As anyone who actually reads this blog, and there aren’t many of those left, will be aware, I’m a terrible writer. The reasons for this are many. While I can string a sentence or two together and my grammar’s not (I hope) too unbearable, I’m unimaginative and overly averse to expressing opinions which might actually upset someone. The result, of course, is that nothing I write provokes much comment. It’s bland at best.
So, what to do? Well, I’m not entirely sure but I do want to do something. I really enjoy blogging and I want to do more of it. So I guess I’m going to have to step up and attempt to write more fluidly and about subjects that actually matter to me. I’d also consider some sort of creative writing class, I think, if I can find one that suits me.
No guarantees of improved quality, but it can’t hurt to watch this space for a while and see if I can actually write something that people want to read.
Many years ago I had a succession of jobs for which I was required to wear a shirt and tie. I loathed it. I hated it with a fiery passion, as only a young man can. I swore that I would never voluntarily wear a tie again once I’d found a job where I didn’t have to, and actually claimed that anyone who wore a suit or tie when they didn’t have to couldn’t be trusted.
Oh, how things have changed. For the last ten years or so I’ve been able to wear whatever the hell I liked to work and, partially as a result of this and partially due to other factors, my clothes have become scruffier and scruffier. It eventually reached the point where pretty much all I had were black combat trousers, black t-shirts and black sweatshirts. I did have a brief dalliance with some nicer, but Gothier, outfits a few years ago. The one thing that this taught me was that dressing up and wearing nicer outfits made me feel good.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I desperately needed some new clothes as mine had become deeply tatty. On a shopping trip to buy some new underwear I was encouraged to buy a couple of pairs of non-black trousers, a tan pair and a green pair, along with a couple of shirts, and found that I loved them! Soon I was buying more and also branching out into a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers. Next came a hair cut and more accessories such as cufflinks.
Before I knew it I was wearing a shirt and tie to work, not because I had to, but because I genuinely wanted to. I’ve found that looking smart makes me feel so much better about myself, even if (and possibly especially because) I’m the only person in the office who dresses this way. I’ve discovered real pleasure in selecting and wearing nice things and, all being well, I hope to continue expanding my wardrobe for some time to come.
My current clothes are mostly in brown, green, tan and red but I have some blue items and hope to expand my range of blue and grey outfits, most especially with some decent suits, as soon as I’m able to.
On Saturday Juliet and I went into London to get her birthday present and to try again to get an engagement ring. Pausing only for sushi we headed for What Katie Did and had a good look around. After trying on a few corsets Juliet selected her favourite. So, birthday present duly bought.
The next stop was Alfie’s Antique Market, a place we’d already been a few months ago. It didn’t take us long to find ourselves at what has become our favourite dealer and I was surprised at how quickly Juliet managed to select a ring. It dates from the 1920s and is, I think, absolutely perfect.
The evening was spent celebrating Juliet’s friend Una’s birthday at Camino in King’s Cross. I’d already eaten as I was really hungry, so I didn’t have anything there, but it was good to catch up with Una and meet her friends.
On Sunday we went over to the house and did some very necessary hedge trimming. The electrician is going in shortly and the builder will follow him in September, all being well. Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we headed to The Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, a nearby pub with an award-winning selection of beers. I was very impressed with the quiet, understated quality of the place and will undoubtedly be going back on a regular basis, especially as it’s a decent cycle ride from our new home.
The work at the new house progresses slowly. It’s proving really hard to find the time to get down there and strip wallpaper. Fortunately we have a free weekend coming up, so with a bit of luck we’ll get plenty of work done then. We did manage to mow the lawn recently, which really made a difference to how tidy the garden looks.
The builder has been in and has reported that the roof doesn’t need too much work and that the damp isn’t as bad as first feared and will be quite straightforward to sort out. On the other hand, the electrics are in a dangerous state and need to be ripped out and completely replaced. At least that means we won’t have to worry too much about the place burning down around our ears.
We managed to get a pair of blue leather sofas for free (thanks, Internet!), which we’ve put in the lounge. It’s nice to have something comfy to sit on when we take a tea break.
Last Friday we completed on our new house, so it’s now ours. This is officially Very Exciting Indeed. On Saturday Juliet and I went round and spent some time poking about and deciding what to do. The garden was in need of a bit of TLC so we popped out and bought a lawn mower and strimmer, also picking up a cheap garden table and chairs so we have something to sit on. It was quite good fun strimming the worst areas while Juliet took some shears to the overgrown plants. Mowing will have to happen very soon too.
It’s been a while since I posted here. I really must get better at updating. Sorry. Anyway, I thought I’d just say a little bit about what’s been happening. We’ve set a date for the wedding – 21st April 2013 – and have already booked the venue and arranged for the rabbi to perform a blessing. The very wonderful Camille O’Sullivan has agreed to play for us, as have my friends Eddy and Amanda and their ceilidh band. Juliet’s outfit is being planned, and I’m thinking carefully about mine.
We’re also just on the point of exchanging contracts on a three bedroom semi-detached house in Rickmansworth, thanks to Juliet’s parents, who have been incredibly kind and generous to me. Once it’s ours, the builder will be going in to do some essential repairs and then it’ll be up to us to fix it up and decorate it. We don’t plan on moving in until next year, so there’s plenty of time to do stuff. The place has a very nice garden, complete with shed and summer house, so we’ll need to keep that tidy too. And dig a vegetable patch. Of course.
It’s all very exciting and I feel unbelievably lucky.
Barclays Bank have just updated their online banking facility and I’m deeply unimpressed with the result. The problems I’ve faced so far are:
- The site’s incredibly slow and often times out
- The site claims that it’s possible to use either PINsentry or passcode and memorable word to log in but only presents the option for the former. Nowhere can I find out how to use the second option.
- Even if by some miracle I manage to get logged in, when I try to view the recent transactions the system waits for ages and then presents me with an error message.
This is simply not good enough for an organisation of Barclays’ size and importance. Next time, people, don’t launch a new version of the site until it’s actually ready. Please.
Update: Juliet and I went into the bank yesterday (Monday, 2nd April 2012) to open a new joint account. The lady we spoke to there was incredibly helpful and explained how to set up passcode/memorable word login. I still think that it needs to be made more obvious and explained better, though. The other, speed-related, issues seem to have been sorted out as well now.
Last Saturday Juliet and I headed over to my flat with the intention of making two or three trips back to her place with some of my stuff. We arrived in decent time but, as she drove up onto the neighbours’ parking spot temporarily to let someone else out, there was a loud bang and the left rear tyre deflated rapidly. So, being wimps, we phoned the AA and got on with packing some things while we waited.
A couple of hours later the tyre was sorted out but the spare needed some air so we jumped in the car and drove to the nearest garage. Which had no air, the machine being out of order. And the same for the next place we tried. On our way to the third garage, and getting further from my flat all the time, we spotted a tyre place and called in. Luckily they were able to sell us a new spare and inflate all the other tyres so, that done, we headed for home again.
By the time we’d got the car loaded up and driven back to Juliet’s, that was pretty much it for the day. Then, of course, it started snowing. By Sunday morning there was a thick enough covering that we clearly weren’t going to get any more moving done, so we resigned ourselves to our situation and did some sorting out of our new lounge before heading to the pub for a couple of evening drinks.
Not an unpleasant weekend, for the most part, but not what we had planned. It’s left us rather behind schedule with the move but hopefully we’ll get everything done on time.
Life is changing rapidly at the moment. After Juliet and I announced our engagement on New Year’s Eve, her parents very kindly offered to turn part of their home into a flat for us, in order to help me save up some money. After a little thought I accepted, so now the process of figuring out what to keep and what to give away/throw away has begun. On top of this, we’re organising two engagement parties, one for close family and one for our friends.
As a result of all this, I feel more optimistic about the future than I have for a very long time. Life’s been pretty hard over the last few years but this last year and a bit with Juliet and now planning our future together has really made a difference. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
On New Year’s Eve Juliet and I announced our engagement. I’m pleased to report that our families have been really great and we’re both extremely happy. We’ve already started planning the wedding, even though it probably won’t happen until sometime next year. In the meantime we’ll be trying to save some money and generally sort our life together out.
This year promises to be hard work but great fun! I’m feeling more optimistic about life than I have in a very long time.
Last night Juliet and I attended Bad Film Club at the Jewish Museum in Camden Town. It had been a little while since I’d been to BFC, the last one being I Know Who Killed Me at the Barbican a couple of years ago. After grabbing a bite to eat we headed to the museum, even though it was rather early, so that we could have a good look around. We found the staff to be very friendly and the museum itself was well laid out and very interesting. I was particularly fascinated by the large trade union banner on display, one of only two Jewish union banners left in the country, apparently. I’d very much like to go back for a proper look at some point in the future. We even managed to have a quick look around the gift shop, which was at about the usual museum shop level, containing some interesting-looking books but otherwise a load of tat. They didn’t quite have “I *heart* my Jew” t-shirts, but it wasn’t far off.
When the time for the film approached we made our way to the auditorium where there was wine on offer. There were some extremely nice paintings on the wall, mostly of life around Brick Lane, any of which I’d be very happy to have on my wall. After a brief introduction, the film, Carry On Girls started. The commentary from the hosts was a little lacking, I felt, but the film wasn’t their usual kind of choice, so I think they can be forgiven. They still made a pretty good job of keeping us entertained through what is a truly terrible movie. I won’t bother to describe it – suffice to say that if you’re familiar with the genre you’ll know exactly what we got. I’ll definitely be going back to BFC again, especially as their next London showing will be Anacondas. Need I say more?
At the weekend Juliet and I decided to go and have a poke around at the London Tattoo Convention in Wapping. My friend Mark had let me know that he was going to be there and I was looking forward to meeting up with him. Unfortunately, thanks to the dreadful user interface in the car’s sat-nav, we were led way off course and had to spend hours struggling through heavy traffic. This meant that we didn’t get to see Mark.
On arrival, we discovered that the only cash machines were in the venue and we couldn’t use our debit cards to pay the rather steep £30 entrance fee, so we popped to a nearby garage to get some cash and have a quick and much-needed burger for lunch. Once we were in, we had a good wander around but, to be honest, weren’t all that impressed. Much more entertaining was sitting down with a drink and doing some serious people-watching.
The journey home was very slow, again thanks to very heavy traffic. At least we were able to break it up with a quick stop at the services to pick up some food and some milk.
On Sunday we had a nice long lie in before cycling into Rickmansworth for a spot of lunch. We decided to take the dog out for a walk in the woods, and were very glad we did. Not only was it delightful out, but we came across three alpacas, which were recovering from dog attacks. We spent quite a bit of time leaning on the fence watching them, while the dog just stood and looked faintly bored.
The evening was spent relaxing in front of the TV, which is a pretty good way to end a weekend, if you ask me.
At the weekend Juliet and I had a wander down to Walthamstow Marsh. I took the camera with me so that I could practice some photography and, although the results were a bit hit-and-miss, I did manage to get some shots that I liked.
On Saturday night we went out to a club in Romford. It was a pretty easy journey there as we were able to take the train, but the trip back in the wee small hours of the morning was not so much fun, involving as it did two night buses, a couple of longish waits in the cold and then a walk home from Walthamstow Central station in heavy rain.
As a result of being out so late on Saturday, we had a good long lie-in on Sunday, getting up at about 1pm. As is normal for me, though, I was awake at about 7:30am and was unable to go back to sleep, so by the late afternoon I was really struggling. This was a bit of a shame as we were out again and had to come back earlier than was ideal. On the plus side, I did get a nice rest and a good night’s sleep and so I’m pretty much back to normal.
Juliet’s dad recently bought a 1966 BSA A50, which he’s very kindly offered to lend to me. It’ll be absolutely great to have a bike again, and an old British bike has, in my opinion, masses of cred. Anyway, I’ll obviously need to sort out insurance, so I went on to Bennetts site to get a quote. After dutifully filling in their form, the price that was quoted was a whopping £2,710! That seems more than a tad excessive to me, so I guess I’m going to have to shop around. I shall try Carole Nash, although they don’t provide quotes online, but if anyone can recommend sensibly priced classic motorcycle insurance I’d be very grateful.
Juliet is away at the moment in Nashville for an Alison Krauss concert, which leaves me at a very rare loose end this Saturday. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with myself, apart from having a very long lie in. I suspect that some DVDs may get watched and music listened to. There’s always my book, too. Possibly some housework may get done if I get really bored.
On Sunday, assuming that Hurricane Irene doesn’t bugger things up completely, I’ll be meeting Juliet at the airport and accompanying her home, where I shall look after her while she gets over her jet lag. This will, I suspect, spill over into Bank Holiday Monday. We just might walk the dog or maybe do a spot of cycling, but probably nothing too energetic.
So, that’s the plan for the weekend. It’ll be lovely to get some rest – I’m feeling increasingly in need of some R&R, so I suspect it won’t be all that long before I take a week or so off work and give myself over to some serious laying about.
I’ve just read God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke. It’s about his struggle with the concept of God, in particular the God of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I’ve always liked Mr. Brigstocke and have enjoyed his appearances on the Now Show, Argumental and QI, to name a few. I think he’s funny, clever and, as much as any of us are, pretty sensible.
The book, unsurprisingly perhaps, utilises quite a few personal anecdotes, as well as quite long passages about his wife and children and his friend James, to whom the book is dedicated. The passages about how much he loves his kids and how wonderful he thinks they are really made me want to have some of my own. This is a man who really appreciates what’s important in life and is lucky to have found it.
There’s also a very interesting section about his early years, and how miserable he was. I can certainly relate to this, having struggled with depression and anxiety since I was very young.
All the above makes the book sound more like an autobiography, which it most certainly is not. The author merely uses some details from his life to illustrate points about what sort of God he would like there to be and what sort of God it seems many people actually believe in. I’ve wrestled with much the same difficulties and, again, felt a strong empathy towards Marcus Brigstocke.
All in all, a very funny, intelligent book and well worth reading, whether you believe in a God of some sort or not, or whether you’re undecided. Honest, charming and very hard to put down.
I’ve just finished reading The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, as recommended by Juliet. I confess that I was a little sceptical about how good a book about a unicorn was likely to be. I was wrong – it’s absolutely delightful. The style reminds me a little of Japanese folk tales: beautiful, somewhat sparse and often a little odd but always charming, entertaining and an absolute joy to read.
The story itself sounds like fairly standard fare (a unicorn sets out to discover what became of all the other unicorns and picks up companions and adventures along the way) but there’s much more to it than that. There’s real beauty here, both in the prose and in the ideas and characters.
I haven’t yet seen the animated film of the book but I’m going to try to do so. In the meantime, I recommend this very highly indeed.
Yesterday evening Juliet and I were due to meet some friends in the pub but, even after stopping for a meal, we were still rather early so we decided to go for a walk. We soon founds ourselves down by the Thames, a little way west of London Bridge, and found some steps leading down to the water. The tide was a fair way out, so there was a large strip of exposed ‘beach’, which we took a wander along.
As well as a large quantity of pottery there were an incredible number of animal bones. I have no way of knowing how old they were, but I can only assume that they weren’t terribly recent, jusging by the colour and the way they were broken up. I have to say that it was quite fascinating, and I’m very tempted to sign up for a day’s organised beachcombing sometime.
Today I went into a Computer Exchange shop in order to sell some games I haven’t played in a very long time and probably won’t want to play again. Foolishly, I assumed that I’d simply be able to hand them over and take the cash, but apparently it’s more complicated than that. Before I can sell them anything, I have to open an account and before I can open an account I have to provide two forms of identification, one of which must include a photo. So, I have to try again tomorrow, taking my passport and a recent utility bill with me. All for (probably) less than ten quid’s worth of games.
I was (and am) strongly opposed to the idea of ID cards, but I have to confess that even I thought, albeit momentarily, that it would have been handy in this particular situation to have had one. Then I came to my senses and remembered just how deeply flawed the whole idea is and gave myself a mental slap for being so stupid. It does go to show, though, how easy it is to persuade the general public of the usefulness of such a system.
On Saturday Juliet and I, accompanied by her mother, went to the Living Crafts fair at Hatfield House. We were pretty hungry when we arrived so we headed straight for the food area, where Juliet’s mum bought us each a pork baguette, which was delicious. Afterwards, we had a good wander around the stalls, picking up some really lovely sausages and cheese, among other items. We also really enjoyed looking at the goats and the barn owl that were present, and chatting to the guy on a stall that sold products made from dog hair (yes, really!). All-in-all, a good day out.