Thursday, November 20

Missing Miles

I have been missing terribly Miles Kington's wonderful articles since
his passing, so last week did I a quick search of
The Independent Online to find some of his stuff that I may have

And in an ecological outrage, printed a load of his stuff off to read on my
journey home.

(Penance of one sapling planting to be carried out shortly.)

For those of you who may not have come across him, Miles Kington was
one of the Independent's regular columnists and the best thing in the
Independent for the 22 years he wrote in it. What i think I loved so much about his writing was that unusually for a satirist, his tone was utterly lacking in bitterness and instead had an apparent warmth for whatever subject he mocked.

If you did miss out on him - you really should indulge in reading some
of the links below, especially the first which is an example of his most prolific column entry - the minutes of the meetings of the 'United Deities'. I suppose they count as a series and probably/hopefully a collection of them will be put together as a book some day.

(PS. Apologies - my understanding of does not extend to how to do the 'link' thing so you can simply click and the article pops up. Copy and paste is the height of my sophistication in bloggness. )

The lord Thy God is a little likely to fly off the handle

Bah humbug its the annual Christmas card debate

Oh to be in England now the Britishness test is there

A few handy tips for the minefield of modern manners

Thursday, October 30

I knew the day was coming and I have been trying to prepare myself for it for some time.

The End of Tennant’s Days as Doctor.

Oh, that I should ever live to see it.

Foolish, vain hope that this time would never come to pass.

Love indeed IS blind.

Monday, September 1

I’ve been on a reading roll for the past five or so months. And by that I mean, everything I have been reading I have really got along well with. Most of my reads have been those that have been on my ‘Must Read’ list for several years. Ones that for one reason or another have been passed up in favour of others.

I could wax lyrical about all of them (with the exception of TWO. A.S. Byatt, Persuasion and surprisingly, Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and The Margarita – both of whom I begun twice and drifted away from twice)

The most memorable of all prize will undoubtedly go to my current, The Kite Runner. I am at page 277 and will finish it tonight. Mostly when I finish a book I enjoy I feel rather sad and ‘miss’ it for the couple of days or more it takes me to find another and hit that stage of ‘engrossment’ you get where you can’t wait for your lunch hour, journey home etc so you can start reading it again.

I am not sure whether I will experience that feeling tonight, despite the fact I think the book extraordinary and utterly engaging.

Reason being is that I have been feeling mostly pretty upset throughout reading the book. Today I cried for the fifth time. The first session I had with it, I sobbed. So much so in fact that when I got off the train in tears and got into my car, I had to sit at the wheel for five minutes purging my sadness before I was in state to start driving home! I then went to bed that night sobbing also.

I don’t think I am unusual in this respect. The Kite Runner was pressed upon me by my sister who warned me that I would find it difficult. My boss looked almost fearful when catching sight of it upon my desk and a colleague informed me he had comforted his girlfriend only a few months ago as she worked her way through it.

I’m sure most regular readers will have actually read it by now. As with most books, I am terribly behind the times. If you haven’t though, I do recommend it and a box three-ply of tissues.

Re. future reads…..I am sun-holidaying next month and require a couple of suitable books therefore. I do think that holiday books are a genre of their own and don’t have any front-running candidates at the moment. If anyone has any recommendations, I would most gratefully hear them.

Saturday, August 2

A 'small' feature on peignoir sets.

A peignoir set is one the most elegant and beautiful of the vintage clothing types in my eyes. Although often referred to as lingerie, I wouldn’t call them such – they are bed clothes/night wear/‘floating around the house clothes’ as I call them. I kind of see them as the female equivalent of the men’s ‘smoking jacket’, though admittedly many of them are too sheer for accepting any house-callers in!

Some of them are however so absolutely fabulous that you could get away with wearing them nowadays as a ball/cocktail dress – which some of the more daring vintage-wearers do actually do.

So, a peignoir set comprises a slip and a robe. The word peignoir comes from the French peigner - ‘to comb one’s hair’… and you WILL have seen these in a dozen silver screen movies where, true to their conception, Doris Day et al would be sat at their dressing tables brushing their hair whilst wearing them. As if by magic, I have some very pictures of silver screeners fashioing peignoirs of the time...

Herewith we have the lovely Ms Veronica Lake -

And then a lovely photo of Ann Sheridan (by dressing table of course):

There were two main types in the 40s and 50s – the baby doll, and the ‘Olga’ or ‘Vanity Fair’ (these were the top peignoir producing companies – Olga coined the look really and all other companies merely produced Olga/Vanity fair copies.) Olga and Vanity Fair peignoirs can go for up £400 - but you can get them on ebay for good prices if you look hard – the Dixie Dallas shop is on and specialises in both.

Baby doll

First, an example of the baby doll (which six times out of ten comes in pink) –

The baby doll is always high on the neck/round necked, is short (above the knee), kicks out from the bust area. The above shot is of the nightie only. A robe will tie or fasten to cover it completely like so:

Olga/Vanity Fair

My favourites. Particularly the classic Olga style (nipped waist, v-cut neck line, full skirt to ankles). Aka this GORGEOUS thing:

I am rhapsodic about this set. It’s the most perfectly wonderful set I have ever seen (though not the most expensive actually)

The above at $200 would be a pretty good deal compared to this cashmere Saks Fifths Avenue one at $1200 (

I understand of course that having laid eyes the above most perfect ever Olga you will be overcome by an immediate and pressing desire to own one so as to float gracefully from room to room in your house in it… it is only natural. To this end, so you can go seek and find, I can tell you it is an Olga style number 9788 and 92270. I am certainly NOT, however, not telling you where it is for sale this instance… in case you go and bid for it 

Other classic Olga examples:

Also made famous by Olga / Vanity Fair, though not in their classic cut are the full length baby doll style aka:

If you are looking for a high ‘floatient factor’, this is the one for you. And on the floatie factor – the ‘floatiness’ is ACTUALLY measured! Peignoirs come with what is called a ‘sweep’ measurement – from about 89 to about 250. 250 denotes being the fullest skirt you can get that will therefore sweep out behing you to the maximum, as you walk. The most perfectly wonderful set above has a 180 sweep.

I could show you picture after picture of these lovelinesses but the best place the check them out (though not, I would recommend to buy as you will pay full market rate), is

I do though have to show you this one as it’s so outrageously indulgent you could have your own personal coronation in it 

Above is probably a 350 sweep – or more.

So then, slob around the house in a pair of teddy-bear dotted pjs…. or, as an alternative, drift elegantly from room to room smelling flowers and reading urgent telegrams, in one of these decadences.

Or some such, I’ve not really got a strong image in my mind about it at all…

Sunday, July 27

A small confession

I have a confession to make.

Over the past two weeks, I have become… a gamer. Yes. You heard me, a gamer. I am on the game.

And it’s shameful to admit, but........... I love it.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be doing it for. At the moment I am completely addicted though. I can’t wait to get home just to get on it. I just love the outfits I get to wear and the people I meet, especially the ones wearing helmets.

I just intended on doing it for ten days – for free of course, but then money was handed over and that’s just made the whole experience even better. Thing is, I was improving, I was getting better and better and I just couldn’t stop after ten days knowing I could become REALLY experienced. Experience is what makes you a success at it.

I mostly do it with a guy call Tabh – I met him the first night I was on it. He’s really muscled and likes to cover himself entirely in chain-mail. He has a thing about pelts and animal skin.

I just stick with normal clothes and prefer covering myself in herbs although there’s obviously lots of exercise involved and it’s really tiring, I’m certainly not anywhere near as buff as he is. Well, I wouldn’t want to be, I think all those muscles are bit OTT.

I spend most of my time chasing Tabh around. I run around in my various outfits thinking,

‘God I look cool in that flowing scarlett robe and gold arcane belt’

I run o’er mountain tops to seek out the ‘Orb of Athelrod’. I am attacked by Warlocks from the evil Brotherhood of Defias from the frontiers of Elwynn Forest in the land of Quel’thalas. I rain fire from my ‘Lightstaff of the Owl Hoard’ upon the Horde.

Oh yes, I am a WOW geek and proud. I’m gaming and it’s bloody brilliant!

It’s so completely fantastical – it’s like BEING IN the Lord of the Rings!!!!

I get to hear people shout ‘Heal me Calliope!’ and run to their side casting mana-spells hither and thither :))). I polymorph my foes and arcane shatter their consorts.

Oh the drama! J

No doubt this will whittle away in some weeks – as many of my ‘fads’ do, but for the moment, I only wanna talk about the fact I’m on the game….Exchange commands with me. Boost my stats. Level me up!

Friday, July 18

The warm cloak of God's love

I didn't think anything could make me laugh today.

I was wrong.

A kind man handed me a leaflet... and it said...

My Dear Friend,

May I lovingly tell you that one day you will die and open your eyes in another world: either in...

  • A state of supreme happiness and joy, exceeding anything ever known in this life, known as...

  • A state of unbelievable anguish, pain and torment, exceeding anything ever known in this life, known as...
(little animation of flames)

  • There is no annihilation!
  • There is no re-incarnation!
  • There is no escape!

I just love those kind Christians. They really do uplift one's soul.

Tuesday, July 1

Pass me the smelling salts

Another mishap in my professional life occurred yesterday. Quite a stunner too – I give myself ten out of ten for this one - falling down stairs or mistaking strangers for colleagues doesn’t even come close to this.

I will regale….

It was 4.30 pm in Hill Dickinson’s offices. All 16 members of the Corporate Team were in the main board room for our monthly presentation of business development activities. My mind had begun to wander away from the current presentation of the banking fee earner and so I idly cast my attention upon the plaster wound around the index finger of my left hand.

The previous night I had been cooking a fine Italian pasta dish and had neatly sliced across the top of my finger. It had bled somewhat and had been bandaged up by means of a simple cloth plaster. Whilst my mind wandered in the meeting, I was intrigued to discover the state of the finger and thus began to unravel the plaster from around it (remembering of course to smile intermittently at my colleague who has been pursuing some truly wonderful business development activities this month.)

The plaster had unfortunately been applied so as to stick somewhat to the wound itself. Removing it caused the wound to open somewhat to reveal unsightliness.

(and now, for safety, I shall take a break and go outside for some fresh air for writing this is causing some unpleasant sensations. Truly.)

I quickly replaced the plaster after viewing the nauseating sight of raw flesh and tried to ignore the persistent image of the offending wound in my head.

The vision continued to plague my mind.

I became hot and felt sick. I became aware of the now-echoey voice of my banking colleague.

Then all went blank.

I fainted.

I fainted sat in a board room of 16 colleagues….because of a small cut on my finger.

Fortunately when the fainting occurred I was sat down. So it could have been worse.

Obviously I know not how long I was ‘out’ for, my consciousness returned prompted by the voices of my colleagues trying to revive me. :))))))))

For the first few seconds, my head remained upon my chest and I was rather confused. Then I realised I was conscious and jumped up in my chair announcing quickly ‘Sorry, I just fainted for a minute’

EVERYONE was staring at me mouths agape with a repetitive ‘Are you OK?’ being directed at me.

Alas, there was no knight of a white steed to sweep me into his saddle and waft smelling salts under my nose. Instead, my good friend and colleague Melanie, a most confident and efficient woman, immediately strode over to my chair, hoisted me up and marched me out of the meeting for ‘air and water’.

As I left the room I said, ‘Sorry! I shouldn’t have taken my plaster off.’ (I mean, what the hell was THAT??)

I think in all the ensuing comments from colleagues (‘No wonder you’re a vegetarian...’ being one of them) the one that most amused me was my boss’s statement that at first he had ignored me and thought nothing particularly was wrong as, ‘I thought it was just you being dramatic’.
Cheers D.

So there you go. Another proud achievement for my catalogue of career climbing endeavours.

Wednesday, June 25

Nothing to write home about

Another direly dull day at the office.

The effect of this is magnified by the fact I am feeling in a bad mood in any event. No particular reason, I could feel it rising yesterday and now it is soaring high.

Just been out and bought Blindness by Jose Saramango and The Cleft by Doris Lessing. Finished Fatherland by Robert Harris on the train this morning. Prior to that read THE WONDERFUL, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera which I heartily, heartily recommend to ALL. Oh, I lie, prior to that was the Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers which was also great. Very similar relationship-types featured in the two books, the protagonist male in both being almost mirror-images of each other. This was completely coincidental but reading them side by side I think enhanced my reading experience.

Next on my to read list are:

Walden Two – BF Skinner

The Child Garden – Geoff Ryman

Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller

The Glass Bead Game – Herman Hesse

Artists I want to know more about are:

Alfonse Mucha

Frederic Leighton

Aubrey Beardsley

This week's Quoteboard humorous quotes are:

‘Whom are you?’ said he, for he had been to night school.

You should never touch your eye but with your elbow (Proverb)

Never rub bottoms with a porcupine (Ghanaian Proverb)

I’ve given up reading books; I find it takes time off myself.

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.

Tuesday, June 10

Joyful, joyful

I have just received news into my inbox of perhaps the most exciting theatre event that in my opinion could ever be devised.

Well, I suppose, that might be overstating it JUST a little… but I do want to you understand just how UTTERLY COMPELLING I find this event. And how utterly coincidental too.

I was only bemoaning to my brother-in-law LAST WEEKEND how devastatingly charmed I was by a certain gentleman and how I held out hope that a party I will be attending should be visited by said gentleman. I was informed that alas, due to the Object Of My Affection’s schedule, it was inconceivable he would be attending the party.

It has been a hard week. I have had sleepless nights and have eaten little. My pallor is wan, my spirits low and my hair, limp and lifeless as my heart. I have found neither joy in the star-strewn night skies nor delight in the sun-filled days. You could even say -

this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours

If you wanted to. And that would be great, because, well, it’s Mr Hamlet’s wonderfully bleak speech which, on especially Goya-esque days, I resonate in the delicious melodrama of.

But people… imagine how much greater it would be…. how, absurdly splendiferous it would be, if the very object of my affection, were to lament the majestical roofs with me???

Why, it would be a dream come true for you, Natalie, I hear you reply.

And, I say, but it IS a dream come true….for it is happening and will happen this very December! For, oh yes, the delightful Mr David Tennant is to appear as the title-role in the RSC’s production of Hamlet!!!!

Could you GET any better than that!!!!!

Hamlet is my undisputed favourite play and Mr Tennant, well, he sits on Johnny Depp’s geeky right hand and would be responsible for me staying in every Saturday night were I not Sky Plus enabled.

And all this, hot on the heels of ANOTHER fantasy realised (and I think the writer, Stephen Moffat must have tapped into my brain as I slept for this one) – a Dr Who episode (featuring DT of course) set – in a library! And not just any library – but an entire PLANET that is library.... A Victorian libraryI And the fact that the majority of the action was carried out in the circular domed section of the library – well, it’s almost utopian.

I have since researched on the library featured in the two recent episodes and have discovered that the domed section scenes were shot on location on Swansea Central Library. And for an added element of attraction, if sufficient didn’t already exist, I discover that that great liberal heavyweight, Mr William Gladstone, opened it…

"O day and night, but this is wondrous!"

Saturday, May 31


Some words for those who might need them...

How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.

Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal.

If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams about what life should be, then maturity is letting go again.

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

Tuesday, May 27

Night time terror in Darwen: Part 2

And so the story continues....

Rattus stared. I stared back. Neither of us moved.

A current of understanding passed between us.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I pushed myself quietly away from the dusty, in need of a sweep, floor until I stood upright again, Rattus eclipsed once more from my view.

I stood silently, some moments passed. Brain slowly clicking through what I had just witnessed.

And the then the terror overwhelmed me... finally. I succumbed to its ineluctable power as Rattus to cheese. Shrieking as loudly as my neighbourliness would permit I jeted up and down momentarily before exeunting through the lounge door and trailing a blaze up the stairs, straight into my bedroom and BOLTING the door.

Quick as a flash I was under the bed covers.

But Mother Fate was on my side! I had carried my phone up to bed with me! Seizing the handset I speed-dialled for assistance. Not the police, no... though this was clearly an emergency call.

No. Something better than the police...a man who carried fleas his pocket for fun. (well, there is a longer version of this story and it was not EXACTLY for fun - more to prove a point but hell... he doesn't mind fleas in his pocket for Christs sake!)

Flea-man answered and the story was unfolded within seconds.

Flea-man was calm, cool and collected. Despite the hour, he delightfully offered to ride post-haste to my assistance and to chase the offending animal from my abode.

I was desperate to shout 'Yes! Come and trash the filthy rodent from my lounge'... but empathy overwhelmed terror. We settled instead for an early morning call, safe in the knowledge that Mr Darcy would not sleep while Rattus inhabited his patch. Padme and Puck were clearly of no use in the stand-off. The day I named Mr Darcy was the day I blessed him with all the bravery and dignity of his namesake. I knew he would not fail me.

And so, I put down the phone and with a fluttering heart I drifted off to sleep.

The morning came too soon. Again I was faced with the prospect of returning downstairs to face Rattus. Stepping lightly down the stairs and inching open the lounge door, I furtively scanned the room.

Padme and Puck were nowhere to be seen.

Like mother like son.

But there, there crouched in the EXACT same spot in which I had left him seven hours earlier was Mr Darcy - the perennial hero.

Seven hours on sentry duty had left its toll on him. His whiskers were dropping with fatigue and his eyes were rimmed with the redness of too little sleep. Yet, throughout all his exhaustion, he had stayed awake and his muscles were as primed to pounce as the first moment he had seen Rattus.

I darted past the television and into the kitchen slamming the door behind me. Collecting my thoughts and daily belongings, I was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of calm. I had faced mice in my life. Plenty of them. I was raised in the country and was used to a seasonal influx of six mice a night during harvest time. What is a rat but a large mouse? Who did the family turn to in those early days to rid the sitting room of furry little beings? Me, that's who. And here I was, 29 years of age, cowed by its larger cousin. Shame on me!

I turned and calmly opened the kitchen door. Rattus would NOT get the better of me this time. This was MY house and he should be the one sloping about in fear, not me.

With all the resilience and pride of my noble sex, I held my head up, flicked my hair high into the air and proudly, loudly walked slowly and confidently past the television, into the corridor and out into the freedom and safety of the outerworld.

Monday, May 19

Nighttime Terror in Darkest Darwen: Part 1

Now the topic of this blog is something I did internally debate whether to blog on.

Part of me said, ‘No topic should be out of bounds in an honest and open blog’…. The other, Smeagol-like part of me responded ’This is shameful. You should tell no-one. They will laugh and scorn you. You will be publicly shamed’

Yes. This problem I have is one that we should only talk of in whispers, to our bestest, closet friends and family…if at all.

In the end, of course, my renowned inability to keep a secret inevitably led me to the ‘open and honest’ corner of the ring. (Or perhaps, my ‘open and honest’ principle is responsible for my inability to keep a secret … oh chicken and egg!) That, and a comment by an esteemed gentleman colleague that even the most good and respectable of Victorian ladies will have suffered great difficulties with this matter at one time or another, and so I should embrace the problem as yet another example of my 19th century lifestyle.

I found his argument both succinct and persuasive. So here goes:

Last night, I did repose at an early hour due to my decision to cease inhaling foul pestilences of noxious fumes.

At around eleven and thirty, my ears were enlivened by an unholy racket which did reluctantly and fearfully raise me from my bed to creep down my creaking, wooden stairs to the lower echelons of the house.

At the bottom of the staircase, I was greeted by Miss Padme, who did by cunning use of her whiskers and tail, convey to me her desire that I should follow her into the cold, stone-floored lounge, in which place I was accustomed to passing my evenings.

With faith in the trustworthiness of my first-adopted, I did devotedly follow her short and gentle path into the lounge. There she did, with a sweep of her black paw, motion my eyes to the far right corner of the room.

Quite still and statue-like in that very corner, was the crouched figure of Mr Darcy, my second-adopted and by far the largest and bravest of all my feline-brood.

With frozen feet and bare legs did I hesitantly move towards the concentrated figure of Mr Darcy. No acknowledgement of my presence nor welcome at my approach did he make. His stare was undeviating…and I did follow the path of his stare with own, curious eyes.

Along the stone flooring and up to the grey television stand did they sweep. From there did they observe a two inch gap between the stand and flooring.

It was at this gap that our gaze did halt and centre.

For several unending moments not a sound was heard within the walls of the room. Miss Padme, Mr Darcy, a cowardly Puck and I all did stand in breathless silence.

Then, seemingly to me, with no rhyme nor reason, did Mr Darcy become most agitated and his breathing did become most heightened. His whole body did crouch more keenly and his paws began to dance up and down as if upon a scorching surface.

It was in the moments that ensued that I first began to comprehend.

It was now that my suspicions became keenly raised, for then…a shadow did fall out from the gap whereupon our eyes were fixed. Motion occurring under the stand was without dispute… for the very agent of that motion did cast his black silhouette upon my floor.

Ever so slowly I began my descent towards the tomb-like ground. First, my knees did make bare contact with the chill, hard rock… and some moments later, warm palms. Lowering my entire body against the floor, I turned my head to rest upon it.

Nought stood between the two-inch opening and my crouched, unprotected figure.

With trepidation I did open the lids of my eyes and peer inside the very bowels of the television stand.

From there I did suddenly, sickeningly grasp what terrible agent did so hypnotise Mr Darcy’s gaze, did make tremble young Puck and seek comfort besides the warm fur of his adolescent mother.

From there did the flesh and blood owner of that terrible silhouette reveal himself in all his pestilent horror to me.

For peering straight at me were the fat, glittering eyes of that most rancid, scuttling being……..

Rattus Norvegicus.

Tuesday, May 6

Thursday 1 May 2.14 pm

It might of course be possible to be more bored than I am at this precise moment…..but I can’t see under what circumstances this could happen.

I’ve passed the hysterical phase and have now entered zombie territory. My eyes feel glassy, I can manage a grunt or two, I have vacant staring down to a fine art.

One of my colleagues suggested that we should all stay at home and just get called in if and when any work appears............

Ancillary to boredom actually is frustration.

I FINALLY started the "His Dark Materials" trilogy which has featured on my "To Read" list for the past five or six years. I spent a lovely six hours reading Northern Lights last night and went straight to Waterstones this afternoon to get books II and III. I would love NOTHING more than to spend this evening eating my way through The Subtle Knife… but alas, no. Instead, I have to pursue that other activity which lies so close to my heart and in which I do so notably excel …oh yes, networking.

I wonder what shame I shall bring upon myself tonight.

My left heel is pretty loose. Perhaps there may be a large staircase I have to walk down that I shall catch my heel on and fall loudly all the way down whilst being watched by all other four hundred and ninety-nine guests.

Or perhaps I shall embark upon my ‘I hate the cult of celebrity’ soapbox only to discover I am talking to the Editor of Heat magazine.

I once asked a Bishop what his star sign was.

Three hours and forty two minutes to go.

Oh kill me now.

I’m so bored I can’t actually be bothered putting meaningful, connected sentences together.

This is all I can manage:

  1. I am delighted to see straw picnic-hamper weather is returning
  2. I ate a Krispy Crème donut today thinking it would be something special. It wasn’t. I still hate donuts
  3. If I were ever in a position to name a female cat again, I would name it ‘Lyra’
  4. I’m attending a Heroes and Heroines Charity Fancy Dress ball that I am arranging dressed as Scarlett O’Hara and am bored by my predictability but am struggling with a viable alternative
  5. I am undecided over whether it should be ‘zeros’ or ‘zeroes’
  6. I am living with a man I don’t know

Thursday, May 1

Climate Change Summit

In my first step to becoming an environmental lawyer :) , I attended the Prince of Wales May Day Summit on Climate Change today; representing one of only one thousand business in the UK who have pledged their support to this organisation to reduce their carbon footprint this year and every subsequent year in line with the 2050 target of 60-85% carbon emission reduction.

I came out of the event more depressed than uplifted.

Firstly, it was a shock at how poor the support of UK businesses is to stopping climate change. One would have hoped that at least every single FTSE 500 company would be in attendance, I doubt there was even one hundred. Secondly, it was shocking to hear Pen Hadlow, the Polar Explorer, resigned to the extinction of the polar bears and the melting of the ice-caps - his work now is not on their preservation - as he sees this as futile and past all realism - so instead he is concentrating on gathering information to help learn how soon we can expect the ice caps disappearance (the US Oceanographic Centre says FIVE years - and this isn't an institution know for radical ideas.) and how best to combat the effects on then 'remaining' species and peoples of the world.

One positive aspect to come from the Summit was Unilever's announcement that it is pledging to source its palm oil from non-rainforest sites and its establishment of an international business group committed to development of sustainable palm oil production. Starting today.

Let's hope this action brings a brighter future for orangutans than Pen's future vision for polar bears.

Sunday, April 13

Slavishly outraged

I have been wondering upon my facility for outrage recently as I appear to have passed through several months without anything really incensing me. In fact, in terms of these blog posts, the last post detailing an occasion that measured as highly as this on my Outrage Richter Scale (ORS) was the Madonna adoption blog I suspect.

But it seems this week is the week for outrage blogs, so I will add to frenzy too!

So what is this occasion that registers a clear 6 on the ORS, Natalie? You say.

Free will. Or the [mis]conception of. I reply.

And to elaborate, the difference of opinion on the issue of: can we control our emotional responses to circumstance?

It was posed to me that we CHOOSE our emotional responses. We can CHOOSE to be happy, sad, angry etc. when an emotive circumstance presents itself.

If my mother dies, I CHOOSE to be grief-stricken...apparently.

(that was the crunch moment when my gauge started its incline)

And not just grief. Any emotion in fact. WE CHOOSE to respond to Incident/Cause A with Emotion A or Emotion B or Emotion C.

I of course have to dwell on what this would say about love.

And I have have never yet met anyone who able to MAKE themselves fall in love. Indeed the mere expression itself connotes the fact that it is an unintentional, uncontrolled occurrence.

Or rage. In what circumstance could someone sit and say ‘And now, I choose to be enraged’ You simply can’t FORCE an emotion. You feel it/ it is there – or it isn’t. You can’t force a feeling that isn’t there.

Philosophers have spoken about free will for generations; most of us have a deep conviction that we live our lives with “free will”. Free will, hard to define, but loosely in the sense of a human beings’ faculty for making and acting on reasoned choices.

Ignoring for the moment issues action choices (i.e. when a cause C event happens – can we REALLY ever be said to have CHOSEN action A or action B – and whether is it not instead the case that whether A or B ensues, it was NECESSITATED by who you are and the forces acting upon you at the time of your ‘choice’. No free will at work – only an inevitable outcome caused by who we are. You can’t avoid doing other than what you end up doing. You are the person you currently are and cannot respond in any other way unless you were to be someone other than you.) for now let us just deal with emotions. Because to me self-determinism in respect of emotions is even more self-evident a truth self-determinism in respect of actions.

Emotional responses are utterly beyond our control. Emotions present themselves to us as ‘knee-jerk’ reactions. When Cause A occurs – emotions do not sit on a waiting bench within us to be called up when the being owning them decides which emotional response he would like to carry out. Emotional responses are immediate – they AUTOMATICALLY ensue from A. The response occurs spontaenously –the emotion is nothing more than a mechanical reaction.

To say that you could have felt, or acted otherwise, is a fallacy. We can’t do anything other than what we end up doing, our behaviour and emotion is utterly determined by circumstances and biology i.e who we are. In a same molecule-for-molecule situation, we would always respond in the same way – why would or could anything else change it?

If this were not the case – where does the ‘part’ that makes a different choice or response come from – where does it sit? If not in the mind – the genes the molecules, then where? A supernatural element, a ghost in the machine?

And if this supernatural or ‘other non-biological, circumstances’ based element exist – how does it make its choices? Utter chance? Random chaos. How is that then a free choice?

Some quotes from guys thinking about lack of freedom in respect of emotion:

“You are free to do what you want, but you are not free to want what you want” Arthur Schopenhauer

“I suppose it’s possible that you might have acquired this want because you wanted to. It’s theoretically possible that you had a want to want to have a want. But this is very hard to imagine, and the question just rearises: where did THAT want come from? You certainly can’t go on like this forever. At some point your wants must be given. They will be products of your genetic inheritance and upbringing that you had no say in. In other words, there’s a fundamental sense in which you did not and cannot make yourself the way you are” Galen Strawson

For more discussion on Self-determinism – check out Steven L Converse: ‘Free Enough: Doing what come naturally’... who I plagiarised pretty much everything from...

Except for my outrage. That was determined ;)

Wednesday, April 9

Mr Camus' pearls of wisdom

Am very much enjoying my current read at moment and thought I'd share part of a particular passage that amused and resounded with me. I do try to remind myself of my existence and by doing so, appreciate it, though believe it's not perhaps necessary to do it by such afflictive means!

Query: How to contrive not to waste one's time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one's days on an uneasy chair in a dentist's waiting room; by remaining on one's balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by listening to lectures in a language one doesn't know; by travelling by the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course standing all the way; by queueing at the box-office of theatres and then not booking a seat. And so forth.

Tuesday, April 8

Note to the pusillanimous: a lexiphanic blog

I am yet again at a loose end at work so thought I would engage in a little bafflegab as a mithridate to my boredom until the hour to absquatulate arrives.
I have nothing that is not picayune to discuss but am hoping to fistigate my personal challenge to use fifteen words from in one small post. This is not so mattoid as it may on first sight appear, I've been lollygagging for almost three long hours on various retro clothing website but, have found myself full of floccinaucinihilipilification in respect of most items I came across.

As may be obvious, I am a hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianist and admit to being twitterpated with using sesquipedality to squabash people in debates.

It is a pinchbeck trick which smacks of the sciolist but, neverthless, I admit freely to it.

Given this fact, I thought application of wordlwidewords to this pages as an oyez so that I may use them to vellicate my sister when next I meet her so that she may accuse me of fanfaronade more so than she usually does. I do not mind. She is nought but a jobbernowl and should know to be more fidimplicitary when I am around.

Wednesday, April 2

On the Superiority of the Structured Hat

OK, clearly we need head and hair protection given that we live in Grey, Pissy-Little Britain. True, true. Thus, our protection-mechanism is of some import to us.

I'd like to point out therefore something that may have eluded your attention in this respect. The Structured Hat.

And I'd like to suggest you give it a try (on).

The advantages of a Structured Hat over an Umbrella:

1. It doesn't break in the wind.

2. You are less likely to forget it.

3. It looks 'fetching'.

4. It doesn't imperil the eyes of your fellow pedestrians.

5. It doesn't require constant opening and closing.

5. It doesn't impinge on your bodily-freedom

6. It's longer-lasting.

7. It acts as an eye-mask to aid sleeping on the morning train journey.

8. It retains warmth.

Thus: quite clearly superior to the Umbrella.

Thursday, March 20

High Tea

OK. So... High Tea... a HUGELY important issue for the past four weeks.

Normally it's me who obsesses about fine details of event organisation, this time is has been my beloved elder sister.

The High Tea fascination started last summer when Caroline and I attended the Sunday 'Tea and Cakes' held in Ribchester Parochial Hall. Hamming up our parochialism, we drunk tea in fine bone china cups, sticking our little fingers out, sipping noisily and giggling whilst saying in lilting tones, 'Oooo, that's a lovely cup!' or 'Is the pot still warm?' or 'I might just have another drop' ... anything we felt would make us sound like sixty year old quaint ladies.

We eventually progressed from the parochial hall to the pavement outside my Mum's house complete with fresh tea pot and cups (my Mum lives in a very quaint village with very little movement or traffic and mostly just walkers passing through the streets - it's not like we set up on Oxford Street) ... and a game of dominoes which we felt added to the whole theme of the affair. Both Mum and Caroline's husband were highly embarrassed at our antics and refused to join us, but truthfully we put a smile on all passing villagers' faces and drew lots of complimentary and friendly comments. People were LOVING our respect for the High Tea.

So, Caroline decided this Easter we should devote an good portion of an afternoon to a full High Tea ceremony. Dainty sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jam, tiered cake stand, fine bone china, napkins... the lot. We are recreating the Ritz in 1910 essentially.

Caroline and I disagree over quite a bit, whilst we all share the same sense of humour and idea of fun and silliness, certain issues divide us... High tea has proved to be one of these.

So here, I am setting down MY idea of how High Tea should be held.

I have to accept that Caroline is the originator of the event and so she WILL get the final word, but that doesn't stop be publicising how I think High Tea SHOULD be held...and how it could be held IN THE BEST WAY.

Cups and saucers
Fine bone china without a doubt. This is not up for discussion. Anyone planning High Tea cannot call it High Tea without fine bone china which is fundamental to the ceremony earning its title as such.
Drinking form
The cup should be held with three fingers, with the little finger sticking out. Tea drinking should be carried out with pursed lips and a light sipping sound as the tea is sucked between the lips and into the mouth. A soft 'Ah' or smile is requisite after the sip. If the tea is hot, gentle blowing whilst maintaining eye contact with your companion is a must.
When the tea is returned to the saucer, the eye must follow the movement and the cup should be placed back upon the saucer with a slight 'chink' sound.
Conversational topics
Polite conversation on topics such as; weather; tea blends; the health of mutual friends, are to be had.
Serving platters
A three tiered cake stand is de minimis.
My mother has a lovely wooden 19th c cake tier for just this instance upon which doilies will be placed.
Bread variety
Sandwiches are where Caroline and I really fall out. For me - it is obviously white bread only. The upper class in 1910 ate white bread with their high tea, not brown or wholemeal. I don't care if health concerns prefer wholemeal these days, observance of old-norms take priority. White bread is also softer than brown bread. Soft genteelity is the key to this affair and thus only white bread is acceptable.
Sandwich shape
This is the KEY to mine and Caroline's disagreement... she is creating FINGER shapes i.e. thin rectangles. I find this totally abhorrent and fear that my entire enjoyment of the event will be marred by the sight of 'finger-shaped' sandwiches.
CLEARLY triangles are THE only option. EVERYONE knows it is triangles. Try telling Mrs Eldridge this. I simply cannot understand that she fails to comprehend this crucial matter.
That the sandwiches must be crustless of course is accepted by both of us. Anything else would be ludicrous.
Sandwich fillings
Salmon... accepted and approved of.
Being a veggie, Caroline suggested cheese as a cucumber alternative... a variety of sandwiches is, of course, key to pleasing your guests and a sign of indulgence. Caroline was suggesting sliced cheddar. I was quite defiant on this score. I can't imagine sliced Cheddar in Brideshead Revisited. I have insisted on cream cheese.
I know I am right.
Clotted cream and jam being the accompaniments, scones must be plain. Raisin and cherries are for butter. To load cream and jam and cherries would be gluttonnous in the extreme.
Strawberry jam is indelicate as the strawberry pieces tend to be large and clumsy. I advocate a finer blended jam such as raspberry or blackcurrant.
That's it. Butter. Not margarine (the prospect of which makes me faint with anxiety)
Butter must be served ina matching butter dish of course. If you want to really impress, cut into small cubes.
Cloth. White. To be unfolded and dropped over the knee.
I support the use of the napkin as a finger cleanser throughout the eating process. Suggesting that the finger tips can be pressed lightly against the material if they should become sullied. Caroline disagrees and feels the napkin should be used for one purpose only, the dabbing of the corners of the mouth after the guest has finished eating. She recommends rubbing the finger tips together over the plate to any occasion where crumbs or melted butter/cream interfere with the guests fingers.
Whilst I appreciate the picture of crumbs falling lightly onto a plate beneath finger tips, I also feel the napkin 'dab' to be both practically more effective and just as quaint.
In this instance, we can both pursue our own actions as we feel appropriate at the time.

So that is the basics as I see it for a proper and genteel High Tea.

I am most concerned by the sandwich shape issue and will report back on whether rectangular shapes do indeed marr the occasion.

I shall of course be wearing a 'tea dress'. That goes without saying.

Tuesday, March 18

Some random recommendations

OK - some random recommendations :

I advise watching the following films:

The Notorious Bettie Page
Lovely film in both colour and black and white.
Most fascinating part of this is appreciating the complete naiveity of Bettie's attitude to her work. Or, in complete opposite, her absolute broad-mindedness in relation to nudity and 'costume poses'. I can't make my mind up on that - the two seem to meld together oddly.
Apparently Dita Von Teese went up for the role and was refused. I think this was a good call, both for the film and Dita's career. Bettie was clearly an original and fell into her position as Pin Up Queen; Dita has consciously developed a similar status and positively courts comparison with Bettie. Had she taken the role, she risked being labelled as a mere Bettie-wannabe and thus lose credibility.. rather than earning the position as a modern Pin Up in her own right.

As for benefits for the film, merely because Dita knows Bettie perhaps more than anyone else on the stage at the moment, and of course sported the famous Bettie haircut for some years, doesn't give her the requisite skills for conveying the role. They were right to use a bona fide actress for it. Perhaps people would have seen 'Dita' rather than 'Bettie' in the celluloid too.

Being a sucker for romance and musicals, this was high on my to watch list. It disappointed in no way except that
they DIDNT end up together :(((
But actually... despite the fact I was wringing my skirt the whole way through due to my pre-sentiment they may not in fact end up in a lover's bliss, I was kind of appreciative of that the writer hadn't gone for the easy ending. To such an extent he even chose to deny us a tearful farewell!
If you are a fan of acoustic singer-songwriters, I'd be surprised if you didn't love the score. The protaganists/singers voices are PERFECTLY suited and for an UK film, a lot of which I find stressful to watch, it was very relaxing. There was raising of the fact of hardships that Eastern-European immigrants suffer but the film managed to balance social realism with an essentially idealistic and romantic purpose. France always seems to do this better than the UK . UK films I find tend to be clumsy-handed and can only ever acheive one over the other.


Chilli Chocolate
Yes it's old-hat and I'm sure most have tried it but I recently went to a Harvey Nics 'Chocolate and Wine' evening and was blown away by a dark chocolate and chilli variety (of a producer/ label I am afraid I can't remember). If, like me, you had not tried it before, YOU MUST! It REALLY brings out the dryness of bitter chocolate in a most excellent manner.

James Bond 'Scrambled Eggs'

Essentially, you cook the eggs over a low heat for about fifteen minutes, with the addition of disgusting heart-attack amounts of butter. The eggs must never catch, and they must be stirred pretty much CONSTANTLY. OBVIOUSLY add salt and pepper, and then a choice of parmesan (about two mins before service) OR finely chopped garlic (it DOES actually do well in here - about eight mins before service) OR herbed cream cheese (same as with parmesan for addition timing) OR fresh cut herbs OR nothing!... depending on your taste buds... Christ, I have lived with someone who added lemon curd to fried rice and tuna once with the explanation/indefensible defense it was equating to 'sweet and sour'!!!! Who am I to judge your culinary delectation?

('James Bond' eggs BTW as Fleming gives a full description of Bond making eggs this way in the short story '007 in New York' - it has now been included in edited versions of Octopussy and The Living Daylights. Fascinating!)

Final recommendation is

High Tea

High Tea will be blogged soon - it is amusingly serving as the cornerstone of my family's Easter and an absolutely inappropriate amount of conversation has been had on the intricacies of this. It thoroughly deserves a posting in its own right.

Sunday, March 16

Numbers 12 - 14 of 357 things that annoy me

Misuse of word 'tapas'

This is driving me crazy.

I get excited everytime a new 'Tapas Bar' sign comes up as my favourite food is tapas but invariably upon perusing the menu I discover it is not at all a tapas restaurant, just an establishment owned by a restauranteur with no respect for his product or own integrity. Normally you find dishes such as 'bowl of olives with herbs' alongside 'foccacia bread and hummous'.

This Friday was the worst instance of misrepresentation I have thus far come across. Under a huge 'NEW TAPAS BAR' sign, came a short list of example dishes...

'Lattes, croissant, panini'

For FUCK'S sake. No even at a STRETCH could you claim it to be tapas.

Women with large prams

Like this one.

It's entirely, unnecessarily large. It's about five or six times as big as its inhabitant. It's my belief this trend of oversized prams stems from the same place that the urge to buy a Porsche four by four does. Which I also have no truck with.

It's not necessary to cosset a baby in a truck or drive one unless you are moving large mounds of earth.

It's an extension of our label-obsessed culture, conspicious-consumption society and its entirely selfish. You can't MOVE down the street for the things. And to add salt to the wounds.. mothers inevitably get cross and make some snidey remark at other pedestrians for getting in THEIR way!!

A particular question posed by a waitress at Negresco restaurant this Saturday

It was the inaugural 'Hen night without a hen' and my chosen restaurant was the fantastically decorated Negresco... chosen because the decor matched with my latest corset purchase :))))))

Fortunately the food was excellent so I wasn't berated for my ridiculous basis for choosing.

An excellent restaurant in all respects with the exception of the fact the waitress asked Meghna, who had ordered swordfish, 'How would you like that done?'

Meghna... after an understandable period of perplexedness responded haltingly, 'Medium??'.

Someone needs to take the nice waitress in hand.

And now, lest you harbour the erroneous belief I am only filled with conniption ( :)))) ) I shall detail those things which have pleased me of late.

The women with the sling

Today, I travelled back from Manchester and was gladdened in my heart to see a sensible lady hoiking her infant around in a sling. It wasn't even a specifically-designed baby sling. It was just a large rug-type affair she has wrapped around her allowing her to strap the infant on her back, thus enabling her to move with minimum intrusion throughout the public highways of the City of Manchester.

My inability to network

This should perhaps come under the banner of 'things that annoy' me but the latest exemplification of my ineptness in this corporate skill made a colleague and I laugh so it has to come here.

Usually finding it difficult to engage on an acceptably 'corporate-level' I dread attending networking events and the trauma of honing in on a suitable topic of convrsation I can genuinely enjoy engaging in (I think this is my downfall - I think you aren't meant to enjoy it, only PRETEND you do... I'm pretty awful at 'pretending' too though, so even that realisation doesn't help matters.) UNusually, I came across someone who I did have an interesting conversation with. A young psychotherapist specialising in existential psychotherapy.

So we had a nice chat about Camus and Sartre (and of course Freud - you just HAVE to) and how their ideas are applied in a psychotherapeutic way.

Upon exiting the networking event, I spotted the therapist so went over, tapped him on his shoulder, told him I was leaving and that it was nice to meet him and good luck in his latest endeavours (was setting up a business of his own) I left feeling especially pleaseed with myself at how smooth I had been, not only in engaging a 'colleague' for half an hour pleasantly but also being so careful as to 'finish' the network professionally.

I turned to note to my friend/colleague Claire, who had accompanied me as I said my professional farewell, that the therapist had looked strangely at me when I went to say goodbye and pondered on why this could be. Claire indulgently explained that my networking efforts were much noted but that perhaps next time, I should make sure I said goodbye to the same man I had been taking to in the first place, and not some random stranger who didn't know me from Adam.

Much unprofessional giggling ensued.

A wordy website

Drawn to my attention by a fellow linguaphile:

Isobel Faye Higgs

My new little cousin. And I'm so PLEASED it's a girl! MORE girls in the family! Whooo-hooo!