Sunday 31 October 2010

Trick or Treat?

Yes it is the end of October - All Hallows Eve.  That time of year when the shops have just one more day to go before they can put out their Christmas decorations.  And a time for the whole world to go pumpkin crazy.  What is it about this holiday that people love so much?  My friend told me the answer, it is a time for adults to dress up and no-one will stop and sneer and say what are you doing??  And it's true, I went to a Halloween party last night, it was.....impressive.

There was Batman and Robin, Indiana Jones, a gangster and his moll, Cleopatra, Christmas elves, surgical patient gone wrong, a cat, lots of witches and several people with token horns or just a mask, relying on the plastic horror to count as the whole outfit.  I went as a devil with horns, tail and wings - it was an interesting experience especially when trying to sit down as the dang thing kept getting in the way!  Dressing up gives you license to be a big kid and leap around and have fun and lets face it as adults we really don't get the chance to do that very often.

The celebration of Halloween comes from an older festival known as Samhain which celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  It was also believed that the veil between this world and the next is thinner on All Hallows Eve so messages of love and remembrance can be made to those you have lost whereas evil spirits need to be warded off by wearing masks and scaring them away.  I think, like all of our festivals, it is sad that the true meaning has been lost in a sea of commercialism - it is a nice idea to think that today we can celebrate the lives of those we have loved and lost but I doubt that the great unwashed will even consider the concept.

Why do we say trick or treat?  For those of you who haven't yet managed to fall comes from medieval times when the poor would offer to say a pray for your dead in exchange for some food.  These days it is more likely to be eggs thrown at your door if you don't make quick with the chocolate.  I hope that if you go trick or treating, or perhaps dress up for your own Halloween party you can find a few moments to light a candle and just remember your loved lost ones, I am sure they will be listening.

Wednesday 27 October 2010


I tried.  I really, really, really did.  For the sake of book club I picked it up and put it down....over and over and over again.  I tried in the morning, on the way to work, at lunch and in the evening.  But it was just no good.  Purge by Sofi Oksanen failed to hold my interest at all.  The characters were unrelatable and seemed mere parodies of what I am sure were sincere hardship experienced in Estonia during the Cold War.  Sometimes novels are slow burning, they take a while to get into the literary flow.  But this was flat and stilting and I found it impossible to engage let alone force myself to turn another page.

This however, is what we join a book club for.  To have our horizons expanded and be introduced to works of fiction that we would otherwise avoid and from time to time a real gem can be found.  And so it was with some trepidation that I looked at the next book.  Which was to be discussed at the next meeting.  Which was Wednesday 27th Oct (I checked the list last Friday lol).  Soooo thanks to Amazon the book arrived in my little paws last Monday and has now been read, digested and I am armed with comments.

But it did strike me as peculiar that I can be so at home with Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray and yet struggle completely with war-torn Estonia.  Either way, there is alot to discuss about Wilde's descriptive prose, his insistence on the beauty of man and the empty-headedness of woman as well as the idea that possibly each main character is actually himself at different times of his life.  He certainly expounds his theories on happiness, love, art and beauty within this novel which touches upon the fragility of youth and the things we will do to preserve it.  It's telling that the never-ending quest for youthfulness is even bigger today than perhaps it was then.  I wonder what Oscar Wilde would have made of plastic surgery, perhaps he would have been its greatest advocate.  Myself, I believe that the inner beauty of the soul shines through and is far more beautiful than any physical appearance can ever be. 

Sunday 24 October 2010

Fear of the Unknown

Wouldn't the world be a different place if we knew what was going to happen?  I mean obviously - it stands to reason that it would be, unless knowing what was going to happen was such a normal state of affairs that nobody thought it peculiar which means getting into weirdo parallel universe world and this blog wasn't planning to go there today.  Anyway...

What I mean is, that irrational fear that holds you back when you don't know what is going to happen.  I can't go into that shop because I've never been in it before and what if the staff are really mean or the clothes are too expensive or they think I am a shop lifter or or or or and so on.  We should be excited about the new experiences that are out there waiting for us, not paralysed by fear at not knowing what will happen.  Bad things happen - we hurt - there is pain, but that is all part of life and without those things we cannot be the people we are today.

Tomorrow is a new day, a brand new day and it's shiny and bright and full of possibilities.  The only trick now is to learn how to open yourself up to those possibilities - maybe just lift your head a smidge above the parapet and just glance around to see how the land lays.  Ensure that the way back to your hidey hole is clear of obstacles and then get out there and experience that crazy little thing called life.  We don't know until we try and lets not allow the don't know grip us in fear and stop us from living.

If I knew what the future held I would wish for blissful ignorance.

Friday 22 October 2010

Tired with frozen blood

Ooooof what a week - jet lag really does pack a punch doesn't it?  And the thing is it catches you out when you least expect it - first thing in the morning is ridiculously difficult however that might just be the normal state of affairs.  So once the bed head gets shaken off and the day is off to a swinging start all seems ship shape and orderly but... that mid afternoon slump which is hard enough on a usual day seems to be magnified tenfold when the jet lag monster is running after you.  So you think ok, maybe I will catch an early night and get back into the swing of things but then.. just when you think now is the time to snooze... the body goes ping!  And that's it - you are wide awake and the brain is zinging and there is just no way that you can possibly even contemplate sleeping so lets just stay awake for now and just see what happens.  Tick tick tick tick tick tick and then it is 1am - omg!  How did that happen? 

And so onto the frozen blood.  Whether it is due to the extreme tiredness, the uneven eating patterns or the low low low temperatures I have been so so so so so so cold.  I shiver when I get up, get ready for work, walk to the tube but warm slightly whilst riding to work - I think that is possibly the best part.  Then intense freeze as I walk from tube to work and shiver allllllllllllll day at work brrrrrrrrr.  I tell you, it is extreme brass monkeys!!  But I think maybe it isn't really and it's just that fact that it was positively balmy in the Big Apple.  I think that two pairs of socks, three jumpers, gloves, hat and scarf should sort me out - oh and the two coats.... and you can walk outside wrapped up in your duvet right?

I'm sure a weekend of sleeping will sort me out... where is that electric blanket?

Monday 18 October 2010

Well it's just like London aint it?

I'm back from my little trip and I have to say I was a little disappointed with New York - it wasn't as American as I thought it would be.  I only heard one broad new yorker accent and whilst I could have stood there and listened for ever, I thought it might have been rude to just stand there.  It was a taller, shinier London.  It was no more cosmopolitan than the big city, with the same amount of people milling around in much the same way.  The most obvious difference was that instead of 5 or 6 different coffee houses on every corner it is Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks everywhere you look.

Food in America is not an enjoyable experience, I don't think I saw a single vegetable in my entire trip and everywhere you go to eat is a hurried affair with plastic cutlery, that being said I enjoyed my New York styley burrito and I had the best hot dog down in Coney Island.  Oh and the cheesecake was divine! 

New Yorkers were actually friendlier than I thought they would be, I was pleasantly surprised - all those stories about rude people charging about are so not true.  I had smiles and even a wink!  I just wish I could have immersed myself in the city more, there is so much to see on the tourist side but I wanted to see the real nitty gritty side of New York - it is so much bigger then I thought it would be, ok, ok I sound like a tourist now.  But there was Queens and the Bronx and Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District and the rest of Brooklyn and....

I thought I would really miss being plugged into to the virtual world with no phone and no laptop but I really didn't notice it, I tried to immerse myself in the New York vibe and despite the crippling tiredness that came with the jetlag I really really enjoyed my cultural experience.  It has made me want to see more of the US and I know that each state is different from the other and has its own uniqueness and that is definitely something I want to experience.  So I guess what I am saying is book me another ticket and maybe I'll pop in and teach you how to make tea because honestly, guys, come on - you need to learn.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Wish me luck!

So today is the day.  The Big Day.  Well not that big day - but a big day nonetheless.  I have my first level 3 (means bloomin hard) exam, topic is infectious disease and surprisingly I feel pretty good about it.  Lets hope that self assuredness doesn't turn into cocky know nothing at all and big fat fail.

Straight after the exam I have to run across London to catch a flight to New York.  One day my life will be easy and simple with no hurdles to climb.  It should be fine, except it is the Circle line which of late has been somewhat disruptive.  Perhaps lady luck will be on my side today.  I hope so.  How gutted would I be if I got to watch the plane take off from Heathrow without me?  I'm fairly sure i have packed everything which means no doubt that I have forgotten the most important and vital item but just as long as the security guys at the airport don't think I am a mad scary terrorist all should be well.

Does it end when I get back I hear you say?  No.  On my trip to NY, I am taking with me my Molecular Biology text book because lucky old me has another exam the day after I get back.  Do you think your brain works with jet lag?  Well, I am the experiment so I will let you know!  It will pretty quiet for a couple of days (don't cheer too loud) but I will be back with all my NY tales and look forward to sharing them with you.

Hope life treats you well while I am gone :)

Sunday 10 October 2010

nudge, nudge, wink, wink

There is nothing like a compliment to brighten your day - so here is one for all of you - you are bloody gorgeous!

One of the things I like about the Internet is how it brings people together and gives people who would never normally have the opportunity to interact to say hi, how are you.  Whether it's facebook, MSN, online penpals, myspace - whatever.  I can say hello to you over in Canada and you can say hi, how are ya! 

Not only is it a peek into a whole other life but it is also an opportunity to spread the love and make a perfect stranger smile.  Online flirting is a dangerous game because you do sometimes forget that you are typing to someone that you actually have no idea as to who they are or indeed what their motives are but in my experience everyone out there is just looking for some contact, a little bit of love, someone to say - hey I care, I'm interested, I want to know.

After all it takes less muscles to smile then it does to frown and frowning gives me a headache.  I say, crack open that smile and share it around - give that random facebook friend a love your pic comment or tell a work colleague they look really good.  Trust me it will make them smile and smiling is contagious so by this time tomorrow the whole world will be grinning  :D

Friday 8 October 2010

In one ear... I'm sorry what?

Why is it somethings are so easy to remember, whilst others dance infront of our brains tantalisingly close yet oh so far away?  I am desperately trying in my week of enforced idleness to revise for my looming exams and yet I fear the information is literally going in one ear and out the other.  And yet I could tell you the intimate details of each episode of Strictly - It takes two that aired this week. 

I am of course very interested in the degree that I am trying to achieve otherwise it seems like a ridiculous waste of time, money and brain cells.  It's just that now, in these final stages, it is actual really rather hard and I am not sure that I have the requisite brain power to a) get through it and 2) pass with some success.  Still I shall persevere, no point in giving up when you have got this far eh.

But it has got me thinking - why do some things stick in your mind and you have absolutely no recollection of others.  Why do some people remember you vividly yet you cannot place them?  What makes a memory stick in your mind?  I expect there is probably a very in depth psychological answer that took experts years to make up but I reckon it has to do with 'markers'.  A smell, a touch, a sound, the lyrics of a song - these things all mark a point in time to make it stand out in your mind.  And the best marker of all?  Surely that has to be a strong emotion, why else would certain things make us feel happy or sad or angry.

So to all those events, people and places I have forgotten, I apologise.  You simply did not imprint on me strongly enough - try harder next time!!

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Enforced Idleness

I sit and I sit and I sit.  The people rush back and forth outside my window, red car, blue car, black car.  I sit and I sit and I sit.  The shadows play across the front yard whilst the clouds whip across the sky dancing to their own tune.  I sit and I sit and I sit.  The seconds skitter across the minutes which zip around the hours and the day grows longer as the week grows.  I sit and I sit and I sit.

I am forced to be idle.  This is not a natural state for me.  I like to be busy, bee like as I often say.  And yet this week, I am netted, restricted, forced to remain static.  And I don't like it one little bit - no sirree!  I like to know that I need to be here by then and that this must be done by that time and that it all falls apart if X doesn't make it to Y whilst B chugs along to A and 4 gets jiggy with 6.  This week I am signed off work which has one good point - I have time to study for my looming exams.  But I am forced to be immobile because everytime I try to move my neck says nooooooooo, what are you doing!!!  Even sitting infront of the computer for a short period of time is extremely testing - who knew the neck was so important?  I mean we knew it was important but not to the point that... ok, ok, its very important.  Moving on.

Who doesn't idly wish that they could have more spare time to do nothing and chillax?  (chillax - what an awful word, we are so busy we can't chill out and relax at the same time, we have to chillax - ugh!)  Who doesn't wake up on a cold, dark, wet morning and wish for a duvet day?  Who doesn't despair the daily grind that seems to beat all life out of you and wish for idyllic days doing nothing?  Well let me tell you, when you get it, you don't know what to do with it, you don't know how to fill your time and you certainly wish for it to be over soon (sounds like something else beginning with M, I'll let the cynical ones work it out).

Time is our fickle master.  When we want more we get less and when we don't want it spare it is there in abundance.  Oh well - four days until I can go back to work and a week and a half before I can start leaping around with bags of energy again.  All I have to do in the meantime is try not to fall into a coma and eat a million million calories.  How hard can that be?  As I sit, and sit, and sit.

Monday 4 October 2010

The lovable pest

I am plagued by mice.  In my previous establishment in the country I had mice.  This was to be expected, after all you don't live in the country and not expect the little blighters to run around alllllllll over your kitchen, leaving their little packets for you to find in the most unlikely and upsetting places.  It involves a great deal of disinfecting, shuddering and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

So I move to the city.  Expecting perhaps cockroaches in the very worst scenario - still unpleasant I grant you but the one in Wall.E was adorable and they will survive us all in the nuclear holocaust after all.  What do I find in my inner city abode?  Mice.  I almost think that they missed me and travelled over 150 miles to keep me company. 

I am not squeamish.  They can patter about in front of me and I won't scream, nor do I find their movements disturbing in any way although they can surprise you when they scamper out unexpectedly and run under your bed!!  eek!  So what to do, what to do??  It is a conundrum indeed.  I do not have anything against mice but when you have a pest problem you do look into their habits and become somewhat appalled with the likely diseases, gnawing issues and continual incontinence.

And so it is with a heavy heart that the traps and the peanut butter come out.  Wistfully thinking that the mouse won't reappear twice in the same night, I sat with confidence that tomorrow I could check for small holes and fill them with wire wool, sprinkle cayenne pepper in likely places, place a few bay leaves here and there and dab some peppermint oil around the doorway.  You have the evening to run amok elsewhere I thought, dear mouse. But alas, it was not the case.

The wee brown thing sat by the door, its little nose wrinkling as it sensed the peanut butter.  I looked and watched for a couple of minutes at the loveable pest torn between its adorableness and horrified at the trap that lay in wait.  Who am I to say that a mice cannot share my abode?  The mouse made up its mind and ran around the corner of the room.  It was not until 15-20 minutes later that the snap came and the loveable pest was gone.

Sunday 3 October 2010

The art of war... on baking

I love to bake.  I can't believe I didn't know about the auditions for the Great British Bake Off!!  I would've definetly signed up for that.  Maybe.  On second thoughts.... the pressure of baking for others is like planning a successful invasion campaign (not that I have intimate invasion experience, it's a hunch - go with it) which starts with marshalling your troops.

Ingredients are the keystone to any baking quest.  They have to be the right kind.  You can cut corners on a lot of things but sometimes with baking you just have to bite the bullet and buy the best you can afford.  It really does make a difference.  And when that end result is being put on show, you'll be glad you did spend hours searching for candid peel in a box rather than the manky, waxy stuff already chopped in little cartoons.

Many people bake to relax, to feel better, to immerse themselves in a task that is different to their usual 9-5 drag.  But lets face it, the ultimate result is for others to taste your baking efforts and tell you that it is the best cake they have ever ever ever eaten.  It won't be too difficult for many people who believe that cakes are made with carboard boxes around them and that the synthetic aftertaste of a bland, colourless slab of sponge is normal.  But there is a growing trend of bakers.  Home growers.  Slow cook stewers.  Made the sauce from scratch artists. And the competition is stiff.

No longer can second best 'make-do'.  Every cake that comes out of that oven has to be perfect in every way, no more hiding of uneven edges with lashes of buttercream, no more blaming of inferior ovens or the chill breeze in the kitchen from a casually left open window.  No, the cake must arrive out of the oven light yet firm, golden brown, smelling of afternoon tea bliss.  And most certainly not undercooked in the middle!!

The art of WonB extends not only to the right ingredients, perfect execution and miraculous presentation.  It must pass the taste test - it must make the eater mumble through full mouthed bliss how wonderful their taste buds feel at that very moment.  So gird your apron and step once more into the breach, get mixing because, lets be honest - what else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon?