food
Around you there's that buzz, such an excited mood

You spend hours picking that outfit and getting yourself ready
Look forward to the midnight chimes and a kiss with your partner or perhaps someone new if you don't have somebody

You end up waiting in a long queue in the freezing cold
Paying a fortune on entrance fees, drinks and cab fares, thinking for this I'm too old

Or you stay in and keep warm with those close around you
People you know who care and want a happy new year for you too

As the countdown begins you look forward to the new year in sight
Plans for the future, new friends, new goals, please make them all go right

The party poppers and champagne corks all go off with an almighty bang
Auld Lang Syne in big hugging groups is loudly sang

Ahead are weddings, babies, engagements, hen parties, big birthdays and of course the Olympics
New achievements and being able to see your resolutions list full of ticks

Whatever you do, however you may celebrate
Here's wishing you a night that in your way is great

Happy New Year to you all
Here's hoping 2012 is set to be a ball!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Crisis

So it's the day after all the Christmas celebrations and I've got the grumps.

It's so weird it happens to me every year at this time and I don't really know why. As the festivities end I always find that the whole thing has been a bit of an anti climax, all the prep, all the excitement in the lead up and then all of a sudden it's been and gone.

Rather than thinking of all the things I have achieved through the year and what the new year may bring I instead seem to focus on the bad. I know I sound a right miser but I really can't help it. I don't like this grump either!

We haven't arranged any plans either this year for New Years Eve - first time ever - maybe it'd help to have plans to look forward to. To be honest after the hectic month I am kinda swaying to a quiet night in the two of us though! Ha I feel so old putting that.

NYE is another time that annoys me though, all that pressure to have the best night of the year and see the new year in in style. Then you end up paying a fortune in cab fares, drink prices and feeling disappointed your night wasn't the extravaganza you'd imagined in your head when booking it.

Who knows perhaps this is the start of the Thirty Panic and I'm doing the whole judging my life thing early. Still a whole eight months to go yet though let's remember!

So many people have got engaged or have had/are expecting babies. I feel like I am going to be the last one left. I know, I'm 29, not an OAP but I feel by the time it comes to me everyone will have been there and done that!

I also feel like a hippo the amount of food I've consumed, so I am desperate to sort that out asap.

Apart from that I can't really complain, aside from desperately hoping my boyfriend manages to get a private ambulance job very very soon. Having no job doesn't really help with the whole moving your life on together plan... He is so desperate to get back to work though and when you see people with well paid jobs striking for what seem ridiculous reasons it makes me so mad!

So for anyone out there reading this, help me out guys! Please tell me I'm not the only one with the post-Christmas blues and I'm not just a whining whinger!

For now I guess I'll have to console myself with leftover Christmas sweets and snacks, sit in my PJs and watch some Christmas films...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!

So it's Christmas Eve and I have no more work until 3rd January 2012. I was thinking about New Years Resolutions the other day and I have to say the top one was to blog more. As you may have noticed my posts have been a bit slack lately, but in my defence this has primarily been down to one of my busiest Decembers ever!

Now, after a month of gigs, meals, nights out drinking and dancing, parties and Christmas lunches I have ahead of me days of family time. In fact, because we're at the boyfriend's on Christmas Day, today is the start of my Christmas and we are off to my parents' house for Christmas dinner (number one).

Yesterday at work we had a Children's Christmas Day which was just lovely. I took my niece and nephew along (with the help of my boyfriend) and had a day of mixing doing work, making Christmas cards and gingerbread men and countless trips to the bathroom to clean both the kids up! We had a really lovely time and everybody loved them (well, who wouldn't they are just SO cute!) I was absolutely shattered though, I went to bed at around 10pm yesterday as I simply couldn't keep my eyes open any longer! I've been waking up countlessly throughout the night though, not sure if it is Christmas excitement or my body nervous at the thought of more food and drink again, in even bigger amounts this time!

Due to being so tired last night I didn't get anything ready to take to my parents (we'll be staying there for the next few days). So I have a ton of presents to pack, outfits to choose and a bag to pack with enough stuff in for the next few days (no easy feat for an over-packer like me!)

I've been a super lucky girl already though I must admit. Secret Santa at work I got some super cute earrings and a book, my boss gave me an Amazon voucher and card and I got two Christmas presents early from my man - Stereophonics gig at Shepherds Bush and Rihanna at the o2. Amazing! So only knows what's in store for me the rest of Christmas!

I'm also lucky to be getting the best of both worlds this Crimbo - Christmas dinner and celebrations with my small family and things I'm used to, a day with my boyfriend's family which will involve 8 adults and 2 lovely kids, a calmer day at my Auntie's and then a combo day with them all mixing together!

The only issue with all this is I've already been overeating this month and consuming too much alcohol. So is my body going to hold out? Only time will tell, one thing's for sure I'm not going to be able to fit through the door at work come January and as for my bridesmaid's dress fitting perhaps a nearby camp shop or local funfair might be more appropriate - a Big Top tent is coming close to being my ideal fitting option!

Whatever you are up to over the festive period I hope it's amazing. Merry Christmas to everyone!!!!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Busy doing nothing

I am currently lying on my sofa in front of Masterchef, wearing spotty patterned winter pyjamas eating chocolate and drinking tea. Sound pretty dull? Maybe so, but to me after the recent manicness that has been my life it feels like pure bliss.

You know what it's like, Christmas time inevitably means lots of social plans and your month fills up in no time with various parties, meals and general celebrations.

This month I have participated in a mixture of three client lunches, my work Christmas party, an 80s themed fancy dress 30th birthday party, a surprise baby shower, a Kasabian gig, a day trip to France, a Greek restaurant and visit to a z-list celebrity venue, numerous meals out catching up with people and of course trying to fit in Christmas shopping around it.

It has actually made me feel tired just reading all that back.

Still to come are another 30th birthday party, a surprise night out (an early Christmas present) and of course Christmas itself (so far we have four family days lined up). Oh and I've decided to take my niece and nephew to my office next week for our work Children's Christmas Day!

Now don't get me wrong there should really be nothing to moan about here. But...I am absolutely shattered. Yes, it's great to see lots of friends, have an active social life and celebrate festivities all through the month. To be able to even afford to do this in such recession heavy times is something I know I should feel lucky about.

On the flip side though I have put on so much weight, spent so much money and feel drained. I'm really worried that Christmas will get here and I'll be ill!

I haven't even got any plans for New Years Eve as yet, although that is another thing I could easily moan about - that pressure to always have an amazing night, when in reality most people end up getting overcharged and facing an anticlimax.

The joke is I know if I didn't have any plans I'd be moaning because my diary was empty. Never happy eh?

Although I have put on a ton of weight - all my clothes are tight already! (Oh did I add I have a dress fitting for my friend's wedding the first week in January this point I'm just hoping I can make it through the door, let alone try on my bridesmaids dress!) I must say I have sampled some great food this month, something I'm reminded of watching Masterchef now...

A 12 dish extravaganza at Shoreditch House (of which featured salmon tartare and wild mushroom risotto), a humongous plate of scallops at Santini, amazing steaks, goats cheese, escargot, pollo al limone....the list really could go on and on.

For now though I'm afraid this blog is ruining my evening of doing nothing. So that's me done for now, off to enjoy some TV and might even treat myself to a soak in a lovely hot bubble bath and a facemask, it's a hard life...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Au revoir sanity

I can't feel or move my right arm, I feel utterly exhausted and I'm freezing cold. All around me are piles upon piles of boxes and bags, increasingly encroaching on my personal space. I can just make out my boyfriend's head if I contort my body in a strange angled way.

I just want to be home. Nearly thirteen hours and I am slowly losing the will to live.

Outside it is pitch black, the wind is lashing against the windows and I keep falling asleep.

Am I kidnapped? Am I being tortured?

Hell no. I've been on a daytrip to France. With my parents and boyfriend. On what feels like a one-day mission to buy as much alcohol and test exactly how many boxes and people you can cram into a VW Passat at any one time. Oh and how many times you can visit the same shop and walk around it in a back to front order.

After Sunday's Winter Wonderland shenanigans in London, we headed off again on one of our annual jaunts. This time the Channel Tunnel trip from Folkestone to Calais involving shopping for French treats, wine, beers and spirits and gorging on a sumptuous five course+ meal.

Picked up at 730 for our 1020am crossing (well, where did you THINK I got my anal levels of organisation from??) we braved the dark skies, heavy showers and gale-like winds in my parents car.

We have enjoyed a gorgeous meal in the village of Coquelles - Kir Royale aperitif, mise en bouche, trio of salmon (smoked, marinated and tartare), fillet steak with a mushroom sauce, cheese selection with fresh French bread and mousse au chocolat, washed down with red wine. Lovely.

We have also visited around half a dozen shops/supermarkets in order to buy cheese, wine, pastries, chocolate and nibbles. Sounds pleasant enough but not when you're with Mr and Mrs List, the wine guzzlers that are my parents (aw Mum n Dad you know I love you! Please don't take my Christmas presents back lol)

So now I find myself wedged into the back of their car in between copious boxes of wine, full up and absolutely drained of all energy.

But you know what as much as we've all bickered about the space, what to get and how much time we're wasting, we've had a great day. Granted most of it has been giggling at random things that have happened today, but we still laughed!

So I'm going to go as I'm yet again typing on my phone - excuse the typos! I also have a stiff neck and my arm has gone dead. If you don't hear from me for a while please send out the search party, I'll be the armless, legless, drunk and overweight one underneath all those boxes in the back of the blue VW...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Too much of a good thing?

This weekend I visited Winter Wonderland in London's Hyde Park. After first trying out this festive event a few years back, the visit has since become an annual trip for my boyfriend, me and my parents.

I remember our initial visit to the Christmas attraction and feeling so Christmassy I could've moved to Lapland and become one of Santa's elves there and then!

The German market full of festive food, handmade crafts and delectable drinks couldn't help but raise images of Christmas in your mind. Your tummy was filled and your hands warmed from holding mulled wine and stuffing your face with huge bratwursts.

In addition, I always go to Somerset House with a close friend of mine each December. This year we've both been a bit tied up, so on my family annual visit to Hyde Park we popped in to Somerset House first. Don't get me wrong, I don't ever actually skate! Oh no, I like to sit and sample the mulled wine or special hot chocolate in the bar and enjoy some giggles over wobbly skaters on the rink.

So, you're wondering, what's the big deal? What am I building up to here? Well, at the risk of sounding like Scrooge - again - it was a little disappointing.

I really was trying to get into the spirit of things, honest. Yet when we were sitting in the bar watching the skilful skaters and not-so-sure novices, I just felt kind of, well, nothing. I kept thinking 'oh same as last year then'.

On our way to Winter Wonderland I was wondering what we might find this year. I was also a little concerned as I'd heard how busy it was this year some people I knew has queued for 40 minutes just to get in to enjoy an elbow-to-elbow walk amongst hundreds of strangers. Others didn't get in at all. The website had warned on weekends 3-7pm were the busiest times and they had to adopt crowd control. So when we reached Hyde Park Corner and the swarms of people I was getting nervous if we'd get in at all.

Hurrah! We did make it in and without any need to queue. Walking round I found I took very few pictures (which anyone who knows me will know my obsession with photos). We also seemed to walk round the whole offering pretty speedily. The reason being? We'd seen it all before.

Whereas in past years I've felt I'm experiencing something somewhat magical, this year it seemed more like we were just at an oversized funfair. The trinkets seemed a tad like tat and there seemed to be too many people. Security men in bright yellow vests, booming 'Keep Left!' and holding boards donning the same message didn't really help to create a We heart Christmas vibe either...

So we looked at some stalls, we took a few pics and we sampled the obligatory bratwursts, Bavarian beer and mulled wine and then we decided to make a move. Admittedly it had started to pour down with rain at this point, which added to a dampened mood (and clothing!)

I've also found the same with eating out. I'm just not enjoying my food at the moment (although still eating plenty of it!) I've already had quite a few celebrations this month (meals or drinks with friends, work do, client meals and the like) and have a pretty hectic social calendar until 2012 arrives. Problem is I don't do 'in moderation', so although no turkey dinners have been consumed themselves as yet I am closely to feeling partied out. All my clothes are tight, I'm bloated out and feeling tired and we've still got 12 days until Christmas comes!

So the moral of the story is this, no matter how much you think you love something, don't overdo it. There can be too much of a good thing. Vary things up a bit, plus life's too short to always do the same anyway (brave words for a bit of a creature of habit!)

Ps SORRY it's been so long since I blogged, what can I say? I can't stuff my face and shove down wine AND type at the same time! Now if you don't mind I'm off for our annual booze cruise and meal in France...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Moroccan magic, madness and memories

I recently posted a poem I wrote whilst on holiday which touched on some of the sights, sounds and smells I experienced whilst in Agadir. Now I thought I’d use my blog to tell you a little more about the coastal resort I stayed in and show you a few images of my time there.

Agadir is purely a tourist resort now and in fact one taxi driver told us how people are only allowed to build properties there for tourism now. This is something I found quite sad, of course the tourists are good for the country and economy, but it seemed unfair to prevent locals like this in their own country.

Many years ago Agadir was destroyed by an earthquake which killed thousands of people and now all that remains on top of the hill are the ruins of the walls of the Kasbah. On the hill are the words God Country King which serve as a constant reminder of original Agadir and create a beautiful and memorable sight on the coast, which at night is clear for all to see when it is lit up.

As we drove from the airport to our hotel we passed a host of interesting sights, locals with what looked like their weekly shop balancing on their knees whilst driving their motorbike, fruit and veg sellers along the rode being pulled along by donkeys, old men playing board games in the street, men wearing pointy hooded cloaks, run down looking buildings which were actually relatively new build properties for teachers (the King is working on improving the literacy rates), a walled wildlife area which only the Sheikh and his family are allowed to see and much much more.

I visited Agadir around five years ago whilst I was still living at home and went with my Mum, as my Dad was still working then and had important meetings to attend. I will be honest and confess at times we were nervous and concerned for our wellbeing, being Western women in a very traditional country with strong views on how females should look and behave was in our minds. Plus on our last visit our trip had coincided with Ramadan, as a result the area was very quiet and we found there were never any women about. On meeting a tourism graduate one day on this year’s visit we soon realised that when last time we had felt threatened, we had in fact simply misjudged their friendliness and interest in meeting new people. This is something clearly evident in Moroccan people, everyone is so friendly, more than willing to help or tell you about local history or find out more about you and your life and your culture.

So what memories stick in my mind? Being a passenger in the ‘orange taxis’, which had no seatbelts and my door had no handle (our driver told me it had special automatic control!), our taxi driver spending hours with us waiting for us and wanting to be in our photo, visiting a local Berber souk and getting dressed up in traditional garments, offers of camels to my Dad for me – top offer was 5000! Being labelled Fatima (a popular Moroccan name and as I often get when going abroad I was told I very much looked like a local!) The entertainment staff asking my Dad if he could dance like Michael Jackson and talking to him about his dance moves (‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’), constant questions as to whether I was married and if I was on Facebook, my super big feet being too big for the Moroccan slippers I so badly wanted to purchase. My Dad having a full conversation with a lady who worked in the hotel bar in English (she was Moroccan and spoke French but could understand perfectly well, she wanted to know the rules of the card game we were playing), then deciding when referring to the number three he had to offer a bit more explanation…Picture my Dad chatting away and then explaining that you need three cards in a set to lay them, but after a whole chat in English, stating “you know un deux trois. Three?” Embarrassing is not the word, although it gave us all a good giggle! Or how about visiting the souk and finding we didn’t have enough money, the stall owners had a simple solution – the taxi driver would pay for us (using all his taxi float) and then when dropping us back at the hotel we could get the cash and pay him! Silly for us to go back to the hotel and come back paying double taxi fares. Just like England eh?

The trip also highlighted differences in cultures in a number of ways. I always feel quite ignorant when I visit other countries, in England we just don’t push the importance of learning other languages enough and I feel ashamed at how good a grasp on English local people have. I couldn’t say anything in Arabic! (The languages typically used there are Berber, Arabic and French). Also in our hotel in the Moroccan themed restaurant you were sat with other people – they would try and place people from the same country together (the hotel is very popular with French and some Italian visitors). Our first visit found us with two English couples, people hardly spoke and there was an awkward feeling at the table. My parents talked of how this has happened before on other holidays but yet when sitting with people from other countries – for example with outgoing Americans – the conversation never went quiet. On the second visit we were sat with a Northern family and almost immediately they started to chat. At lunch we would find a table and keep to ourselves, French visitors would join huge tables together and almost take over, their talking and laughter heard loud above everyone else.

We revisited the fish market in the area, which was so quiet and mostly shut down on our last visit, this time we ventured there via the newly built marina and extended promenade and met with a local man. Studying tourism, he became a makeshift guide and showed us to the fish market as he was on his way to work (he works part time in the market in one of the stalls/’restaurants’ which serve up local fish. It works so well, you pick what fish you want, each one sells them at the same price and so an area full of long shared plastic-covered tables, hustle and bustle and tourists and locals mixing together is created. Whilst our ‘guide’ was telling us more he invited us to share some mint tea with him, which we enjoyed and then were introduced to his manager and his family. A local sitting having his lunch even offered me some of his fish to try!

In another souk the Berber man showed us how they create Argan oil and we watched some women painstakingly shelling the nuts and grinding them to produce this amazing product. We were dressed in traditional clothes and told more about the traditions, without pushy sales techniques. I felt truly welcome.

I could go on but you may well want to go and see for yourselves and don’t want me spoiling your experiences!

So although I may not have seen the ‘real’ Morocco and didn’t venture too far, I got a good enough taste from the local people to understand what sort of place this is and the type of people that live there. Really friendly, helpful, intelligent people always keen to learn about others and offering beautiful food, history, scenic surroundings and numerous souks/markets offering an array of local goods.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Travel trials

So, with the current situation with Thomas Cook going on I guess this entry is quite topical. As you know I have just come back from a holiday to Agadir in Morocco. Due to a variety of reasons I visited the resort with my parents, quite a brave feat some of you may argue.

In order to get to said resort we went on a package holiday which happened to be with First Choice holidays. You may or may not be aware but Thomson and First Choice are now part of the same TUI Group and so have pretty much taken over the holiday market. On booking the trip we went with the First Choice option as it appeared to be slightly cheaper for the same holiday for some reason.

Anyway as per usual, what happened on the flight? Of course, I got stuck behind some moron who insisted on moving non-stop in their seats and moved their seat so far back they may as well have just spent the whole journey on my lap! What made this worse was the fact that the aircraft was so bad – some of the faux leather seats were ripped, apparently in-flight entertainment on short-haul flights stops as of 1st November and there was literally no leg room. What a joke – if there had been a crash there is no way on earth you could have adopted the ‘brace’ position – unless you were some sort of elf!

My other complaint – which to be fair is out of a holiday company’s control is the weather. Now, those who have seen me since I’ve returned will laugh as I am quite tanned after my holiday. However, each day saw a misty start for a few hours and many days were cloudy and temperatures were a lot lower than we expected. We also had quite a bit of rain. A couple of years ago I visited a Greek island in September for a fortnight which saw rain nearly every day. Both instances highlight to me just how climate change clearly is having an impact now as wherever you go on holiday (for the sun) you really cannot guarantee what you’ll be met with.

I also learnt that as I am getting older I really want to see the real country and visit the real people and their lives. I loved my stay and for a relaxing break it was great, but I do feel that I could have done more with my time there and regret not visiting more true Moroccan places – such as Marrakech. Granted, we went for a break in the sun and only being there a week a two day trip to Marrakech may not have been ideal. Staying in an all-inclusive hotel is such great value and I couldn’t fault our accommodation or the staff who worked there, yet as I argued to my parents you could be anywhere in the world if you always stay in these robotic factory-line type hotels. I need to see the real country.

On the journey home the check in procedure was a joke, I believe some of the machinery wasn’t working and so wrongly printed tickets were issued and huge queues were the result. Obviously people can’t help things going wrong like this; however the attitude of the check-in staff was pretty poor I must admit. They just took their time and saw no rush in trying to get the queue shortened or speed things up.

So, overall not the best experience from a holiday company. However, yet again showing how good customer service can help situations – as per an earlier post – on the flight home I somehow stupidly managed to drop my cardigan from the boarding gate to the plane. The staff on board allowed me to go back and check for the cardigan but I couldn’t find it. On returning to the plane one of the flight attendants asked me to describe the item of clothing and went out of her way to go and make more checks. A few minutes after sitting down she turned up with my cardigan, somebody must have handed it in after all. Just going that bit further actually cheered me up after discovering that the legroom was – if possible – even tighter than the journey there.

To be honest though with the news that Thomas Cook is having financial difficulties – the amount of choice we have between what big holiday companies to go with on package holidays is really not going to be there. So will these firms bother to make an effort and impress us or will these seasonal cutbacks and a lack of effort become more commonplace?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Moroccan memories

The aroma of spices wafts across the room
A tagine bubbling in the corner, to be feasted on soon

Dark mysterious eyes behind a clothed body and covered face
A pointy hooded cloak and leather slippered feet, wandering at a leisurely pace

Skin dark like cocoa from the bright beating sun
Soft to the touch, thanks to Argan oil, so many products made from just one

Cinammon, sugar, saffron and meat
Rich dips, doughy bread, so many biscuits and pastries, all delicious to eat

People so friendly, always wanting to be helpful
Keen to make friends, and of your life learn it all

Making friends and haggling in the souk
So many sights and sounds you could fill a book

Everyone wants you to "come talk to me"
Sit down and chat, over a hot glass of mint tea

Trays packed full of all types of fish
In the local market, pick a stall and just sit down to enjoy a dish

Soft supple slippers, carpets, jewellery and scarves
Endless rows of gifts, they don't do markets by halves

Early each morning locals come to run on the beach
Arabic couples taking walks on the promenade as boats bob on the sea

Men full of compliments for the female tourists, "so beautiful"
Offerings of camels add to the magic of it all

A host of animals, birds and fountains in bird valley
You'll soon find your way, to help guide you the locals are more than happy

Being made to feel like one of the family in souks in the Berber community
'God country king#', the nearby hill tells of the history

Although we've had some rain, I've loved my time here
The friendly, scenic, mysterious but magical Moroccan area of Agadir

Written whilst in holiday in Agadir, November 2011

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mystery of Morocco

So as of the early hours of Monday morning, I will be off on a plane on my holidays! A much-needed week of sun, sand, nice food and a bit of booze.

I’ve decided I am going to see the local sights, walk along the never-ending beach, read some books and listen to music. As well as this I am going to leave my phone at home, so no social media, texting or calling for me. This is my way of trying to relax, however there is a downfall…

I love writing my blog and I have realised I won’t be blogging for a whole week. Granted, the 5* hotel I am going to probably has WiFi, but that kind of defeats the object of my relaxing without being surrounded by technology approach to things. So, I decided - as I explained to my boyfriend earlier when he teased me about this matter – I am going to take a notebook with me and use the old fashioned approach. I will write about my travels with a traditional pen and paper and then type them up and upload them when I get home.

I’m hoping that when I come back I will be able to share my experiences with you and perhaps I might get inspired to write a bit of poetry or a short story whilst I’m there too. You’ll have to wait and see.

So for this week while I’m off just try to imagine a big-mouthed Essex girl, who hasn’t had time to exercise and diet properly before donning a bikini and summerwear, trying to relax whilst sharing a hotel room with her parents and trying to last a week with said parents without arguments. Throw in the chance of the weather potentially not going as planned, the Moroccan waiters might lead to some ‘interesting’ experiences (as in their approach to women before you get any naughty thoughts, I AM attached remember!) and mine and Mum’s cases likely to be too over-filled and overweight at check-in and I’m sure that’ll keep you entertained for a fair few hours…

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Giving men the red card

So, when I asked recently for ideas of what people would like to see from my blog, what was the overwhelming response from men? Football, of course.

Growing up with a Dad who wasn’t really all that fussed about football, I had always also managed to date men who weren’t too bothered about the sport either. A lucky escape I felt. However, on meeting my current boyfriend – and after six years of being together – I have had to face the experience of being with a football fanatic. A die hard Hammers fan since he was old enough to understand the game, my boyfriend had been to most of the team’s home games and a lot of away games too. He was a season ticket holder and has numerous kits and West Ham merchandise.

In fact, when we first met one another I decided to make a real effort and actually bought a West Ham shirt and went to a few games (some of which were even all the way in Manchester!) Since then and various circumstances changing, my boyfriend actually no longer has a season ticket (wait for all the hate mail from that one, I promise it wasn’t just down to me that he got rid of it).

I guess in that sense I have once again been lucky as I’m with someone who understands the importance of different aspects in life and isn’t so obsessed with football that he would refuse to give up his season ticket for instance. Of course though there are lot of men out there who are like that and often put the sport first.

What is it about this game that takes men in such a firm grasp and holds their attention for so long? You know what men are like if you try to get them to concentrate on plans you have, but yet if they are faced with anything featuring their favourite team they can concentrate for hours on end.

Opinions are another thing, talk to a man about something that happened at work or a story you read on your commute and you might get a few grunts in response. You find out a new player is being signed or a football match is on and the referee makes a questionable decision, well just sit back and watch what happens then. Oh how the opinions flow…If you come across the so-called ‘glory hunters’ then just watch the sparks fly – people in London who support teams like Liverpool, or Chelsea fans who have never actually been to a game, oh dear…

Admittedly when I went to some actual games I did get caught up in the spirit and enjoyed it, but watching a match on television bores me to death. What is this fascination with a few men kicking a ball around a field? After all realistically that’s what this is.

Don’t even get me started on how much they get paid; it infuriates me when you see people who do jobs that actually make a real difference to the world getting paid a pittance. Yet you see a well-dressed, over-gelled hairstyled young man who can kick a ball and likes to sleep around and that warrants a ridiculously high salary to keep them stocked up with sports cars, endless champagne and designer clobber.

If you’ve ever been to a game you’ll know the transformation men go through when watching their team play – even the most mild mannered non-swearer will turn into a foul mouthed angry yob-like individual. The words that come out of my boyfriend’s mouth when he’s at a match (and that’s just when I’m there) are disgusting. Now, I’m not a pure mouthed angel, don’t get me wrong, but some of the things people say – and often in front of young children – are awful.

I know of some men who want silence when they’re watching a game, or those that have to watch all the pre match and post match analysis and then do their own commentary as well. Not only do some of us ladies lose our man every Saturday to a game, we then have to deal with them switching on the TV later on in the evening to rewatch it all on Match of the Day!

So, sorry guys, but I just don’t get this obsession. Who knows maybe this is a gender thing and your football fantasy is the equivalent to our clothes purchasing pleasures. All I know is the most interesting football match I’ve ever seen was one back in my Uni days in the student union pub after many a glass of wine…well I had to get through it somehow!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Burying their heads in the sand: men and their Ostrich syndrome

I was asked recently to blog about what it is about men that means they don’t like to ask for help, why it is when faced with an issue they bury their heads in the sand – in what we’ll call the Ostrich Syndrome.

We all know the classic examples – lost when driving they go into denial, can’t find what they need in a shop they will keep walking around until it appears, or just leave empty handed, the list goes on.

When it comes to relationships, a lot of men are even worse. Us ladies might well get accused of talking too much but at least we share and try to solve things. Men? Oh no, the favoured approach – according to a lot of my single friends – seems to be to just start acting like an a***h**e when the going gets tough and try and deal with it that way.

Not sure if you want to be with a girl anymore? Just treat her like rubbish and wait for her to dump you. Finding it hard to break it to a lady you don’t want another date with her – don’t worry just don’t bother contacting her and ignore her attempts to contact you. Find someone else you think you fancy more than your current partner, just relax, sleep with them both until one finds out and makes the decision for you!

The same is true if something is bothering a man emotionally, quite often men seem to have this block where they don’t want to back down or show their softer side. This then leads to men giving the impression they don’t care, when in reality they really truly do. I know of guys that end up making themselves ill or really stressed out just because they can’t face the reality of their situation and talk to people around them. They’d rather deny it all and leave it to another day to deal with.

So why are men so scared to deal with things and ask for help? Why is there this feeling that it is seen as a sign of weakness to admit you need help?

Why would a man rather be deemed a nasty person with no heart, than try being honest and talk truthfully about their feelings and thoughts?

I’ve had experiences of male family members who struggled to show their emotions and boyfriends where it took a long time to face their fears and start dealing with life. I think all of us will have experienced some form of male Ostrich Syndrome at some point.

Men, when will you take your heads out the sand and realise? Us women want you to talk, you don’t need to be the strongest in control one all the time, we’d rather you just be you. Everybody makes mistakes, if you can’t find something or you take a wrong turn it doesn’t matter. If you decide after a first date we’re not quite what you thought we were, then please just tell us early on and let us know from the start rather than break our hearts after date number ten (or even year number three).

On the other hand, women reading this blog, please do rest assured they’re not all like this. There are honestly plenty of good men out there who will open up – granted the majority of the time they’ll keep most things clammed up inside, but on the odd occasion you might just get a bit of honesty or a cry for help from them…Honest…

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What do you want from me?

So, I’ve been having a think lately, what makes a good blog? What did I set out to achieve from starting this blog?

Granted, this thinking might have been encouraged somewhat by some recent research by Technorati. Although for a few weeks now I’ve been trying to find ways how to get more from my blog, or importantly how to offer more.

So, you tell me. What would you like to see on this blog? What posts do you like the best? What posts are you not so keen on? Of course I can view the stats Blogger supplies – which I do regularly – but I want to hear it from you direct.

How can I get you guys to comment more on my posts? What would make the blog better for you?

I set out when starting this blog to give me a chance to use my creative skills and get back into my writing, something I love to do. Admittedly I hadn’t written in a while and was slightly unsure about whether I was actually still any good. The approach I have tried to take, is to create a mix of poems, short stories and opinion pieces and I do honestly write them at a random, whatever comes into my head.

I get so much enjoyment from this blog, but do you the audience?

So over to you guys, what do you want from me? What can The Melican do for you?...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Should it always be fitness first?

Why is it so easy to put on weight and become lethargic, yet so hard to shift it and get motivated? A couple of years ago I decided enough was enough and was determined to get myself in shape. I did this through a variety of means – going to the gym, boxercise, swimming and eating more healthily. I managed to lose nearly three stone in weight and dropped 2-3 dress sizes. I felt much healthier and happier with myself and found myself disgusted when I looked at old photos of myself.

However, what with this year having been one where there have been a few issues to deal with, my healthy regime slacked somewhat and I have quickly piled the pounds back on. What is the key to keeping healthy and dealing with what life has to throw at you, and in turn maintaining a good social life?

I know so many women who like me find they are constantly unhappy with their size. Is it just we are never happy whatever our bodies look like? Or are some of us just destined to be on a diet or some kind of plan all our lives?

Why is it some of us get stressed and can’t eat, yet the rest get down and get the munchies? How comes some people don’t really get much enjoyment out of food and just see eating as a chore, whilst others use eating as a social experience? Or what about those lucky souls who seem to eat what they like and don’t pile on the pounds?

I wonder what age do you get to when you feel satisfied with how you look? Or do you ever reach that point? Are us ladies just hard on ourselves (and perhaps men too) and spend our whole life judging how we look – not developed enough when young, too fat, too thin, and then when old too wrinkled, too grey?

If I set aside the time I have a variety of fitness options at my fingertips – the gym, Wii Fit, Zumba workout (I’ve had a Wii game since August and still not tried it), classes at the gym, a running club where I live, swimming, boxercise indoors with my boyfriend (he used to PT), when the weather is warm I live right near a park and fields so could go for long walks/runs. Why does it always seem we don’t have enough time?

Do we in fact always have enough time and make excuses all the time in reality? One thing I find hard is when to push myself more and when to perhaps take a break when the rest of my life is a bit manic. If I have a hard day at work should I push myself to go to the gym and relieve any tension with a workout? Or should I give myself time to relax and go when I am not so tired? I really do find it hard recognising if I am being lazy or if my body is legitimately tired out and needs a break.

So, I guess, if anybody is out there who has found some exercise plan they have stuck to, someone who manages to find time always to get their fitness regime to work and has achieved a good balance between going out, having fun and keeping their weight in check, please give me a shout! Any tips are much welcomed!

I worry about classes as my coordination is bad, I’m not sure whether to join a running club as each time I go to the gym my running abilities seem to vary. Is there something ideal out there for me? Am I just making excuses? What do you think?

I am in need of some fitness friends and some workout wonders please!.... Well after I pig out for a week in Morocco first, of course...

Monday, 7 November 2011

We Need to Talk About The Help

Over the past week I’ve visited the cinema twice and on both occasions I’ve gone to watch a film based on a book. Now I’ve blogged about my views on books-to-movies before, but it really does seem as if the film companies are learning a thing or two if these latest offerings are anything to go by.

I read We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Schriver, a few years ago. Haunting, well written and disturbing, I enjoyed the book, although at first found it a hard read at times. Once I’d finished the story I felt quite exhausted to be honest and slightly uncomfortable. On leaving the cinema the other night after seeing the film version, once again I felt emotionally drained and not quite sure if what I’d experienced was pleasant or not.

Tilda Swinton is amazing as Kevin’s mother, her acting is bound to get her numerous awards for her performance. She looked and acted in a mysterious way, similar to what I’d imagined when reading the book. The actors playing Kevin at each stage of the film were reflective of how his character is described and built up in the written version and was very believable.

I did think there might be more made of the school scenes – I won’t go into detail for those people who haven’t seen it – but in a way I think it was good because they didn’t try to gain audience numbers by focussing on gore.

Sometimes I do find that when the film diverts from the book too much you end up thinking it possibly would have been more enjoyable if you’d never read the book before. If anything, it was the opposite with We Need To Talk About Kevin, at times I thought filmgoers would be a little lost if they weren’t familiar with the book. Surely that’s the point though? What’s the point of making a film of a book if it doesn’t reflect it and clashes with reader’s expectations and imaginations?

It was so refreshing to see a film made from a book that reflected it so well. When I saw One Day I again loved the way it stayed true to the book, however I didn’t agree with the casting for the main characters.

A slightly more fun experience was going to see The Help. I thought it was amazing and again would expect to see a few awards dished out. The Help offered a mix of thought provoking scenes, moments that made the audience laugh and also times that brought tears to the eyes.

I’d seen a few reviews being extremely positive about The Help and friends and colleagues had commented how much like the book it is. They were completely right, it really was like seeing the words on the book come to life on the big screen. Skeeter, Abileen, Minnie and Hilly were all so well cast and were very convincing.

I hadn’t read the book for quite a while when I saw the film, but it is one of those reads I have always remembered as I truly loved it. When you did the inevitable comparison, which always happen when you see a film after having read the book beforehand, you weren’t met with disappointment. You didn’t come up with suggestions you felt would have worked better. You just smiled and were left content that the characters in your head when reading had now leapt out the book and onto a big screen in front of your eyes.

When I’ve been to see films based on books and been disappointed I have often wondered if it’s simply because books rely on our imaginations and each reader’s perception of the story and main protagonists involved will differ. However, after seeing these two films and how well they mirror the books, I don’t think this is the case. If the film is done well, readers won’t be left unhappy.

Is this the way forward? Are we going to find filmmakers ensure they stay true to the written word and if being given the opportunity to bring a book to life make sure they do it properly? All I can say is I truly hope so. If We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Help are anything to go by, then they’ll without doubt be on to a winner.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

It’s not Christmas yet!

I know I am running the risk big time of being labelled a Scrooge, but after being bombarded with Christmas themed adverts, seasonal decorations and festive aisles in all the shops, I felt I had to blog.

My boyfriend absolutely adores Christmas, he gets really excited at all the run up to the festivities and loves splashing out on presents for everyone. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Christmas too, but I think because I have such a small family perhaps I don’t appreciate it quite as much as him.

The one thing that really gets me every year though is the fact we have to have Christmas forced down our throats earlier and earlier each year. The adverts start earlier, the shops get decorated earlier and Christmas-themed goods come out at least two months before.

Like anyone I love the feel-good vibe of Christmas time and the idea of everyone getting along, the celebrations, the lovely food, seeing loved ones faces when they open their gifts. However, I want to enjoy it at Christmas. I don’t want to celebrate Christmas when I’m considering my Halloween costume, as I’m arranging to visit a fireworks display or as I’m trying to diet to get into that dress for a night out.

In fact, my boyfriend has just asked me the date today as I tutted at yet another advert telling me Christmas is coming and said it is around 50 days left until the big day. That’s ages I’ve argued and he’s delighted in telling me when I get back from my holiday it’ll only be a month until Christmas.

I see countless status updates on Facebook about how people have finished their Christmas shopping already and I’m just waiting for the first person to announce their tree is up. One advert has just said Christmas delivery ends soon….it is early November??

When you get to Christmas as well it always seems such a big build up and it feels a bit sad when it’s over, you get ready for it for so long and then after a couple of days of celebrations it’s gone. So why make that run up start so early?

I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to start getting hate mail for daring to slate Santa and his festive frolics, but please for my sanity can we just lay off the Christmas singing and dancing just for a few weeks?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Are any of the X Factor contestants genuine?

After a hectic day of a gym visit, buying some household goods and cleaning my flat (I know how to live!) I find myself yet again on the sofa tuning in to the X Factor. It’s one of those programs I always feel slightly ashamed of watching, but I can’t help myself watching it.

As you’ve probably read in the papers, this year though the viewing figures have dropped. People can’t decide why, is it because Simon and Cheryl are gone? Is the talent not there? Are people bored of the show format? Or do more people have a life now and are actually going out on a Saturday night instead of staying in being boring like me?

Watching the program tonight I think I might have an idea why. Many, if not most, of the contestants just don’t seem believable to me. You’ve got Frankie ‘jack the lad’ Cocozza (how much have they tried to build that reputation?), Kitty – the Lady Gaga wannabe, Janet the pure, quiet little Irish girl, I won’t go on.

Everyone knows the X Factor always says they are looking for something new and different and then they reproduce some manufactured act which fits their predictable mould every time. This year it seems this is even more evident. Most of the singers in the competition to me are not being their true selves and are giving answers they’ve been told to give. They are singing songs they aren’t comfortable with and they’ve had makeovers into characters which they don’t suit them and aren’t true to them.

Now I know that when we see film stars and music acts we aren’t necessarily seeing the true them, but at least the acts that are already famous are believable.

The show is always centred on the judges and becomes a popularity contest, but this year again seems worse. Just watching Kelly Rowland tell people off for having opinions if they dare to disagree with her and Louis Walsh and Gary Barlow bicker, it just makes the show even more of a mockery. As for Alexandra Burke last week, don’t even get me started…

You have a young boy who can’t sing and was staying in the competition based on his fake image the program has tried to create. People start to admit this and then it turns into an argument between the judges to divert away from that fact. At first I was pleased to have Gary Barlow as a judge, someone who would know what they were speaking about and came from the industry and had success. However, I’m starting to think the show might be damaging for his reputation, if anything. Defending a contestant who clearly can’t sing and having petty squabbles with other team members, isn’t the best portrayal of him I’ve seen.

I won’t lie though, after nosing out my window at the local fireworks banging and sparkling outside, I will be tuning into ITV2 for the Xtra Factor to check out the fireworks on screen…

Monday, 31 October 2011


An owl hoots aloud on a dark and cold misty night
Hard to see around you, where are all the lights?

Tree branches tapping on the windowpane
Your footsteps the only sound as you walk alone down a deserted lane

Looking back behind you through the car window, down a country road
A figure walking along the grass verge, but then where do they go?

That feeling of being watched, when you are all alone
The floorboards creaking in the night, odd sounds seem like a whisper, or maybe even a groan

Your belongings in the dark, creating odd shapes and shadows
When things mysteriously keep disappearing, where do they go?

You get a call in the evening, but there's nobody on the other end
Is it somebody sinister, or, trying to scare you, just a friend?

Spooky films watched through the gaps in your fingers
Images of scary faces and scenes in the film, for too long they linger

You wake at midnight trying to make out those shapes in the room
Your heartbeat won't stop racing, imagining all sorts of creatures and doom

Remember not to relax as your horror flick gets all quiet and calm
That's when they'll come out, creep up behind you, or suddenly grab your arm

Spiders, ghosts, zombies and killers
Getting frightened senseless, dressing up and dancing to Thriller

Carving pumpkins, trick or treating and telling ghost stories
Competing with one another for who can be the most gory

It's time to face your fears and find yourself in a dark, spooky, scene
Be prepared to get frightened, for tonight is Halloween!....

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Why good customer service is so important

Being someone who likes to look after others and in a career environment is keen to make sure the customer is always kept happy, I find I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to good customer service. For over 7 years I've worked in customer service/client support and even when I did temp work or worked as a Saturday girl in various retail environments I did my best to make sure the customer was cared for.

Anyways as you can probably tell I have been a bit grumpy this week since after having my flu jab I got hit with some sort of cold/flu bug and have felt awful since, just when I think I'm improving I start to feel weak/unwell again. I had quite a quiet weekend planned, although last night I was due to attend a friend's party at a new-ish venue where I live, something I've really been looking forward to - but oh no, although I've felt like a lump of you know what all week that's not good enough. Oh no I had to get sore, itchy eyes too and feel weak and full of germs yesterday too and ended up not being able to go the party. I was not a happy bunny. As a result things that might normally annoy me anyway (I am a bit short tempered in my personal life) have really wound me up this weekend. So I thought I'd share the rant and also use it to show, in my opinion, how important good customer service is and how even just one good individual can make a real difference.

So as the weather is getting colder now, the nights are getting darker and we've turned our clocks back, I decided it is about time I purchased a new winter coat and hoped to get some new boots too (since although I do have a few I admit most of them are a bit worn down and having some sort of hole in, not great when it rains or snows as you can imagine).

One of the key places I've decided to look and been trying to buy something in, is Dorothy Perkins. Just a typical high street store, nothing too fancy, as people close to me know I am a bit of a bargain hunter and have never really gone for the whole designer wardrobe approach. A big reason I thought of Dorothy Perkins first was that I had two vouchers (worth £25 in total) to spend in there left over from my birthday back in August. Now I don't know if you find this, but whenever I get vouchers a shop it seems to put an instant curse on me and I can't find anything I like or in my size in that shop as a result. Hence why I still have £25 worth of vouchers burning a hole in my purse over two months later.

Off we went, my poor boyfriend my shopping partner, to go in search of a winter coat (I heard Debenhams had a winter coat and boot special sale on) armed with my vouchers, my wheezy chest and snotty nose. I spent a horrendous amount of time trying to find a coat and I think the conclusion was I am one fussy madam. I tried all colours, shapes, sizes and styles on and I just couldn't get happy. Eventually I discovered a coat, which I ended up purchasing, which my man loved and said straightaway how well it fit me and what a great shape it gave me. I won't say exactly what he's been saying, but let's just say he feels his masculinity and sexuality have been well and truly questioned this weekend! He even found himself giving me fashion tips and using the term 'cute' to describe items of clothing in the shops (something I am guilty of doing on a regular basis).

I also had to deal with the trauma of realising the Matthew Williamson 'amazing', life-stopping jumpsuit I'd seen a long time ago (but not tried on), which was so beautiful in black with ruffles round the chest and patterned in white butterflies, was actually awful on. The legs did not gather in at the bottom and the size I tried on was too big too, it didn't do me any favours. I did however gain comfort that although I couldn't treat myself to a lovely outfit for my holidays, I could save myself £50 by not actually liking the ensemble when on.

Anyway, back to topic. Dorothy Perkins. We went in there, I double checked I didn't like the coats and then attempted to brave the shoe section. Unless you're a girl like me with clown-esque feet and giraffe-like height, then you won't understand what a nightmare shoe shopping is for me. I love shoes, boots, sandals, pumps, the lot. However, being 5ft11 and having size 8 feet it is painful. The heels are either too high so I feel like the Jolly Green Giant, or the shoes don't come in my size or feel too tight. I end up feeling like some sort of circus freak half the time I try go shop for footwear.

After perusing the relatively vast collection of boots on offer, I picked a selection of three out. Lo and behold they only had one of them in my size (well, what else did you expect flipper feeet??) Over the shop assistant comes with my flat, off-black, ruched, slouch boots met with my smiling face, so pleased they at least have one pair in my size. On goes the right foot and my heel just won't fit into the back of the boot. Surely my feet haven't got bigger? I start to panic. I slip on the left boot easily and it feels comfortable, loose even. Eventually with a bit of persuasion the right boot goes on, I must admit I felt relief I hadn't ripped the back of the material on achieving this. I um and ah and decide I will take them but mention first to the assistant how tight the right foot feels.

What do we find after a few minutes of back and forth? Oh the right boot is labelled wrongly. It turns out the right boot is a size 7, after a few visits to the stockroom and then going to get her manager I get told that sorry they don't have a left and a right size 8. They've been labelled wrong, 'it happens quite a lot, you wouldn't believe'. Ah great, so there goes my potential shoe purchase out the window. They offer to call another store, but I am fed up and a bit shocked they don't check things like this before items are taken out to the shop floor?

Next stop after me whinging quite a bit, was Debenhams and their 'shoe boutique'. I went through the whole section and the concessions (including Dorothy Perkins offering) and found nothing. Oh and Dorothy Perkins failed to impress again, after I had to go to three different people to even get someone who could check out back if they had a pair of boots I had picked out in my size or not. They didn't and the girl recommended 'try online'. Try online, yes where I have to pay delivery charge and arrange to be there to collect them? Try online where you don't actually accept your own gift vouchers? Try online where you tell me there are no size 8s in stock anyway in my area or nearby? Thanks, great advice.

In the end we went home armed with a nice black winter coat from Debenhams (Ben de Lisi for Principles, very nicely designed and in the sale at £75 so I was pleased) and my other purchase of yet another coat - a high street offering, well kind of - from a 'stall' in Romford which I am still not 100% sure if their stock is 'off the back of a lorry' if you catch my drift. I won't go into more details...

Today we had more success and this is where my emphasis on good customer service pops up - I'm sure you were wondering when it was actually going to appear as there's been no evidence so far. We went to Lakeside - in true Essex style - and I headed straight for Dorothy Perkins, just in case they had the boots... We get to the back of the shop and there they sit the boots I like - I also see a dark brown pair. Oh no sorry, not in your size. BUT they do have the off-black pair I wanted and in size 8 - funny that I mutter online it says they are all out of stock. 'Oh never believe what it says online' mentions one of the shop assistants. Oh right, great service then, what exactly is the point of an online store checker if it's not actually true? If I hadn't of tried the shop on the off chance today they would have easily lost a sale. It's madness.

So relieved to have the boots finally in my grip I go to the till armed with my £25 gift vouchers and a 20% off coupon Dorothy Perkins themselves sent me for if I pay on my storecard (something I haven't used for a long time and only planned to as I got sent these coupons). The girl at the till tells me that store policy is I have to pay for it on my card to the use the 20% off coupon. Yes, I am going to, I explain. No, no I misunderstand, I can't use their store giftvouchers even just as part payment and pay the rest on my card. I have to pay the full amount on my card just to get 20% off. By this point I was really getting rather anti-Dorothy Perkins to be honest with you, clearly picking up on this thought, the girl who served me quickly hunted in the checkout drawers and pulled out a 25% off vouchers 'as you're a storecard holder'. She handed me back my 20% voucher (which I couldn't use) and then proceeded to give me 25% off and then take off my £25 giftcards... The boots were £56 and were already on promotion at £50, she then took 25% off and then the £25. I got a pair of £56 boots for £12.50. So I couldn't use the legitimate vouchers, but I could use this makeshift option? I pulled out my storecard saying 'oh so I have to pay on this thought right?' No, the girl assures me pay how you like.

Now, this whole transaction makes zero sense to me I admit. But do you know what? That girl changed my mood. By being flexible and picking up on my mood/the experience I'd had already, she turned me around and made me a happy customer.

So the moral of this story? I am a moody madam right now and super fussy when shopping and if I can't get my bargain or have a bad shoe experience I get angry. The main point though? By understanding your customer and a company having even just one star in the team who really is committed to giving a good experience - whether it be shopping, a corporate website or a beauty treatment - you can feel confident of good customer support and offering a worthwhile service and your clients will recognise this and appreciate it. Also, not all customers just comment on bad experiences. I may well put some people off with my details of earlier exploits, but the end result shows a much more positive side and a reason to give the store a chance and perhaps may even encourage sales rather than detract.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Another reason to hate injections

As we all know I hate injections, so can you imagine how I am feeling on braving it, facing my fears and going for them on Friday to be met with...getting ill.

Yes I had my flu jab on Friday, even got a sticker (seriously!) and then woke up a few days later feeling ill.

I've been getting a flu jab as a matter of course for the last few years, due to having asthma you are actively encouraged to do so. I'll be honest I've never felt ill after it before - just an achey, heavy arm and feeling queasy in general from facing the needle...

This time round for some reason I have fallen ill. I've got a temperature, sore throat, runny nose, lightheaded, headache, the works. It is not nice. Particularly when I reasoned with myself it was better to get it sooner rather than later, to stop me getting ill in my new job. No, no, no, instead the jab has given me symptoms on possibly the worst week to do so at work.

I've had a day off ill today as I felt so bad and in a bid to try and be a bit more normal to see my clients tomorrow. I've rested, drunk fluids, had nice hot soup, kept warm indoors, slept lots (in between checking work emails) and am attempting to burn it out with a spicy Indian or Thai curry for dinner, not sure what's best...

On mentioning feeling ill after injections, numerous people have asked if I'd had the flu jab and told me not to bother as it makes you ill! Some of these people work in the health profession, another has asthma like me...Perhaps I have been lucky in the past when I haven't got ill.

I'm so pleased now we did NFL for my boyfriend's birthday on Sunday. Yesterday was his actual birthday and after sniffling my way through work I had dinner and birthday cake with his family and then had to go home ill...

Anyway I will leave you now after my little moan, I'm off to feel sorry for myself again, before an early night.


Monday, 24 October 2011

NFL - the story of cheerleaders, chilli dogs, Bud, a streaker and a squirrel

Yesterday saw me travel up to Wembley Stadium - despite local roadworks and TfL's efforts to stop us - to attend the NFL.

Not exactly the biggest sports fan, I decided to buy my boyfriend tickets for his birthday, as it's something he's always wanted to go to. I was warned how long it can be dragged out, but decided to go, to enjoy this new experience and spend the day with my other half.

I was not expecting what I got. I almost felt like I was in America, bar the cold weather! We arrived about 90 minutes before the gate even opened as I needed to pick up our tickets at the box office (Ticketmaster and Wembley really need to work better helping customers in these instances, was not impressed). Also after surprising my boyfriend with the news of his early present we read online about the 'Tailgate' and thought we should check it out.

On arrival to Wembley I was shocked at how busy it was already. However the atmosphere was great - couples, families, young friends, die-hard fans, Americans, people in fancy dress and those in full on American football kits. It was great.

We decided to purchase a program and foam hand to get into the sprit of things, neither were too extortionate. Then on collecting our tickets we went to get into the 'Tailgate'. In America I understand this is where people get together before a game, open up the back of their vans, have BBQs and crack open the beers. Clearly this was not quite what Wembley laid on, but what they did was still good.

You could get free foam hats (yes we embarrassingly wore those) and NFL wristbands. There were areas for each team, memorabilia tents to view, an inflatable bear (for the Chicago Bears) and a pirate ship with dancing pirates (for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers). On top of that was a mini football field which had music acts, sports experts and cheerleaders all performing on it. People there for the day like us were throwing mini footballs to one another, there was endless Bud, a DJ booth and tons of food stalls. I sampled my first cheesedog (in good old British style the chilli dogs had run out - don't worry we got one later!)

After spending I guess about an hour or more in there we headed off to the stadium itself and to find our seats. Purchasing some more refreshments - of course - we walked down to our seats. I was very pleasantly surprised, let's get this straight, I booked them about 10 days or so before the event. I'd been worrying as I knew they were corner seats. No need for me to have worried. We were in the first tier, had a great view of the Bucaneers touchdown area and of the playing field overall.

Add to that, on our seats were a flag each and a big card to hold up during the National Anthems (to help create flags in the crowd throughout the singing). I was impressed, we all know I love my freebies!

Pre match entertainment were the cheerleaders, a couple of tracks performed by the GooGoo Dolls - complete with fireworks - and the National Anthems (Katherine Jenkins, as per, did ours). Then each team came on, the Bucs were the 'home' team so they came out one by one - out of a skull and crossbones and to a cannon firing for each player! Oh and of course we can't forget the pirate and bear mascots. (The pirate kept me entertained for ages trying to wind up Wembley security).

My poor boyfriend attempted to educate me on the rules. I kind of got some of them... So the game begins, the first half (yes 30 minutes) took around 90 minutes to complete. For those of you who wonder why and also wonder why I haven't offered much commentary on actual play. Well it's because the game stops and starts constantly, they have to decide next moves and god help you when the home team do something positive (it doesn't even need to be a touchdown and let's be fair the Bucs didn't have many good points throughout). Positive moves by the Bucs resulted in cheerleader routines on field and people running the field with giant Bucaneers flags. It is so funny and entertaining though.

Big highlights for me though were the fact that for quite some time in the first quarter a squirrel was running riot on the pitch. Seriously. On occasion he tried his luck just behind players but soon ran, he managed a 'touchdown' or two of his own too! Also the guy in the crowd who made it onto the pitch and gave quite a few security men the runaround and high-fived some of the players before getting caught.

In the end we worked out the game started at 6pm and ended at around 920pm. For a one hour game that is something I find very funny. However to someone like me who isn't a sports fanatic, it kept me entertained! I was more interested in the constant breaks and funny behaviour than watching the game itself.

My view of NFL? It is sooo American throughout and felt a bit more a fun day out for all, almost circus-like at times, than an actual sports game. It's all about the event overall, rather than just attending a sports match I suppose. For me that was a winning mix though and provided a fun day out and a new experience. Whether my body appreciated all that junk food, Bud and hanging around in the cold for so long, is another matter...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Never forgotten x

Originally posted on Saturday 22nd October, but somehow has disappeared off the blog...

Always there to help someone out
So many memories to talk about

Full of advice and words of guidance
Constantly showing his wife romance

A great strong man, yet scared of birds
If you ever felt down he always had kind words

Memories of sitting on his back riding round like a horse
My audience as I put on pretend shows, me the star of course

Never afraid to look the fool
He'd play make believe games with me and let me rule

Staying over as a young child - back scratches and morning biscuits in bed
Feeling ever protected, dancing at family parties, him towering over my head

A man who lived life to the full
You'd never have guessed his age, he always had a ball

He would do absolutely anything for my Aunt
Where she was concerned there was no such word as can't

Loved by so so many, he'll always be so missed
A huge array of good points, too many to list

Advising friends and family on careers and life decisions
But me helping him pick which horses to bet on, he'd love to watch racing on television

An avid Arsenal fan, he loved his football
But his family and wife he loved most of all

I'll always cherish a holiday we went on in Portugal
His overprotective nature with me, even when I was grown up and no longer small

Still even now I cannot believe you are gone
I love you so much and will always miss you. My amazing, wonderful, dear, Uncle Tom

In memory of my Uncle Tom, whose birthday it would have been today xx

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Potential pincushion

In less than a month I will be sunning myself in Morocco, I can't wait and was so excited when we got it booked! However, what's not so great is the news my parents dropped on me this week...I need injections before I go... I absolutely hate injections, like horror films my fear of them has got worse as I've got older for some reason. I've never been a fan of them, at school I would get nervous, but I'd get on with it, unlike one drama queen who will remain unnamed, who used to 'faint' when we had injections at school to get out of lessons... Last year when I had my flu jab (something I really need to have what with being in a 'risk' group with mild asthma), my boyfriend came along for support, I'm that bad. He ended up having to try distraction techniques by acting the fool to take my mind off it all. I must admit it did work, kind of... A classic example is when I was young and had to have quite a few injections for a family holiday, my Uncle (who was in the army when young) advised me to roll my arm round/roll my shoulder as it would help the injections travel round my body and stop my arm aching and getting heavy. So I did. And then proceeded to slide down the fridge door in the nurse's office at our doctor's surgery and passed out. Just slightly embarrassing! So the thought of having not one but two injections fills me with dread. You know what the injection for the holiday is for? Typhoid. And you know what else? I actually have seriously considered not having the injection and enquired how bad a risk is there? Oh dear typing that out actually makes it sound so much worse. The other thing I'm worried about is that I am so busy at work the next few weeks before I go so I don't want to have a dead arm from having jabs, or getting cold symptoms from the flu innoculation. But I guess either is a better alternative to contracting typhoid... For now I'm waiting for our 'amazing' doctors to get back in touch and let me know if they can actually fit me in before I go. Apparently you can only have injections on a Tuesday or Friday and then if you have a job you're a bit stuck too because they don't stay open late either... Oh well if I don't blog for a while you know I'll be nursing my pincushion of an arm...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Frightening film fears

This weekend I am getting set to walk into a darkened room, feel my heart race, hide behind my coat and look through my fingers at a giant screen. I will likely come out and be subject to days of nightmares, feel a bit shaky and run back from my bathroom in the middle of the night. No, I'm not going to undergo some form of torture - well not quiet - I am talking about going to watch a horror film.

I don't know what it is but I have this weird sort of addiction to scary films, even though I jump out my skin watching them I just can't stop watching them. Either at the cinema or at home in front of a DVD, I won't watch them in the dark at home and I try and discreetly watch through my fingers when out. I either end up jumping and smashing into my glasses, so hurting my nose, or I elbow my boyfriend and crush his hand. Not very attractive I know.

One of the most embarrassing things I find is that as I get older I am actually getting more scared when I watch said genre. I often think twice about visiting the cinema and whether to wait for the DVD release, as I worry I might shriek out when freaked out during the film in front of complete strangers.

Gory films make me feel ill, even though in the back of my mind I know what I am watching isn't real, it still turns my tummy. Jumpy films result in me half leaping out my seat, in fact once I jumped unexpectedly at a film and got super painful cramp in my calf! Spooky films leave me getting scared and imaging all sorts of ghosts and ghouls in my home. You'd think by now I'd have got over them, but no I keep going back for more and getting increasingly frightened.

A key reason behind this I think is where I've always had an overactive imagination, possibly because I am an only child. That's why films like Blair Witch worked for me, I got all het up simply imagining what might be there, not what I could actually see! The latest edition to my horror viewing is Paranormal Activity 3, out officially in UK cinemas on 20th October. A lot of people will scoff and argue this film isn't even that scary and is in fact predictable. Not to me. I am a sucker to all the build up. In fact when the first Paranormal Activity came out I almost didn't get to our local Vue to watch it, I got so drawn into the hype. I hate to admit it, but I came out slightly shaking! Shameful!

I did go to the cinema on Sunday last week and saw Don't be afraid of the dark, I got myself geared up for a spooky ghost story and was pleasantly surprised to face a more mystical style of film. Although don't get me wrong I still jumped a few times of course.

One thing I'm not a fan of though are films like Hostel - in my opinion full of unecessary violence and gory for the sake of it. Don't even get me started on that Human Centipede film, even hearing hints of what that involves makes me feel ill. Just no need. To some scary films are rubbish, but at least they are harmless enough. Over the years I've seen tons of frightening films, I own a number of horror DVDs and I can't see anytime soon me tiring of these movies.

I'll let you know if I get up the courage to go see the film and if I survive, let's hope it's one night when my boyfriend is staying over. If not feel free to come by if you're in Hornchurch, for a giggle, I may well end up running out the flat in the night! In fact, scrap that I may well run from the ticket office, have you seen cinema prices these days??

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Random hungover Sunday musings

What a shocker, I am indeed hungover today as I suspected. I had a great night last night and ended up reliving old memories as we ended going to a club we used to have nights out at back when we were at college and teenagers. I am suffering for it today though. Why is it as you get older hangovers are so bad?... I am sitting here watching X Factor and still feel rough, am not impressed.

Another discovery I have made since going out last night - and looking back at the photographic evidence - is that I have definitely put on weight recently. Something I have got to sort out, particularly as in less than 4 weeks I will need to put a bikini back on! Woohoo!! Yes I have a holiday booked and I cannot wait, just a week of sun, relaxing, reading and listening to music. A nice break. Okay, yes, it is away with my parents and we may well kill each other, but I'm sure we'll survive a week together.

Especially now I have a proper bed and will not have to sleep on a camp bed or short, cramped, sofa bed. Yes, that's right, when searching for a holiday we found that companies seem to think it's acceptable for three people wanting to go on holiday together to not allow for 2 rooms and under occupancy fees, but in fact have them in the same room and one person can't have a proper bed. What a cheek and as I'm sure most people will agree and have seen if they have booked a holiday recently, holidays are not cheap right now...

Anyway that aside, I have a holiday booked and I can't wait! As long as the sun is out in full I will be a happy bunny.

So, last night, I was shocked when we got to the restaurant/bar, after blogging about how many 'orange' visitors it usually attracts, I actually found that when we arrived there wasn't a TOWIE wannabe in sight. Regardless, I just have to say the food in The Brickyard is great, yes it's not the cheapest of local eateries to dine at, but they do great food, it's well presented and you get huge portions! The cocktails are yummy too. Last night I sampled a starter of pigeon breast (something I've not tried before) salad, served with walnuts, mixed salad leaves, a raspberry vinagerette, crispy bacon and raspberries. It was amazing, not wanting to sound like a Masterchef judge, but it was such a good mix of bitter and sweet flavours. I then moved on to enjoy sea bass fillets, on a bed of saffron fondant potato, carrot puree and a mussel and prawn ragout - again a great mix of tastes.

And I think we've realised I'm probably not made up to be a TOWIE star, after applying my tinted body lotion yesterday, I awoke this morning to find my arm half 'tanned' and half white. Nice.

I also stupidly decided to go to the gym today and have a workout in this state too. After a night of drinking and hours of dancing to garage, going into a gym with music pumping out the speakers was not the best solution.

Oh well, by the time I have finished typing my random musings, X Factor has finished and Nu Vibe have been voted off. I have to agree with the bottom two though, both gave pretty naff performances in my opinion...

I'm going to carry on vegging out on my sofa and feeling sorry for myself whilst I nurse my hangover and cringe after last night's pictures! Oh and I might even indulge in a bit of The Only Way Is Essex later too. What an exciting life I lead indeed.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Is the only way Essex?

I'm off for a night out tonight with the girls TOWIE style. We're off to my local area of Hornchurch and starting off at a venue called The Brickyard. This place has in our opinion gone for the TOWIE crowd appeal. Apologies for those of you who haven't been witness to the circus that is TOWIE, I am referring to a show on ITV2 called The Only Way Is Essex, focussing on young 20 somethings and their lives in Brentwood. However if you've ever seen the show or been to Essex, you will know it is far from reality.

Yes if you go on a night out in Brentwood you will see lots of very tanned girls dressed up, but not many of them will be sipping champagne. There are often lots of people that love themselves, but I don't know anyone that gets 'vajazzled' or has a pet pig! Now off the back of this programme there are an increasing number of girls going for this look around Essex and men sporting their version of the 'Joey Essex' look.

So as I used to do whenever I went out in Brentwood I am now worrying should I slap on a few coats of my tinted body lotion. What sort of outfit should I wear? How shall I do my makeup?... On the other hand though it does make nights out more interesting, watching people who try to mimic stars from the show, or who think they are better than everyone in their OTT clobber does help create some more giggles for us girls when we're out. And of course it gives you an excuse to get dressed up, the casual look is over, and what girl doesn't like getting glammed up.

I'm pleased Essex is so much in the spotlight, Stacey Solomon, Olly Murs, 2 Shoes, the lady who won the Great British Bake Off, I could go on. There is TOWIE and Educating Essex on TV and I'm sure there are plans for many more after all the success existing shows have already had. Okay, we might not be getting the best picture created of where we live, but to be honest since when has Essex had a good reputation?

So I shall do my hair, sort my nails, pick a nice outfit, put some tinted lotion on, slap on the makeup and join them tonight. And you know what I will enjoy every minute of it!

If I'm not too hungover perhaps I'll let you know how it really goes tomorrow...

Friday, 14 October 2011

Transport tantrum

I wasn't going to blog this morning, particularly not to complain. But as I find myself standing on yet another full train and without a seat, after already having let one train go, I was more than persuaded.

Why is it our transport service remains to be so bad and other countries - not all I appreciate - are able to create better options for their inhabitants? Constantly you hear people complaining about their journey, how the bus didn't turn up, the train had major delays or never has a seat. Yet at the same time each year you hear of increasing fees. How does that work? If you went to a restaurant that never had your table ready on time, or a bar that always served warm beer when it was Summer, what would happen? You'd stop going there and using their services right? Not so with public transport, we rely on it. On your commute to work you don't really have much option to get to your job in any other way. Clearly, I am speaking here as somebody who works in London, but I am sure most of us are in this position.

In particular, the bus route that served where I lived when at home had to get me to school, college, local jobs and then to the station to get to London. The majority of the time it was late or a bus was just cut out at random. I know people have complained and it is notorious for being a bad service, yet nothing changes. I know it is just as bad/worse as I stupidly bought a property on the same route! It is the 252, just to warn you if you come to Hornchurch at any point.

Similarly the District Line and Jubilee who terminate trains early on the route constantly during rush hour. What sense is there in that. Since starting my job I have been travelling on National Rail, the time the trains get into Liverpool Street has varied considerably since August. I expected it to be busier/slow down when the school holidays finished, but it has continued to take longer ever since. Why? My bus in the morning can turn up anywhere between 750 and 805...helpful. The 'timetable' of our bus doesn't even have set times now, just 'every 10-12minutes', so just turn up when you like really...

When I worked in Canary Wharf, the journey time went from 45 minutes to 1 hour 10 by the time I left. I thought the underground service was improving? And don't get me started on weekend work.

To be fair to TfL, I had problems with buses in Colchester when I was a student, getting home from my weekend job at Sainsbury's was a game of chance as to when I'd get home.

Yet we still all pay and use the service because we have to. The transport companies don't need to change, they have us trapped. So as I escape from my packed-like-a-tin-of-sardines carriage I will finish my rant and look forward to getting a seat on a late train home tonight, albeit likely to be along with someone stinking out the train with greasy food or being ill. Oh well at least I'll get a seat

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Shellac sham

Okay, I am going to rant. Sitting here with dried out, partly pink stained, nearly-see-through tipped nails I think I'm entitled to.
I am not hugely into beauty treatments, but have been becoming increasingly interested over the last few months. However, I don't tend to fall for the typical beauty b.s. that ads and beauty counter staff try and feed you about how great this latest treatment is.

However, this time in the case of shellac I fell far. Tempted by the idea of a nail varnish that could last 14days I decided to give it a go. I researched online too to check if it would damage my nails as they'd just reached a nice state - from a few recent manicures - where they were strong, long and shiny. Plus years back I stupidly tried acrylic nails and was left with paper thin, bendy nails. Everything seemed okay and you could remove them yourself by soaking your nails in acetone. I decided to give it a go.

I enjoyed the whole experience of having them done, treatments always relax me, the nails dried quick, looked good and didn't take too long. I also can't complain about the salon. They said I could remove them myself, charged a reasonable price and told me how long to expect them to last.

Now in terms of wear they have lasted around 17 days before chipping. Great results. Last night, however, I decided to remove them. It took me around an hour of countless acetone soaking. Then I was met with most of my fingernails being dried out, or having remnants of the varnish on them, which this morning are still there. The tips of my nails have gone from their usual bold white to an almost sheer appearance. Strange that when shellac isn't meant to be bad for your nails and allows air to them and let's them grow (granted, they have grown).

I even suggested to a friend of mine to consider them for her wedding, now I am not so sure...

I'm sure some of you will think why was I a mug believing the hype at the start and believe me I won't again.

I have a loyalty card at my salon and am due a free rebuff and varnish. I think I shall be taking that thank you very much. I shall stock to my usual idea of natural is best and go hunt out a HUGE bottle of nail cream!

Sunday, 9 October 2011


How do you know when it's right or it's wrong
When to be more caring, or rather be strong?
To go with your heart more than using your head
Are you thinking your own thought or being easily led?
Should you give in to what feels easiest and best
Is it wrong to compare along with all the rest
How can you tell what's normal in life
Should it be more plain sailing and less of this strife?
When the tears are falling are they through sadness or joy
Are your feelings being played with like some sort of toy
Trying to do what you think is best
To give your mind and thoughts some kind of rest
Is sharing really gossiping and creating a sense of sides
Just talking and talking, your heart open wide
Creating a bad impression of those involved
Worrying about life's plans and now getting old
Enjoying alone time, then the guilt that soon follows
Wondering if all will become clear when waking tomorrow
Thinking you've reached a final decision in your mind
Then changing it over time after time
Guilt of not thinking enough about what matters
Focussing on the mundane when your world could be in tatters
The knot in your stomach that won't go away
Wanting to be held so much but not sure if that's the way
Wishing there was some kind of rule book of how these thing work
Have they taken the path of hardworking, or chosen to shirk
If love is no doubt then what else should matter in a world such as this
Having that comfort and a warm tender kiss
Is it wrong to be so comfortable with one another
Or is such an achievement something you should celebrate together
Over and over, round and round
The thoughts in your head are silent, but they make such a sound
Constant debate over what action to take
So worried what's best, no decision can you make
Feeling so free and rested for the shortest of times
Then soon back to the worry and whether to cross that line
Are family, love and length of time enough
Or does there have to be more nowadays when things are so tough
Feeling a nag, a bore and a constant teacher
Always dishing out support and advice like some kind of preacher
Placed on some kind of pedestal so high and so tall
Feeling like perhaps now might be your time to fall
Who will be there for you if you are suddenly alone
Are you giving up that future, that love and that home
When will life be less of the hiccups and blips to get over
Not asking much just the basics to mull over
Two jobs, a home, drive and ambition
Not feeling the everyday has to be such a mission
Just wanting to see some drive, common sense and a proactive approach
Without needing to be a makeshift lifecoach
Wanting to support like I have received
Worrying if I am selfish in this enforced rule to succeed
Time to stop now, I could continue all through the night
Worrying and debating what's wrong or what's right

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Schooldays revisited

I've finally got around to watching Educating Essex on Channel four tonight. Yes, yet another programme on Essex. Watching it has just made me think of school, wow scary thought, I started secondary school 18 years ago. Oh. My. God.

Watching this school at first I started to think how mouthy these kids are. But to be honest looking at some of them they are reminding me of some characters from my schooldays. Not me of course, no I was a good girl at school. In fact when I first started secondary school I was so quiet, like a mouse. I hardly spoke and at first this got me a reputation for being posh. I know it doesn't make sense, but hey we were only eleven, and we were in Essex...

Whenever I tell people what school I went to, if they are from the local area I am met with "oh the posh one?" or similar. Er, no. Yes, it is situated in a more well-off area, but that's about it. Before I started my education at said school it was deemed a 'good' school and although it was not my first choice my parents and me decided it was a good place to attend.

Ha. Not when I went there and some of the lovely people who joined me...I won't name any names, but these were just some of the characters:

The pupil who sat stoned in an English lesson, falling asleep
The student was a known drug dealer
The schoolkid who stole credit cards from teachers and stood in a music lesson swinging a keyboard charger round his head like a lasoo injuring people
Oh and did I mention after I left our headmaster was thrown out for stealing school money?...

Hm doesn't sound so 'posh' now does it?

I was a shy person when at secondary school, I worked hard and I'd say I was in the middle. I wasn't in the group of 'hard' people, but I wasn't a nerd. I wasn't the most popular, best looking girl, but neither was I the ugliest or without friends.

Just watching this programme now, our teachers had to put up with a lot, but nowadays there are so many obstacles in just everyday life that clearly infringe on learning. For example all schoolchildren have mobile phones and what about the internet, schools now have this readily and use it in lessons from what I can see. How do they handle dodgy downloads or social media use instead of researching as is intended?

At the end of the day I believe that if you want to achieve you'll do well regardless of what sort of school you go to. Should children have private education, is it better to go to single sex schools? If anything I think these more sheltered types of school lead to more problems. Sorry to be judgmental, but those who went to all girls schools tended to be more focussed on boys and be the ones sleeping around more. Or the private school kids - more into drugs? This is just a general overview of things I'd seen or heard and I of course am not suggesting this is the case everywhere and for everyone.

For me, secondary school wasn't enjoyable, I much preferred college as more confidence grew and I could focus more on what I was truly interested in. You can see how individuals have grown up and become their own people when you go on Facebook. I always found it interesting how people on Facebook would add you and want to talk, yet when at school they had no time for you. Many people ended up as young or teenage parents, some have sadly been killed and others have been in prison. That wasc years ago and just makes me wonder for kids nowadays. I grew up in an Essex town, not some dodgy ghetto, as that rundown would suggest.

You know what tends to baffle me the most though about school? How did those teachers seem so old at school and past it? I know a number of friends who went on to teach - brave souls - and they are much too young and cool to be teachers surely?...