First Kiss

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After her ‘the broken down car is a sign that I shouldn’t go back to uni’ wobble, Indy has indeed gone back to uni. Hoorah! I spent today driving her down to Reading (my car having mercifully been fixed – double hoorah!) and feeding her up before doing the abandoning-a-puppy thing.

The tears this time have possibly only come from her new landlady as Indy has already accidentally melted plastic in her microwave. Marvellous.

But it seems that whilst Mumma Cat has been away one little mouse has come out to play.

Eve: Boo kissed a boy. Boo kissed a boy.

And so, it seems, she did. At soft play, having run around with him for a couple of hours holding hands. A toy boy too (estimates put him at 5 or 6). And she didn’t even know his name!

Boo: He did tell me, but he was younger than me and I didn’t catch what he said.

I’m not sure I approve.

It also means she’s not likely to see him again. But isn’t fleeting romance the best kind?

Night Sailors

Strange things happen after dark in our town. And I’m not (just) talking about the drunks that stumble off the late trains and bawl and brawl their way to the bars in town.

Our customs house has taken on a rather unusual nocturnal personality. Which is a tad disconcerting if you happen to be one of the bawling, brawling drunks. One second a beautiful projection of fields of corn or rocks lapped with ripples of water…the next looming gargoyle faces with glowing red eyes spewing corn or doused in flames or blood.

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Needless to say Boo loves it!

“Look at its glowing red eyes! Get a picture with its eyes open!” she squealed.

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Apparently it’s meant to represent our town’s history, drawing on ‘the town’s role as a cradle of development for deep sea navigation in the Middle Ages.’ Which is probably just as well. If they represented its present the gargoyles would just be spewing. I don’t think it would be an improvement.

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Reasons To Dislike Autumn

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There’s no denying it. Summer is over. Done. Dusted. The sun is low and the air is turning crisp. Which does have a certain allure. But chill will be the default setting for the next 6 months. And let’s just say, the cold really bothers me. Which is not good.

There are some good things about the cooler months – the ability to wear opaque tights, which both ladder less easily and hold the calf and thigh wobble better for a start. But there are many many other reasons to lament the arrival of shorter days. Which include:

• The Cocoon Warmth of a Duvet

I know, surely being wrapped in a snug duvet is one of the best things about the cooler months?! I agree – it’s bliss. But since we’ve not evolved into bears* we can’t stay huddled inside all winter. Yet there the duvet is, embracing us in its downy warmth, giving us no inclination to get out of bed. Which means just getting up is a chore, thus the duvet is turned into the enemy.

(*Btw, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, next time round I’d like to come back as a bear. Surely the best animal to be, ever. 1) You get to sleep all winter and wake up skinny. 2) You have a diet of salmon…and picnics. 3) Everyone expects you to have a raging temper. What’s not to like?!)

• Spiders

The eight-legged freaks are EVERYWHERE! Yesterday Boo ran to Husband to report a damn great spider in the kitchen only for him to then point out another just hanging out on the wall behind her! Cue much screaming.

Plus the one in the kitchen managed to avoid death-by-rolled-up-newspaper, so is probably summoning it’s own spider army to exact its revenge. Bastards.

• Daddy-Long-Legs

Yet more insect-based hideousness. And these ones will just fly into your face with their spindly legs flailing everywhere. The Kamikaze pilots of the bug world, probably deployed by the evil spiders.

• Discovering There’s a Hole in Your Boot.

Boots are an autumn bonus. Gorgeous, calf-covering leather. Crunching through piles of leaves in them momentarily turns life into a real-life TV ad…

…Until, that is, you discover a hole in one. Which happens only when a) it rains or b) you tread in a steaming dog turd hidden by the dry leaves you were crunching through. (True story.)

• The Search for New Boots and the Perfect Winter Coat

Too many choices. And the perfect option is always over budget. Buy cheap though and you risk the hole + dog poo situation. Buy expensive and you WILL be found out as the bags are too bulky to sneak into the house without detection.

• Transitional Dressing

In theory, autumn wardrobe updates are gorgeous. Knitwear, heavier fabrics accessorised with scarves, the ease of looking good just by having a gorgeous coat (if you do mange to find one).

But knitwear makes me itch. I’ve never really mastered the art of scarf-tying. And I always misjudge when I need to coat and when I don’t, thus always managing to be inappropriately dressed.

• Comfort Food

Yummy. You can’t beat some stodgy as the weather turns colder. Plus you can kid yourself that you’ve not laid down excess fat so much as overdosed on layering on clothes. (Just don’t go anywhere near the scales.)

But the real swine is potatoes, specifically having to peel them in abundance. Much as I love shepherd’s pie, or creamy mash or corned beef hash, I hate peeling potatoes. Boring, messy and I always manage to grate my knuckles.

• Don’t Mention the C-Word!

No sooner has the suntan lotion been cleared from the shops’ shelves than you spot the first sign of Christmas. The countdown is on. Which is annoying at first, because it’s only freakin’ September. Then you get complacent. Festive decorations take hold, but it starts to merge into the background since, hey, it’s been out since September and that was only a minute ago. And then the next thing it’s a week before Christmas, you’re low on money and can’t find the present you really need, which everyone else bought back in September!!! How did THAT happen?! By stealth, I tell you, which is why Christmas really shouldn’t start in the autumn.

And thus autumn is, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst season of all. At least Strictly Come Dancing is back. But until it signals the start of my personal hibernation I certainly shan’t fall for Fall.

Things Not To Read This Weekend If You’re Flying

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Sunday morning and I’m sat in a car park not too far from Stansted airport waiting for the AA to come and pick me and my still broken car up to tow it home. (Buying new AA membership was less than half the price of paying for Green Flag to tow me home or to hire a tow truck. My dad is a genius!)

Sporadically planes fly close-by, taking off to or coming back from destinations infinitely more glamorous than Birchanger service station. I feel a stab of envy at each plane.

But not for long.

Air travel has always made me nervous. My lack of understanding of physics has obviously meant that my comprehension of aerodynamics equates to ‘it must be WITCHCRAFT.’ So I’ve never really trusted it as a means of travel.

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I’d have loved to been an air steward in my younger days – days before Ryan Air and EasyJet sucked any glamour from flying, before terrorists threats, when an upgrade meant proper cutlery, not a plastic knife and fork. Not that I ever got upgraded, but there was always that hope.

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Oh, yeah, I could have rocked the uniform. And the stay overs in cool locations.

The only problem would have been the actual flying.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…except the chance of actually properly dying when things go wrong when you work in the air was too high for me.

But, even for the less nervous flyer 2014 has surely brought some doubts. The complete disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17… At the very least don’t fly Malaysia Airlines!

So as each plane flies by I half expect it to spontaneously combust and fall to the ground, the flying voodoo having worn off.

I try to take my mind off my wait and expectations with some light reading. A copy of November’s Vanity Fair and yesterday supplement from The Guardian. It doesn’t taken long to realise that I’m glad I’m staying grounded.

Vanity Fair, pages 108-117: The Endless Holiday, a feature on the jet set lifestyle of the rich and famous of the 50s and 60s. Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Jackie Kennedy, Taylor and Burton, Grace Kelly in sharp tailoring and fur stepping off private jets.

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The so-called beautiful people flitted about with unprecedented ease.

*Sigh* Where did it all go so wrong? Why isn’t flying like that now, rather than becoming more akin to airborne cattle transportation? Nobody would have been wearing bright orange nylon and charging £5 for a plastic cup of water back then. Luggage would have been large and matching, rather than as light as possible to meet hand luggage restrictions. It would have gone in the hold and made it to the other end. You would have travelled without mile high copulations hogging the toilet, shrink-wrapped plastic meat in gelatinous sauce and without having endure someone’s head in your personal space for the duration of the flight (plus time spent waiting on the runway) because they just have to have their seat fully reclined, whilst a small child persistently kicked your seat for 12 hours.

Result of said reading: abject envy and despair at how much air travel has changed to the worst.

But worse, Vanity Fair, pages 158-165 & 193-197: The Human Factor, or how, in the event of an emergency you will die as the pilots won’t know how to cope (and have probably been too busy partying and shagging around to function properly anyway).

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The incoherence of the pilots seems to have been rooted in the very advances in piloting and aircraft design that have improved airline safety.

And, although ignorance is bliss, my betting is that if you were sat at a Departures gate confronted with the article, you couldn’t NOT read it.

Thus, result of said reading: abject horror and despair at having to ever step on an aircraft again. Someone pass the tranquillisers!

And for any poor sod who bought The Guardian to bide the time waiting for a flight yesterday, the fear would have only been compounded by reading page of the Weekend section: Experience: I was on a plane that blew up. Which was pretty much as it sounds. Ok, exactly as it sounds. And not Malaysia Airlines this time.

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…There was a huge bang…The plane had been torn in half…most of the back seats were no longer there….I looked down and saw a body on the runway.

Result of said reading: yep, I’m happy never to fly ever again!!!

So, all in all, it ended up that, even with the lure of Duty Free, I was happy to NOT be jetting off anywhere and instead watching my car getting hitched onto the back of an AA van.

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Which is probably just as well, as if the car is as buggered as I fear, I won’t be able to afford a holiday anywhere for a very long time yet.

Man vs Machine

‘Can you photocopy this for me?’ Colleague No1 asked me this afternoon.

‘Sure. No problem.’ I said.

Do it yourself, I thought, but I’d been learning the ropes for my new job today, whilst still overseeing the newbies in my old post, so it was nice to have something to do that was neither completely new to be nor sorting out a sticky problem.

Great.

The photocopier had other ideas.

I pressed the appropriate settings, hit the big green button and…BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

The screen displayed a message so cryptic we possibly needed the Enigma machine to sort it out. The only thing that was clear was that it wasn’t copying.

We tried again, double-checking the settings.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

My new boss (aka Colleague No2) walked by, clearly thinking I’m some sort of ignorant muppet and wondering why the hell they’d poached me from the dark side. A morning of stupid questions and now she can’t work the copier, I could literally hear him think.

He hit the same arrangement of buttons as I had, both myself and Colleague No1 looking over his shoulder.

If it works this time then I’m going to look beyond stupid and the next they’ll be copying is my P45.

The machine beeped again and threw up the same message.

‘What the fuck’s that meant to mean?’ he swore.

Another three attempts, three more alerts, three more messages. Still no photocopy. Colleague No3 walks by.

And she had no luck either.

At this point I was acutely aware that four of us were gathered around a single photocopier attempting to get a copy of a book cover.

I decided to sit back down when New Boss No2 (aka Colleague No4 joined the fray).

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Five minutes later (which translates to about 7 years in photocopying terms) the issue was resolved. The scanner had been locked, apparently. Why it didn’t say ‘Scanner locked – press buttons X Y and Z’ I don’t know. I suppose Tech Support need a reason to exist.

But at least I didn’t feel like such a muppet for the rest of the afternoon. Maybe the photocopier was doing me a favour?

Hopefully, when the machines rise against man, they’ll remember me as having the sense to step away. If I leave them alone maybe they’ll bypass me too.

In the meantime just don’t ask me to do any photocopying for you.

A Letter to My Soon-to-be-Ex Boss

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Dear Soon-to-be-Ex-Boss

Thank you for dropping by the office today. Thank you for confirming why I’m glad to be leaving.

My head has been swirling for the past couple of weeks. Swirling because I love my job. I love the people, the properties, the brand. But I don’t appreciate being treated like a pawn, something to be moved around at will.

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And I was meant to be the ‘lucky’ one. The one picked to stay, against people who have committed themselves to your company for years, compared with my months. And yet you let them go without consoltation. Are you crazy?

Maybe they weren’t flexible enough. Maybe you should have asked them. Maybe they told you the truth more than you’d like. Maybe you should have kept your own ego in check.

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And the thing is, if you see your colleagues being unceremoniously dumped your trust wanes. How was I to know that I wouldn’t be next? I don’t like being vulnerable.

It didn’t help that you wouldn’t lay your cards on the table with regards to my job. One second you wanted me to work full-time. The next you just wanted me on a Saturday. Then it was ‘part-time that could be extended to full-time’ (with the implication that if i couldn’t meet your requirements then I’d be going the same way as the others, no matter how good I was at my job). ‘You’re a mushroom,’ my friend said, ‘You’re being kept in the dark.’ It turns out that I’m a bit scared of the dark.

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Or maybe, actually, I’m more of an egg, as I’ve been poached. Someone has seen how hard I work, how good I am at my job. And they’ve offered me a job that suits me. It won’t have the same prestige – it’ll be residential lettings, more basic properties, no more swanky pads with boot rooms and annexes, limestone flooring and swimming pools. But I’ll get to work in a supportive team with hours that fit around the school run and a boss who won’t mess me around or be offended if I offer an opinion.

It’s a no-brainer really. But I didn’t want to let you down. More to the point I didn’t want to let the new staff down, leaving them short-staffed whilst they found their feet. Not that that bothered you. You went on holiday, refusing to answer emails whilst still sending out dictates that messed everyone around.

And still I dithered. I felt I’d got the hang of things and now I’m back to square one. I’m sad that I won’t get to learn more from your company.

Even though I watched the new staff get new computers and my own computer disappear along with my email signature, I dithered. Even though the newbies were given information that had never been passed to me, I dithered.

I dithered…until today. You came into the office and barely acknowledged me. Everyone else went for coffee, but not me. Had you talked to me, reassured me in your plans, maybe I would have stayed. I’m not bailing because the transition is difficult. I’m leaving because you’ve treated me as if I’m lower than the low.

I felt like a spare part today and I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I change desk within the building, to be with people who want me and who are ready to value me.

You didn’t value me, and so I’m off.

In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: ‘Big mistake. Big. Huge.’

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Ultimately, it seems appropriate that on the day Scotland decided whether to stay or go, I came to my own resolute decision. And although there’s lots that I’ll miss – the people, the properties, the brand – I’m not sorry.

No longer yours,
GSM

Planes, Trains and Broken Down Automobiles

Things you don’t want to see when your on the M11, about to hit the M25: these lights:

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Especially when combined with the oil temperature gauge shooting up to the red and the car losing most of its power.

Me: Shit! Indy, wake up! I think the car’s breaking down!

We were heading to Reading to finally secure a place for Indy to live during her second year at uni. Breaking down wasn’t part of the plan.

The five miles to the nearest services couldn’t have felt any longer. At one point I didn’t think we were going to make it up the slope off the motorway. In 5th gear we topped 20mph. In lower gears it just got worse.

There are times when being the responsible adult is just horrible.

By some miracle we made it into the services car park. The warning light had started to flash. (Surely a very bad sign.) The oil temperature gauge was going crazy. (Also really not good.) For the last 5 miles all I could think about – well, besides ‘shit, we’re going to breakdown right here on the verge!’ – was the programme I’d watched the night before about the crashed Air France flight and how it had been attributed to not knowing how to avert disaster. The car was starting to smell a bit dodgy. I prayed it wouldn’t burst into flames whilst we hatched a plan/ate KFC and Krispy Kreme donuts.

I’ve suffered from having a fire-melted car before and the insurance companies really don’t like it. And that time it wasn’t even my fault.

But at least we weren’t stuck on a verge trying to restrain Noodles from running into three lanes of incoming traffic. But there was a 2 hours limit on parking before extortionate charges came into effect.

There’s one person a girl wants when anything practical goes wrong: her dad.

Me: Dad, the car’s broken down. Do you think I should just try to put more oil in it? Or should I call breakdown services?

Grandy: Just call them. I have no idea.

No one said the dad would actually be helpful.

I like speaking to mechanics about as much as I like talking to tech support or building contractors. Anything that involves technical jargon and expense and I want to bail out.

Green Flag Man: There’s no water in your water tank. When was the last time you added water?

Me: You have to add water? I knew about petrol and oil and can do the windscreen wash. But water?! My dad usually sorts it all out for me.

(I can be such a girl sometimes I appall myself.)

He showed me how the water he added to the tank bubbled ominously. He also then discovered water was pouring from the water tank until we stood in a puddle. Neither good signs.

Green Flag Man: Looks like your head gasket’s gone. You ain’t goin’ anywhere.

Now, there’s technical jargon made easy. But shit.

Even worse, thanks to Husband getting me to cancel my AA membership in favour of the free cover with bank account we could only be towed within a 10 mile radius.

Green Flag Man (sucking his teeth): To get you home’s going to cost…£216.

Me: Looks like we’ll be moving into Birchanger Services.

As it turns out, the car has essentially moved into Birchanger Services. After the Green Flag Man suggested that I would likely be ripped off if he took me to a local garage, I made arrangements with the duty manager for the car to stay there for up to a week without charges or fines. So it turns out my car’s going to get a better holiday than I’ve had this year. After I turned into a simpering, pathetic girl again.

Duty Manager: Would a couple of days be ok?

Me: Oh. I don’t know. See, my husband’s away with work until Thursday night.

The implication being that I couldn’t possibly make arrangements myself. I hated myself even more. Even though it got me more time for no cost, which is what I wanted. Yet I swear I could literally hear the cogs of feminism being turned backwards as the words tumbled from my mouth.

Green Flag Man: Y’know, if you had national cover we could have towed you home for free.

Me: Yeah, I know. I had had national cover, but then my husband made me cancel it because he got free cover.

Green Flag Man: That’s the problem with those free things. They’re crap. He should have upgraded.

Me: He’s tight. [A knowing look from Indy.] And I didn’t even think to check.

Green Flag Man: Good luck to your husband. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes tonight.

Me: Ah, luckily for him he’s away for a few days. Otherwise he wouldn’t be seeing a happy face when I get back.

Green Flag Man: Cor! Narrow escape for him! Good luck getting home.

The Green Flag man then deposited us down the road at Stansted airport. There is literally nothing so depressing as being dropped at an airport without then getting to fly somewhere. (Even if horrible things happen to planes sometimes and knowing my luck today it would have been our flight for sure.)

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Still, having to dodge all the wheelie cases and ashen-faced people (what hideous form of lighting do the use in airports to enhance that living dead pallor?!) only to catch a train wasn’t fun. I kicked myself for not being the sort of person who always packs a passport. At least I could have then bought myself a cheap ticket and hidden out in Duty Free, spending money I can’t afford on luxury cosmetics whilst pretending it wasn’t just the worst day ever.

£38, two hours and a cancelled house viewing later we were back home.

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Worse, Indy now thinks that perhaps it was a sign and she shouldn’t be going back to university. And it would cost more than £216 to get the car home if we hired a local tow truck. (Although we have a plan in hand.)

Heaven only knows how much the repairs are going to cost too. Or even if it’ll be worth having it repaired. I could end up completely car-less as a result of this, which a family trip to the out-of-town supermarket this evening proved. (Honestly, it was the glacé cherry to my awful day – and I don’t like glacé cherries!)

On the bright side, at least it was sunny. And Noodles got an unexpected ride on a couple of trains and in a tow truck. We at least made it to somewhere sensible before the car died on us. (Birchanger Services did seen to be an elephant’s graveyard of broken down cars.) And, err, there is nothing else. The day was a nightmare. Oh, I suppose we got to eat Krispy Kreme donuts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some chanting to do, whilst I rock in the corner. Tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow will be a better day…