Thursday, 28 June 2007

Tired. Tired tired tired. Need there to be lots of extra time, because I can't fit everything in. I have an overnight at the weekend too so had better catch up on sleep before that eh?

Danish tablecloth technique, apparently, is where you have a big tablecloth split off into sections for all the people who are at the away day/event/whatever and you all write all over the tablecloth instead of on a flipchart. Apparently it encourages participation and all that. Thankfully, the person who told me didn't think it was fun.

(although... i could kinda believe it would be, if you ignored whatever you were supposed to do and just drew pretty pictures on the tablecloth. i did say was it like one of those italian restaurants where you had crayons to draw all over the tablecloth when you were a kid, but now wish i hadn't - i think she already thinks i'm loopy so now just thinks i'm uncouth too. i also used the word 'posh' about a restaurant to her the same day which probably set me up as being firmly lower class. i probably am, these days, but i was born middle class and coming across lower kind of makes me anxious. [not anxious, though. that would be weird.])

that was a long aside, eh?

I spoke to someone today who got to the 'danish tablecloth' point in the email and deleted it in disgust. I could understand.

I've discovered a fab little cafe restaurant in town, called Scrumpy Willow and the Singing Kettle. Name aside, it's fantastic. Has veggie and vegan food clearly labelled, but also locally sourced organic meat for the carnivores. Love it.

I walked past a guy in a suit today who was middle aged, wearing a suit, looking respectable... and smelled really strongly of marijuana. I wondered if he realised just how noticeable it was.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Busy busy

Newcastle isn't drowning like the rest of the UK seems to be, but I am so, so sick of the rain.

There must be some people who like the rain. I know that moaning about it is a national passtime, but some people hate hot sunny weather. I like a variety of weather personally, so I really enjoy the beginning of each season. The changes they bring.

But anyone who likes the rain is keeping completely schtum at the minute. Everyone is moaning, constantly. It doesn't help that our building in work is on high ground, so you can see the rain coming and watch it move away. Even if it's not raining where we are, chances are we can watch the rain elsewhere.

So seeing as I have nothing interesting to say right now, I thought I'd let you see a picture of the most useless street sign I've ever seen. I have been going past it regularly for... probably years now, but I only noticed it was there the other day. And I know the photo is a bit blurry, but it's pretty much that hard to read anyway.



It reads 'John Dobson Street'.

Oh, and today I learned what the Danish Tablecloth technique is. Anyone care to venture a guess? Google is no help. I had to ask someone 'in the know'.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Back from Scotland. Wish I was still there, surrounded by friends, alcohol and peace.

Wedding was fantastic. Lovely. Beautiful. Weather couldn't have been much worse, but contrary to expectations it didn't actually affect the celebrations too much. Talked to some members of my group that I didn't really know before, which was really nice. Caught up with a good friend who used to live up here but moved away. Met some new people. Met my friend's mum and dad - I've known her since 1995, I think, but never managed to meet them. Prepared tables for the wedding. Spent 30 minutes speed clearing this morning before we had to leave to get back to Newcastle. Prodded the edge of a gazebo to get rid of the pools of rainwater so they didn't flood through on guest's heads. Collected guests 30 minutes before the ceremony was due to begin to help tie helium balloons to weights in the party room and got back to the venue with minutes to spare.

It was one of the best weddings I've ever been to. Hard work, but well worth it.

Friday, 22 June 2007

going away for a wedding. Back soon.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

car parks

It's difficult to know what to think about this.
Basically, there's a big debate going on round here at the mo (well I say round here; more specifically I mean in Gateshead because I haven't heard a single person actually talking about it). It revolves around whether the car park in Gateshead town centre that featured in the film Get Carter should be demolished.

Now, it's a horrible, horrible car park. One of the least delightful of the sights I can see from my office. I'd be glad to see the thing knocked down. Only problem? It's Tesco that want to do the knocking. And destroy the market underneath and build a new big shiny Tesco store. And Tesco aren't exactly my favourite people.

News stories about the above: here (including a piece at the bottom about the market traders) and here.

I'd rather the car park stayed and Tesco went away. But I don't see that happening, unfortunately.

Monday, 18 June 2007

comparative grammar

only joint's

So read the graffiti on the 'no smoking' sign at East Boldon metro station as I travelled back to Newcastle after yesterday's race.

My soul was torn between despair at the fact that no one seems to understand apostrophes any more, and rejoicing at the fact that the little reprobate who did it cares so much (if misguidedly) that his or her grammar is correct.

On another topic, I hate shopping. Hate clothes shopping, and hate shoe shopping. One of my friends gets married on Saturday, though, and I didn't have anything to wear (this is the downside of running - your body shape changes and all your clothes look ridiculous). So I went to the metro centre. Bought four dresses and no shoes, but my mum has found the dress I really wanted at her local store in the size I need (that they didn't have either in the Metro centre or Newcastle. She's on her way out to buy it now and will post it to me tomorrow. I love my mum.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

a lesson in tribes

If you ever meet someone from Sunderland, don't call them a Geordie. At best they won't really care, but at worst they will see it as a mortal insult. There's quite a rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland.

People from Sunderland are usually known as Mackems. This is quite a recent term, but has gained the status of something older. The distinction comes from the difference between the pronunciation of the work 'make' in the two dialects. In Geordie, it's [meːk]; in Mackem it's [mak]. Those in Sunderland, referring to the ships that used to be built here, used to 'mack 'em and tack 'em down to the river'.

All this is important because today, I've been in Sunderland for the Great Women's Run. It's a 10k race in aid of Cancer Research that has the distinction of being the first 10k race I ever did, this time last year. It has a stretch that runs along the beach on compact sand, and the route takes you out to sea and back down Roker Pier (incidentally, what is it with 10ks in the north east and lighthouses - the North Tyneside one finished at St Mary's lighthouse).

In short, I loved it last year, and I loved it this year.

Last year, I came in a hair's breadth under 1hr 18. The North Tyneside one in April, I knocked 5.5 minutes off that. Today, I knocked 3.5m off that. 3.5 minutes off your PB in a mere 9 weeks is, I feel, pretty impressive.

A km breakdown is below.
Start line: I cross the line with a minute 17 on the clock, but it's a chip timed race so that's OK.
1k: I completely missed the 1k marker. Too many people walking and getting in my way. Also, how on earth did I forget about the slope from the start line? Completely threw me. Just after 1k, I think, a girl I know from the running club catches me up and we run together for the next 4k.
2k: Relief that I really did miss the 1k marker and that this isn't going to be the most ridiculously long race in the world. We're running back along the sea road.
3k: We seem to arrive there incredibly quickly and I joke 'we're almost halfway!'
4k:
We're running on the path next to the beach. Only barely longer than a 5k left to run. We ran along the beach for 354m. The sand is compact and lovely to run on.
5k: As we go past the 5k mark we're handed bottles of water. I've been drinking a sports drink that I made up myself, but I take a bottle and gulp it down, splashing a little on my face to cool me down. The girl I've been running with needs to drop back as we start running onto Roker Pier, so I carry on alone.
6k: The 6k marker is just after we turn round on the pier. It was soaking wet and slippery last year, so it being dry is quite a relief. Channel 5 cameras and marathon-photos.com photographers are out there taking photos. I smile and wave hopefully. (Highlights on channel 5 just after midnight Wednesday morning - see if you can spot me!!!)
7k: showers. Relief. Cools me down. Flat at first, but then a nasty, nasty slope. I give up and walk for the first time since I get caught up in the hoardes of walkers at the start. Then downwards to...
8k: into Roker Park. There's a band playing, and another killer slope. I walk up it, again. One of the marshalls is telling the runners that the 9k marker is just around the corner, that from there it's 3/4 of a mile. I can do that.
9k: out of Roker Park and back onto the sea road. Just one last hill to crest and then it's all downhill to the finish line. 400m to go... I start to run that little bit faster. By the 200m to go marker I'm nearly flat out. I can see the clock. It's ticking towards 1hr 10m, but it isn't there yet. I put everything I've got into it and run as fast as I can. It's a little over 1hr 10m as I cross the line.
10k: Relief. I did it, and in a new PB. I get my goodie bag, put on my new t shirt and eat some chips before heading for the metro.

I am exhausted. I'll sleep well tonight.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

chinese gate

i wrote this ages ago and never got round to posting. should have thought to post it last week to keep you all busy. oh well.

(The photos are from a much nicer day than today.)

I was a bit surprised to discover when I first moved here that there's a Chinatown in Newcastle. I don't know why it surprised me, but I've never really seen them in other cities (possibly just never found them as I'm pretty sure there's one in Manchester and I used to know Manchester centre fairly well). It's centred round Stowell Street, which is full of oriental restaurants, Chinese supermarkets and more.

The arch has been there since 2005 and serves as a focal point during Chinese New Year celebrations - somewhere for the dragon to go through. It's impressive, colourful, and it makes Chinatown a lot more noticeable.


Some thought that the arch should be placed at the top of Stowell Street, the main part of Chinatown. Fair enough. But it was placed on Gallowgate, to draw attention from passers-by and raise the profile of Chinatown.




Now, that's all very well. But look more closely at the photos. On the left of the gate, we find Chicken Cottage. It's a halal fried chicken shop. Not very Chinese.


And next to that? Tyneside Irish Centre.


I can't help but feel that the arch looks misplaced.




You?

Friday, 15 June 2007

I found out today that one of my old boyfriends has a kid.

With the girl he dumped me for.

He was the one who I always thought, in the evil place in the back of my brain, would be doing worse than me. Would never still be with her. Would be unemployed still. Would be a mess.

So. Fucking. Jealous.





(I got my assignment in on time. Thank Christ)

Thursday, 14 June 2007

star worship

I got two books signed tonight by my fave author, Val McDermid. Got to ask her a question and tell her I used to work in a unit run by her cousin. Most exciting.

I totally went all giggly and blushed. I've never met anyone famous before and I'm kinda relieved, now.

And she was talking about the art and craft of writing (crime fiction specifically, obviously), so that makes it college work. Kinda. Sorta.

Don't shoot me, OK? I've been a fan for about a million years and never got to see her. I couldn't miss it. And I'm not really here now. It's just someone's imagination. Not mine. That's crazy talk.

*backs away slowly, whistling nonchalantly*

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

*panics*

I can't do it. The first part of my assignment. I've been trying to come up with something but it's just crap. The others are fine, but the first part I just can't do. And it's not writer's block. That's just a crappy excuse most of the time. It's just that I don't give a damn about the assignment. I've approached it from all the angles I can think of but they're all awful.

My deadline is Friday. That's already an extension. I have to have a draft, like, NOW, so I've got enough time to work on it before it's got to be submitted.

And I am so tired.

And Val McDermid (my fave author) is coming to Newcastle on Thursday and her email didn't say you needed tickets but you do and there aren't any left and it's just.not.fair dammit.

Will stop moaning now. I realise it's not exactly becoming.

Monday, 11 June 2007

So I have a deadline for my course on Friday (and that's a week's extension). I'm at the running club tomorrow night, and hopefully going to see Val McDermid on Thursday.

If I post here this week? Someone shoot me.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

note to self: don't have babies til more mature

me: so should we have a baby?
him: maybe. where were you thinking of getting one from? i can see if they have any in in kwik save, i think they had some in the advert.
me: i think that was somerfield...

we then spent half an hour categorising our DVDs by title alone to see which categories were best for the films we have. it started with 'how many of our DVDs have titles that start with a number' but we missed such gems as '51st state' and 'eight legged freaks' til much later. we then moved on to
  • 'DVDs with a person's name in the title'
  • 'DVDs with a title that's a complete sentence' (just batman begins)
  • 'job titles' involved a lively debate about whether 'leatherface' counted
  • geographical phenomena, (deep rising, deep blue sea, the hole, tremors)
  • geometric shapes (spiral, dark star, cube)
  • religious themed concepts (prophecy, underworld, dogma, jason goes to hell/from hell, nightmare before christmas, and more i can't remember right now).
tons of fun, but considering that was how quickly a semi-serious 'should we have kids yet' talk got derailed? probably best we don't do it quite yet.

Friday, 8 June 2007

recycling

Wow. Even when I say 'don't hold back' and to say whether you're coming back all people say is hi. I had exactly the same thing going on last time I had a blog - noone ever commented. I'd love to know why that is. Am I boring? Am I somehow intimidating? Is there some other reason that I can't think of? I'm not really expecting an answer to that question, but if anyone can tell me? Go for your life.

Well, anyway.

We have a recycling scheme, round here. It runs through both Newcastle and North Tyneside. Most items go into a black plastic box; tins, plastic bottles, glass, clothing. Not cardboard, which annoys me every time I throw cardboard away. Grass cuttings, plant waste (not food waste) go into a brown wheelie bin. They are both collected fortnightly on different days. The rest goes into a green-black wheelie bin; still collected weekly, although who knows for how long.

Since we moved here, we've had the black box stolen with varying degrees of regularity; it's very frustrating, especially since it takes at least six weeks to get a replacement. The first time I phoned up, they told me that people are going round after the recycling is collected and stealing the boxes to sell at car boot sales. Even as I was asking 'what?!' I was impressed at their nerve.

The last thievery was sometime in the autumn, maybe October. I phoned the council, reported it MIA and requested a new one. I put the recycling out in carrier bags, duly separated; I kind of forgot that we were waiting for a new box, after a while.

I don't know what reminded me that we'd been waiting far longer than usual. But a few weeks ago I phoned up again, asked where on earth my box was. They put me back on the list. I promptly forgot about the whole thing again.

Until last night. As I walked up the drive to the front door, I noticed a brand new sparkling clean black box behind the gate. About time, I thought.

I got into the house, kissed D. 'Did you see the recycling boxes?' he asked.

I nodded, wandered into the kitchen to put the kettle on before I really heard what he'd said. I stuck my head back into the lounge. 'Boxes?' I enquired.

'Go and have a look,' he suggested.

Intrigued, I went back outside. I saw the box behind the gate. Then I noticed what I'd completely missed the first time. Between our brown bin and our green-black bin that we have for everything else was a stack of four new black boxes.

I have no idea what we're going to do with four spare black boxes. It seems a bit miserable to just store them until the next time they're stolen, although it'll be nice not have have to phone the council the next four times a box is stolen. Any suggestions as to what we can use them for in the meantime gratefully accepted in the comments box. Modern art sculpture? Stepper for a new exercise routine? The more creative, the better....

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

a change of attichood

I got tons more done today. I don't know if it's just a coincidence, but last night I got completely sick of it all and reread my Weekend Life Coach book and decided I needed to be more positive about everything. Today, I got through most of the incredibly important things on my list and I feel tons better about being off all day tomorrow. So that's nice.

Anyway, so I know that there are people dropping by here from all over the place, since I put in that tracker down there *points to bottom of menu on the right* Not a huge number (like... three a day), but enough for me to get curious.


But not many of you are saying hello. So, say hi! Even if you don't plan to come back here ever again. Drop into the comment box. Say hi, and whether you do plan to come back. Give me a cheery wave. Tell me what you think of this place. Whatever you like. Don't hold back.

I like this blogging malarky. But it seems a bit pointless if noone talks back to me.

Questions

It was the little things that kept me going, today. A man crossing the road outside my office, strumming his acoustic guitar as he walked. A dad weaving his daughter in and out of the bollards on the pavement on Newgate Street in her buggy, utter delight all over the kid's face.

I was trying to persuade myself that these occurrences were the kind that you'd only find in Newcastle. But I had to admit to myself that they were as unusual here as they would be in any other city.

The rest of the day pretty much sucked.

Anyway, Alda sent me some questions as part as the me-me-meme, so here are the (rather long) answers. Let me know if you want any questions :)


1. Which person in your life has had the greatest impact on you and why?
Which person? Like, singular?! Wow. Hard question.

... no, I just can't do it. There has to be more than one.

Firstly? My grandad. He taught me to speak when I was just six months old and he was on holiday with me, my parents and my other grandparents. He tested my spelling, he helped me work out about which side was left and which was right. But it was never work; it was just fun. I looked forward to seeing what he'd be testing me on next. I don't think I'd be the person I am today without my grandad.

All this isn't to say that my parents, my other grandparents, didn't have an influence. But I think my grandad's might have been the strongest.

My best friend J is another. Before I met him, I'd had a pretty sheltered life. I was very naive. From meeting him I started to learn that some people, even if in some ways they grew up with the same middle class priviledges as me, didn't find life so simple. Some people had to deal with abuse, and that pushed them down paths that I hadn't want to believe were really out there. Also, if I hadn't met J, I don't think I ever would have met D, and then? I would have had a very different life. My backup plan was (still is) being a batty old woman with a hundred cats. But without D, would I ever have got the courage to mess up my relationship with A, to set it down a course of self-destruction? Because I knew I wasn't happy in that relationship, but I couldn't end it. Would I really have left G? Because I knew I wasn't happy with that one either, but I was making the same mistakes again. Without D coming along, without realising how he made me feel, I think I would have ended up married to G and realised at the age of 30 I was trapped with a man I loved, but wasn't in love with.

It's amazing how much meeting one person can change who you are and what you end up as. Both J and my grandad did this for me. I'm eternally grateful to them both.

There's D, of course. Meeting your life partner is always going to have an impact. But I think I talk enough about him....

Oh, and my dad. Who taught me that books are the elixir of life, to be devoured and savoured at the same time. I honestly can't imagine what I would have turned out like without books.

(An aside: how strange, for such a committed feminist as me, that the people who've influenced me most have been male. At some point I will do a post about women who have influenced me, because there are plenty out there.)

2. What type of food do you always have in the fridge?
In my ideal world, there'd always be grapes, wine and champagne. Cans of lager. Soya milk in small cartons, so it didn't get wasted because all I'd usually use it for would be to put in my tea. Oooh... chocolate soya milk. Ah, for a daily supply of chocolate soya milk....

Alas, in the real world... well, I've thought and thought about this, and there are only two things that really come to mind.

Onions. And filtered water.

They are pretty much the only constants. There used to always be hummous in there, but D's allergic to garlic (.... I KNOW!), so that kinda stopped. I could eat hummous every day - did you see that episode of Friends where Monica talks about going to France and just eat bread and cheese forever? I could totally do that with hummous. I am literally salivating just imagining it.

I mean, I'd prefer it if I could have occasional vegetables to go with it (cherry tomatoes! veg roasted in lemon and garlic! salad!) but hummous and bread. Yum.

Guess what I'm going to have for lunch tomorrow now....

3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Excellent question, once more. And again, incredibly hard to answer.

I like who I am now. I like where I am now. My only problem is that although I can finish things that I start (courses, tidying the house, that kinda thing), I can never just go at it. I always end up wasting immense amounts of time before I can start. I spend hours on end checking to see if there's any new email that just can't wait two hours, checking BBC news, sitting doing nothing at all. And it's proper nothing. Not just 'getting my thoughts together' nothing. If I could change anything, I would stop myself procrastinating. Because it drives me mad, but I don't know how to stop.

Like, I should be working on my course now. Not answering questions on my blog. But I wanna, so there! *sticks out tongue*

4. Name three of your greatest strengths.
I'm really bad at recognising what my strengths are. Having said that...
  • I'm a very good listener. I think I've always been a pretty good listener, but Samaritans have really honed that skill. I'll try and quash my instinct to jump in with reassurance and advice, and just listen to whatever they need to say. I don't always succeed, but I'll try.
  • Sometimes I can be very stubborn. This isn't usually considered to be a strength, but I think that's wrong. Call it tenacity, and suddenly people are much more positive :) I'll stick at things when necessary. (That's something else I've got from my dad. The two of us can argue the toss for hours about whether it's ten past or quarter past the hour. Drives my mum and the rest of the family mad, but we love it. Stubborn and pedantic. What an awful combo, eh?)
I'm finding this really difficult. I think it's because I'm used to framing 'my strengths' in the context of job applications. In terms of my whole life, it's very hard to say what my strengths really are. But finally, I'll have to go with...
  • The fact I care. I believe I can change things for the better. I think life is pretty pointless if you don't believe that. I can be there when people phone Samaritans. I can donate money to causes that make a tangible difference in my community. I can offer to take my friend's dog for a walk when she's stressed and doesn't know how she's going to fit everything in. I can refuse to take a carrier bag unless I actually need one. I can write letters for Amnesty International that might just be the straw that broke the camel's back. That might get someone realised who shouldn't be in jail. That might get someone treated with respect who could otherwise have 'disappeared'. I can't make the whole world better single-handedly, but if everyone does their little bit, we can make a difference.

5. Which book do you wish you'd written, and why?
Any book would do, really. I'd just like to have written a book :) But I actually think it would have to be The Bad Mother's Handbook by Kate Long. It's not the best book in the world, but it's well written, made me care about the characters so much that it broke my heart when I could see them stumbling towards disaster, and made me cry my eyes out - still does, even on re-reading.

Ask me tomorrow, and I doubt that would be my answer, but it's true for today. Also, I wouldn't recommend her second book. I found it a huge disappointment and didn't like it at all.

Runners up: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. After you'd gone by Maggie O'Farrell. Possibly Skellig by David Almond.

So, there you go. Answers to some very searching questions. Thanks Alda! And congratulations to anyone who reached the end of this post. You get a gold star :)

Monday, 4 June 2007

fragments

Five rabbits tonight. Two big, three small. None this morning as the grass was being mowed.

It was grey and cold this morning. By the time I got off the bus on my way home, it was sunny and warm. A beautiful evening.

I kept hearing fascinating snatches of conversation walking the streets of Newcastle at lunchtime. I wanted to follow people, to hear the rest of what they had to say.

I saw the caretaker who showed us round St Andrew's church again this morning.

I bought silver nail varnish at lunch and painted my toenails tonight. I like them, frivolous though it is.

It was one of those days. Fragments, but nothing substantial. Rather like this update.

Tomorrow: questions from Alda! That should be more interesting reading than this. Sorry.

a good laugh

The hen night went well, in the event. I took enough painkillers before I went out that my headache faded and I didn't feel too bad. Funnily enough, I drank plenty but couldn't seem to get drunk - although I didn't try anything too crazy (mixing cocktails and champagne is one thing, but anything else on top of that would just make me ill). I didn't cry at any point, and I stayed out til the end, and I didn't make a fool of myself at any point. Except possibly by dancing my arse off to Jump Around by House of Pain. Everyone seemed impressed, but they might just have been laughing at me.

We went to the Hyena Comedy Club. I've never been there before, or indeed to any other comedy club. It looked exactly how I would have expected a comedy club to look, though. Dark walls, red and orange. Low lighting that went even lower when the comedians came on. Lots and lots of small table packed in to make it hard to move. A well-stocked bar.

The food was pretty good and our waiter was completely excellent. I have a rather bizarre set of dietary requirements and I sent him back and forth to the kitchen about four times trying to narrow down what I could eat. In the end he found the ingredient list on the mayo and read all the way through it for me, and was still smiling at the point at which I would have been telling me to just eat the damned food already. Top marks there. I have a tendency to want to adopt skinny lads who look like they need looking after, to take them home and feed them. It's not sexual
so much as a mothering instinct, I think. Examples are Brian from Placebo and most of the members of Muse. And D, when I first met him. The newest member of that cohort is my waiter.

The only comedian I've ever been to see before was Craig Charles, years ago, and I was singularly disappointed with him. I don't think he could ever be as funny as Lister in Red Dwarf though, so maybe I was a bit harsh on him. These comedians weren't bad, though. There was enough sexism to wind me up a bit, and some jokes were a bit too risque, but they were generally pretty good. The compere was Ben Scoufield, I think the first performer was Nick Doody and the second was Pierre Hollins. Who, his name notwithstanding, was English.

We went down to Madisons afterwards, which caused some hilarity for a few of us as Madisons used to be the name of a completely different bar. Complete blast from the past. It was a good night, plenty of drinking and dancing. We left about 1.30am and I got a taxi home with a couple of friends.

Drank plenty of water before bed and took some more painkillers. I had a bit of a hangover when I first woke up, about 9.30am; just a bit dizzy, but I thought I'd get another half an hour or so to try and get past it. The next time I looked at the clock it was 1pm. I've not slept that late in years.

Rabbitwatch: there were five out that I saw on the way into town last night. Two big, three small.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

allergic

My hen night was fine. Things went wrong (including me fracturing a piece of bone off my ankle two weeks before so the paintballing had to be cancelled - I've never played football since...), but I was fine for all of them. I enjoyed it. Nothing went seriously wrong, and I cried when one of my sisters left at the end of the weekend because... I don't even know why, really. But the point? I wasn't ill.

Since my friends started getting married? Everything goes wrong on their hen weekends.

A's hen night: half way through the night I come down with a bad combination of hay fever and cold. I get a taxi back to the hotel alone and leave early the next morning because I just want to get home and be able to stay in bed.

AM's hen night: I developed a really bad headache on the way out for the meal. I didn't drink more than one glass of wine all night because I was scared the headache would either a) come back or b) react badly with the painkillers I'd necked in the toilets halfway through the meal because I thought my head would burst.

(K's hen night was the exception that proves the rule. Nothing went wrong, I enjoyed it and I was fine.)

And now, J's hen night, one of my best friends.
  • I've felt grotty for the last two weeks, stomach not right, head never quite free from an ache.
  • I have so much to do in work that I can't even stop thinking about it and panicking now when I have two days not to think about it.
  • I have my first assignment due in for my OU course next Friday and I am less than half way through the previous block (I don't want to get an extension because there is no chance of an extension for the last assignment and I've got lots of busy weekends coming up, so am going to have little if any opportunity to make up for lost time).
  • I have an overnight at Samaritans on Wednesday which will take a huge chunk out of the time I have to deal with the previous two situations.
  • I have a 10k race which I really want to do well in two weeks tomorrow and I haven't run in nearly two weeks which I hate (I get antsy now when I'm in the habit of running and stop).
  • And just to cap it all off, one of my friends, who I worry about at the best of times, has had a recurrence of a potentially life-threatening illness that he had in January which he needs to go to hospital to get sorted, but won't because of his phobia of doctors and medical staff. Last time I had to drop everything, a weekend I couldn't afford to drop everything but had to, to get him to stay in hospital. I went over with D before but have had to leave him there and come home, because I have too much to do.
The house is a frickin' TIP, I can't think about how much I need to do without nearly hyperventilating, and all I want to do tonight is write until I've at least started to catch up with myself and then crawl into bed and cry til I fall asleep, then sleep for at least 11 hours.

But I can't, because J is one of my best friends, and if I cancel now I'll make it all about me, and it's not all about me. It's all about her.

I *am* going to call one of my other friends and let her know all this so that I have someone who can distract her/tell her not to worry if I disappear off to the loos for half an hour and come back with suspiciously red eyes.

Breathe, B. You can do it.

imagine

Imagine you're a child, about seven years old. Imagine you live in a small terraced house on Tyneside, in Wallsend, a busy house with lots of brothers and sisters. With family and friends in and out all the time. Imagine your street runs down to the river, the water near the end of your road.

Imagine you go out to play and look down towards the river. Imagine a giant ship rising out of the river, dwarfing your street, your house, you. This gives some idea of what it must have been like.

I wrote a little while ago about shipbuilding. Yesterday I saw that the cranes are being dismantled. Some are being packaged up and sent to India, while some are just being scrapped. The smallest ones are going first, which will make the loss of the last ones all the more poignant.

What with
Newcastle is changing incredibly quickly at the minute. There are still many social problems and 'bad' areas but there is a lot of money being poured in.

I hope that all the new developments live up to their promise.

Friday, 1 June 2007

neighbours

The North East has a reputation as a very friendly place, and generally speaking, that's well deserved. Most Geordies are friendly. They'll help you if you're looking lost. I've been offered money for the bus by someone I'd never seen before who thought I was getting back off the bus because I had no money.

But strangely, the area I live in is quite the opposite. I know the woman who lives upstairs from me. I used to know the people who live next door but they moved, and I've not really met the new neighbours. Next door the other way and the lady opposite I know to say hi to, but I don't know their names. I've no idea about any of my other neighbours.

I want to say hi. I know all my parents' neighbours, they know what I'm up to. I could borrow the proverbial cup of sugar there. And I think it's a shame that I don't have the same thing here.

Walking down to the corner shop before with D, I heard a voice. I couldn't make out what it was saying or where it was coming from at first, but then it resolved itself into 'will you go to the shop for me?' I wasn't sure who was talking but as I quickly glanced round I spotted a face, a man with glasses. I asked D if he'd heard, if we should turn round and see what he wanted but we decided not to.

Meandering back up the road, I felt guilty. It transpired that D hadn't really been listening to me so hadn't understood what was going on. I decided that if he was still there, I'd ask if he still needed anything.

He was still there, sitting in his doorway in a wheelchair. 'Do you still need something from the shop?' I called. He looked at me. 'I wasn't listening properly before. I'll go back if you want.'

'Thank goodness' he said as I started up his drive. 'Can you get me a cheap lighter,'
he brandished his unlit cigarette, 'and a half bottle of whisky?' He thrust a £20 note at me.

I smiled. 'No problem' and turned back to the shop. I asked the girl behind the counter for what he'd ordered and the guy who owns the shop turned to me and smiled, asking if it was for the guy up the road. 'Yep' I grinned back.

A couple of minutes later I was back with his whisky, lighter and change, passed them on to him. He lit his cigarette with evident relief and I thought back to when I smoked, how frustrating it must be for him if noone stops by to help him. He thanked me and I started back up the road, reflecting on how hard it must be for people who have to rely on the kindness of passing strangers.

I feel better for interacting with one of my neighbours, minimal as it might have been. I've resolved to find out a little more about the neighbours I don't know. To make my street a friendlier place.

I've decided to start Rabbitwatch. I keep looking out for the rabbits every day now. Tonight, I didn't see any - there were people playing frisbee in the sunshine on the grass outside the Civic centre. But yesterday I saw eight. Three on the grass outside St Thomas's church and five outside the Civic. Five at least looked like baby bunnies; I guess they're breeding like... well... bunnies.

I'll try and remember to take my camera and get a picture one day next week.