Friday, 27 April 2012

Come fly with me

I do love the views...
As I prepare to board the big orange bus of the skies later today (brace yourself Amsterdam) I’m reminded of the fellow fliers I’ve known and loved / held in contempt / been utterly disgusted by. I’ve done a fair few air miles (my carbon footprint could probably stomp out a small country) so I’ve had the dubious pleasure of sharing an airplane with all manner of specimen.
But it doesn’t take a frequent flier to predict that a budget airline flight to Amsterdam on a Friday night will be approximately 68% full of drunken lairy stag/hen types. What I enjoy, though, is seeing the same groups on the return flight – a green, shaky, shell of their former selves. Because I am so very sensible when it comes to booze you see…*ahem*
Speaking of drink, I do love the opportunity a flight gives you to be a bad influence on complete strangers. There have been several occasions when my elbow rest buddy has declined a drink with a smug holier-than-thou my-body’s-a-temple expression, which is quickly wiped off their face when the refreshing grapey beverage I’ve ordered is passed under their nose. Before you can say ‘cirrhosis’ they’re all ‘actually could I have a wine too…’
Predictably, children can be a bloomin’ nightmare – the worst being when they hunt in packs. Beware the school trip on a plane! Excitement and massive bags of haribo are an explosive combination, and particularly annoying when you’re trying to catch up zzzs on the stupid o’clock flight.
One of the minor 'joys' of low-end airlines (have to eek it out where I can…) is choosing my own seat. Honing my observation skills has helped avoid all manner of seating disasters. I have, on occasion, felt sorry for ladies with babies for this reason though, as passenger after passenger swerves to avoid their row when the mini person is spotted, making them feel like such a pariah that they give you a pre-emptory apologetic look if you’re the one stuck with the infant-adjacent seat. These can actually be fun if you’re lucky enough to get the cute smiley variety, but sadly there are no guarantees they won’t be (or turn into) the screechy tantrum types.
Screaming babies have nothing, however, on the guy who spent an entire flight to Bristol making a guttural burp/hacking sound so loud I could hear it over the engines from two rows back <retch>. It took me a while to figure where the noise was coming from (and, indeed, what it was) but then I noticed the poor misfortune sitting in the same row as him hanging out into the aisle to get as far away from him as possible. Ewwww.
And so I say a little prayer to Stelios, the god of cheap air travel, that I avoid a pissed / loud / smelly neighbour on this upcoming flight. In return, I shall make a small offering at his altar in the form of in-flight bar profits.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What's in a name?

tee hee...
Passing my local dog groomers, Doggie Style, got me thinking about names (after my usual reactions; a titter, for obvious immature reasons, and a sigh, because I don’t have a doggie). It’s generally the first thing that people find out about you, so it can be a bit of an albatross around your neck if you’ve got a crap one.
Catherine (my in-trouble name) is common as muck. There were always at least two other Catherines in my class at school, including my bestest buddy, who had a Jedi-like ability to predict when the cross-eyed Sister Pious (I kid you not…) was about to call on ‘us’ for an answer. Given she’d be looking at both of us simultaneously (one eye each), it was impossible to tell who she was actually talking to – Ca liked to assume it was me and duck at the appropriate moment.
It could be a lot worse though. Rumour has it that Arabella was considered around the time of my birth. Now some people may be able to carry off Arabella – as a ginger I certainly could not. What parents really need to consider when choosing their offspring’s identification is; what the child is likely to look like, where they live and, please don’t forget, what their surname is. This is not really a decision that should be made under the influence of hormones...
Pocahontas is a lovely name for a Native American beauty, but for a snotty-nosed pale-face from Ireland? When you hear ‘Po-kaa-haaan-taaaas, come hee-ore’ in the finest Cork accent you can only think, ‘Disney has a lot to answer for’. And then there’s Vladimir, the name my sister’s old neighbours chose to give their baby boy. Grand if you live in wintery Russia, not quite so much if you live in County Meath and your surname is Murphy.
It’s a testament to my old colleague Ewan Kerr’s good humour that he didn’t hold it against his parents for not quite thinking the first name-surname combo through (or did they? he he he). We do like to see a sense of humour with these things. It’s very dull when people get too pernickety about their name, like the girl at my school who spent her life whining ‘it’s not Eee-del, it’s Ahhh-dele’ - people just called her Edel on purpose to wind her up. But we all know it can be very embarrassing to get people’s names wrong. Luckily our lovely neighbour Graham finds it very amusing that we called him Gerry for an entire year.
Finally, there are the excellent names. These are a credit to the parents who bestowed them; Fyfe Dangerfield, lead singer of the Guillemots (yes – that is his real actual name), Edgar Allan, first-born of my long-lost ginger brother, and, not forgetting the hairy children, Trevor the horse. Simple. Brilliant.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The joys of pawrenthood

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady (that ship may have sailed with the title…) I love my furry children, and sometimes I like other people’s furry children more than their human children. I know - *gasp*.
Me and my 'sister'.
See I grew up in a house where the dog was my ‘sister’ and the cat was my ‘brother’ and as siblings go they were top-notch. Better, in many ways, than my human siblings. The furry brethren, for instance, did not lock me in dark rooms and shout ‘rraaaaarrrrrrrr’ outside the door, they did not mock me endlessly for pronouncing pseudonym ‘pee-se-doe-nee-um’ (I was 9!) and they did not tell me I came from the knackers because I was the only ginger in the family. Ah yes – all good ‘character building’ stuff… apparently.
I do remember a bit of aiding and abetting when my (human) brother used to hold me down for my (canine) sister to give my face a liberal licking, but she thought it was the ultimate expression of love. I’m not adverse to a little doggy slurp on the hand of course, in fact one of the best things that happened to me this week was being licked by a puppy in the street (my life is so very full!) but I’ve seen a bit too much of what dogs eat to relish a tongue facial.
Like mother, like son...
     Cat drool and sand-paper ‘kisses’ are no better, given the dead things that their mouths get wrapped around and the flies they like to snack on (bleurgh!) But their purrs can cure all ills. I had a rather stressed friend round recently, who felt infinitely better after a liberal application of red wine and G-cat purrs.
In terms of a morning arousal (no – not that kind of… get your minds out of the gutter!) I find the purry alarm clock to be far superior to a grating ‘bleep-bleep-bleep’, a dose of smashy-and-nicey style radio DJ or a screaming baby. And if it’s stupid o’clock, at least you can shut furry children in the other room by way of a snooze button – I think social services frown on that type of thing with human children.
Butter wouldn't melt...
Now they are far from perfect. At times they are nothing but trouble in a hairy package. Just a couple of their finest moments include bringing a live pigeon into the living room (I’ll never know how she got it through the cat-flap) and peeing on our neighbour’s pillow (the shame!)
They’ve had me in tears, forcing me to euthanise the mice that were beyond saving, and I’ve had occasion to call the police because of them (not as crazy cat lady as it sounds, honest, G-cat got himself locked in an empty flat, so I had to track down the key-holder).
But then they turn on the fuzzy charm, look at you with big innocent eyes, and it’s all forgotten – till next time…

Some of my nieces, nephews and favourite hairy friends...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Desperately seeking inspiration

I’ve been playing hide-and-seek with inspiration, my fair-weather friend, for a couple of days now. I can’t find the little bugger anywhere.
I’m working on an assignment that demands ideas on ‘widely different subjects’. I’ve already covered my mainstay, travel, and I’m guessing booze and food, my other major ‘areas of focus’ are not going to cut it in the differentiation stakes.

My new muse?
Perhaps I need to get myself a muse? M-cat is currently in repose beside me, legs akimbo, and I think she may be auditioning for the part – she’s giving me a very sultry upside-down look. Hmmm… upside-down… maybe a different perspective…

Nope. Looking at the world upside down has done nothing but give me a slight headache (and increased my risk of throwing a hip). And no – the headache is nothing to do with my booze-based buddies thank you. My body is a temple and no drink has been taken for three whole days(!) Although maybe that’s the problem, maybe the creative and grape juices need to mingle. They do play very nicely together - and have spawned manys the (a)musing…

Positively glowing with inspiration...
Alas I can’t pop my cork just yet. Aside from the fact that drinking alone on a Thursday afternoon for the purposes of creativity may have those unidentified imbibers knocking at my door, I have to go for a run later. In the rain. Deep joy. My dedication knows no bounds and my body is indeed a temple …of doom.

Apparently Jack London said;
'You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.'
And so I shall. I think running with a club in hand might raise a few too many suspicious glances, so hopefully tracking down my stimuli and force-feeding them endorphins will do the trick. Right you slippery little suckers – I coming to get you!

Monday, 16 April 2012

That Monday feeling

It’s fairly safe to say we all hate Mondays. They are the very definition of a killjoy; they hang around with the other banes of our lives (work, chores and the alarm clock), and they invite despair, tears and general gnashing of teeth to their miserable party every week.

But maybe we can’t tar all Mondays with the same brush. Bank holiday Mondays, for instance – we love those delightful little cherubs. And what about those Mondays when you’re on holiday and everyone else is at work? They’re even better, because you can have a little cackle at the thought of other people dragging themselves out of bed at ungodly o’clock and struggling through traffic to sit in endless meetings as you lie in bed / on the beach / under the bar. Sadistic, yes, but you know you do it.
Occasionally Mondays also look the other way and allow a little joy to crash the party. Like today; a Monday that brought with it sunshine AND a cheque from the taxman. Yes – I said from! They also give tax back. Deep joy on a Monday people. And it goes to show that, not only are some Mondays good, some employees of HM Revenue & Customs are not evil. Who would’ve thought it?!
This happy little occurrence reminded me of another renegade I came across in the past few months; a nice traffic warden. No joke. I was let off a ticket, and, what’s more, a ticket I totally deserved. I parked up, right by a pay-and-display machine, but discovered I had no change. ‘Feck it’ I thought, ‘I’ll only be a few minutes’.
Timekeeping is not one of my strong points and I was a few minutes longer than a few minutes, and as I rounded the corner to get back to the car there he was, ticket touter of doom at the ready. My heart sank and I rushed up, garbling apologies and excuses. He raised one eyebrow, told me I was ‘riskin’ it for a biscuit’ (eh?) and put the malevolent machine away.
My shock and joy led to a stream of gratitude (I think I told him I loved him at one point…) and when I exclaimed that ‘I didn’t know nice traffic wardens existed!’ (I never know when to shut up) he simply smiled and said ‘there are a few of us’ and headed off down the street.
Mondays, taxmen and traffic wardens – they’re not all bad. Shocking but true.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Network socially now children

A friend handed Facebook its P45 this week, citing the fact that being on there was hindering his picking up the phone for a real conversation. Fair dues. At the risk of swerving dangerously into corporate twaddle, we all need to examine our methods of communication every so often. So I asked myself; are you networking socially? Let’s see…
Well I’m not giving up Facebook any time soon. My FB buddies make me laugh at least once a day – that can only be a good thing. I know it sucks plenty (too much) of my time and it’s no replacement for proper conversation. But until my ginger powers are developed enough to allow me to zoom around the globe for a catch-up, Facebook will have to do (…and in the meantime I might start wearing my keks over my tights to see if that kick-starts anything).
See I’m not a big fan of talking on the phone. I love a good chat, but the phone is not the same. Thank god (and Steve Jobs) for FaceTime. My better half is away a lot <sad face> and being able to see him while we chat makes a HUGE difference. They say as much as 80% of communication is non-verbal (check me with the stats!) and given the amount of time we spend making faces at each other I reckon that’s very true.
The vision that greets my Mr on FaceTime - no wonder he's away a lot...
My latest online love is Pinterest (the fastest-growing social network site ever – another petit snippet for you fact fans). Any opportunity to admire, and covet, pretty things is welcome in my world. I do wonder whether I’m in the honeymoon stage with it, and if I’ll still be pinning up a storm in six months time. I suspect I will, for the photography alone. And it gives the creative bit of my brain a little treat, breeding ideas for work.
Speaking of work. LinkedIn gets a very honorable mention given it was instrumental in bagging my last job, and meeting the lovely people I did in said job - including some real proper friends. Very social, I think you’ll agree.
Now Twitter is not so social. I follow a lot of comedians so it’s basically free stand-up for me. That said – I popped my online debate cherry on Twitter the other eve and it was rather fun, but definitely not as much fun as a proper discussion, in the pub, with real people.
I’ll take face to face over online any day, but when faces are far away and sites can provide a link and a giggle, that’s social enough for me in the meantime.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Trust me - I'm an expert...

No, not me - I have no discernable expertise to speak of (I don’t think my active interest in all things alcoholic counts). The experts I refer to are those frustrated individuals you see on TV trying to help some hapless eejit who ignores their every word.
Working my way to expertise - one cocktail at a time.
Granted, I can understand why the ‘restaurateurs’ on Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares may have trouble accepting advice when it’s screamed into their faces and peppered with expletives (but I also fully understand Gordon’s affinity for effing and jeffing). My main point of confusion lies in the fact that they call him in in the first place – and then refuse to listen to him. Eh?
Same thing happens to Messrs Beeny and McCloud in the property field. OK, so Kevin McCloud does tend more towards mocking the grand designers behind their backs and having a little cackle when things go wrong; ‘and she’s decided to take on the role of project manager herself …he he he’. But how many times have we seen virginal property developers blatantly ignore Sarah Beeny’s advice, only to come a cropper further down the line? Learning from your mistakes is all very well – but learning from other people’s mistakes has got to be the better option, especially when it comes to D-I-WHYYYYYY.
And then there’s our lovely Apprentice friends. Britain’s brightest young business minds apparently. Really? I despair. They’re all so busy trying to impress Lawd Suuugahh (I preferred Surrralan to be honest – had more of a ring to it) they ignore EVERYONE. Focus groups, field experts, each other – they don’t discriminate and their single-minded determination to listen only to themselves does not falter. I suppose it’s not really surprising from people who come out with gems like ‘don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon’ and describe themselves as ‘the reflection of perfection’ <retch>.
Self-belief is a wonderful thing, and anyone who’s got anywhere knows you can’t let the critics, haters and nay-sayers get to you, but for god’s sake, when someone who knows what they’re talking about is giving advice – listen!
I should have listened to Phil 'The Power' when I had the chance...

Monday, 9 April 2012


On this lovely Easter bank holiday weekend, while many of us are gorging, spare a thought for the poor fools who thought it would be a good idea to use the long weekend to get round to those ‘little’ jobs round the house.

While you lie there prone with your chocolatey distended stomach aloft, they too are probably lying down – either trapped under the shelving that’s just collapsed and rendered them unconscious or curled up in the fetal position as the true magnitude of what they’ve taken on hits them.
I’ve seen grown men cry over laminate flooring. Not my better half, I hasten to add – he’s a dab hand with click-lock, but I have seen him truly broken, head in hands, when our 100-year-old postage-stamp-sized flat has revealed yet another of it’s ‘quirks’ at the end of a long and dusty day. Who needs straight walls and floors when you can have ‘original features’? He’s utterly convinced that all its previous builders and workmen were cross-eyed. I put it down to DIY demons.
These little imps have a wicked sense of humour. They enjoy setting booby-traps on the ‘easy’ jobs, like putting the water pipes in the wall just behind your drill so the simple hanging of a mirror morphs into an emergency plumbing situation. They particularly like encouraging pets to get involved - sharing the latest in paw-print paint interior styling, weaving around the ankles of the DIYer on the stepladder in an opening-scene-of-casualty style, or helping with flat-pack furniture assembly by batting the most essential screw across the floor and through a crack in the floorboards – never to be seen again.
If you, or any of your loved ones, have fallen prey to bank holiday DIY, you have my deepest sympathies. Try to keep your sense of humour when the demons show off theirs.
I’d offer to help, but I have a pressing appointment with an Easter egg.

Murphy the cat and the DIY demons 'help' with the new bath panelling...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Food glorious food

With the happiness of chocolate day upon us, my mind has turned, as it very (very very) often does, to food. There wasn't much turning involved to be honest. They say men think about sex every 15 seconds - well chubby gingers like my good self are like that with food.
My better half is now used to being asked, as he eats his breakfast, what he fancies for dinner Sunday. I am a planner and I love food, and these attributes collide to form a mega eating schedule. I like to know what I'm having so I can look forward to it and extend the enjoyment with anticipation… mmmmmmmmm.
Obviously I don't know what's on a new restaurant menu in advance, but if it's online I'll take a peep and have my favourite options identified before I get there (this can go horribly wrong if they're out of something - beware the disappointed ginger!) And, just to perpetuate the paddy stereotype, I often make my choice based on the kind of potatoes on offer. God how I love potatoes - nearly as much as I love my man.
Luckily he understands because he's a fellow chowaphile, which also makes him an excellent dinner companion. Together we have developed and perfected the concept of sharey-sharey™. 'What's this?' I hear you ask, intrigued (OK, maybe not, but pretend politely please).
Sharey-sharey is a brilliant (yes, brilliant - even if I do say so myself) system that ensures you get maximum mileage on a menu, while strengthening the cornerstones of a good relationship, be that familial, friendly or loverly. Together we survey the menu, discuss the options and negotiate to agree who's ordering what. We order different starters and mains, then half way through eating, we swap. It's like getting two starters! And two mains! More delicious food to sample, and I love trying new tastes (within reason…)
This is not a sugary hallucination - this is real.
Obviously sharey-sharey is not for everyone. Sadly, not everyone can trust their dinner partner not to be a greedy bugger, others are picky eaters (weirdos!) and some people just did not watch enough care bears when they were little. I feel sorry for these poor individuals - they're missing out big time. As the big JC (the rebel MC) once said: give and you shall receive ...even MORE food!