The Power of the Clipboard

There was something different about the refurbishment work at the bus station.

Normally it was a ghost works. A cursory digger driver sat in the cab playing Candy Crush. Four men in day-glo orange stood around watching one man in a day-glo orange lay a paving slab. A barren wasteland of abandoned work from 3pm onwards. 

  
Inspiration for the Council’s workmen supervision strategy.

From the top floor of Sainsbury’s car park Noodles and I will daily count the diggers and the buses. The buses invariably move on and are harder to keep track of. The diggers are always stationary. 

I was beginning to wonder if the Council had actually roped in the Shoemaker’s elves to do the work when no one was watching. Cos it sure as hell wasn’t happening when anybody was.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday the bus station was a hive of high-vis activity. 

  
The workforce was suddenly in double figures and actually doing stuff. A young lad tried to manoeuvre a piece of Perspex into a bus shelter frame. The slabs were being laid without the need for supervised supervision. There was even a damn great crane. With a man in it. Working!

And then it all made sense. A group of suits, including the woman from the Council who blatantly lied about the effect the buses would have on our lives as residents whilst the stops were relocated to our street for 3 months. All in yet more high-vis. Each clutching a clipboard.

Ah, the power of the clipboard. 

And today? A grand total of 7 workmen: two actually working, two watching the work, two on a fag break and one fetching the coffees. 

D’oh.

Moral of the story: if you want stuff done then wander round looking officious with a clipboard. Hard hat and high-vis jacket optional.

  

Who eats half a cookie?

Sometimes life, and in particular, the internet brings to light concepts that I struggle to get my head around.

Such as the idea of having a recipe for one cookie.

There are just two reasons on Earth as to why I would choose to make just one cookie:
1) I actually intended to make 12, but ate so much of the dough that I only ended up with one solitary biscuit;

2) I decided to make one enormous biscuit so that I wouldn’t have to share with anyone else (which, now I think of it would make phenomenal sense).

But, no. The crazy (and I assume skinny) fools on Pinterest have suggested a recipe for literally a single cookie.

  
Why would you do that? Why?

But it gets weirder. Because rather than assuming (correctly!) that you – ok, I – would promptly sit (stand at the kitchen worktop) and devour the whole thing (and then wish I’d made another 11), the recipe suggests this one cookie would constitute TWO servings!!!

  
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That would be my brain exploding at the very idea.

For one thing, in that case, why not make TWO cookies? Otherwise, secondly, why on Earth would you eat half of something so delicious (the Pinner said that it was one of her ‘FAVORITE recipes EVER’ so it must be good) and then leave the other half for later? You just know that someone’s just going to put it in the bin. Why take that risk?

Maybe it’s just a smug willpower thing: ‘Ooh, look, I’m so good I only bake one biscuit at a time and then leave half because my appetite is so small that I can’t manage it in one go.’ Well, in that case, those people deserve to have their half-eaten cookies binned. If you’re going to the trouble of making it at least eat it!

There are already enough issues around food. Let’s not add to them. Either make a normal batch of cookies – share them around if you like the baking part but not the weight gain – or if you must bake just one cookie at a time at least eat it in one go. The world is not a better place for having half-eaten cookies lying around.

Should’ve Gone to Specsavers

Q: What’s worse than going to your car to find you’ve got a parking ticket?

A: Finding you’ve got TWO parking tickets.

It’s not even a joke.

 
Marvellous!

My heart dropped when my dad handed them over to me this evening. I got one last month too. That time the permit had blown from my dashboard so it couldn’t be seen, but when you’re wrangling children along with bags of shopping that you’ve then you got to negotiate safely through the car park and then trudge home because the council have banned you from parking in your street because it needs to be used as a temporary bus stop then checking that the permit is still where you left it is the least of your worries. But it must have happened again and I’d got a ‘never let it happen again – next time we won’t be so lenient’ warning last time. Oh balls!
So imagine my surprise when I went to the car  and could very plainly see the white card of the permit in the middle of my dashboard.

  
I can’t help the dashboard design of my Ford Focus, but it didn’t take a lot of effort to be able to make out that it was very definitely:

A) ascribed to my car;

B) in date;

and

C) valid for use, not only for that specific car park, but also for the ground floor.

  
It was in the very same position it was in since Draughtgate, so had been deemed visible for the previous 20 days. And yet, according to my penalty notices it had suddenly become invisible to the naked eye of the parking warden, even though it hadn’t moved. Even Teflon Man idenitified it as my permit when I asked ‘What’s that on my car dashboard?’ Which shows how very much of a muppet the warden must be.

Now, I would have been a tad frustrated if it meant I had to pop along to the council office responsible for parking fines. Having to take a ticket and sit on a plastic chair for a bit is a nuisance. But if you get to talk to a human being (ok, I’m not sure all council employees are actually human, but I can be an optimist) then it’s done and dusted and all is right in the world. (It’s how I got the addition of the ground floor to the permit after all. Negotiating with jobsworths is a skill I have and I like to use it whenever possible.)

But what really pips me off is that I don’t get to talk to a human being directly about this. No, I now have to fill in an online form. TWICE. I have to attach photos – the same photos – of my evidence to said form. TWICE. If it goes the same way as last time I’ll then get a reply back to say that the photos didn’t attach to the form properly. TWICE. And I’ll then have to go through the rigmarole of doing it all again. TWICE!!!

And all because I the warden couldn’t see what’s right in front of his frickin’ nose!!!

So, yeah, I’m more than a tad annoyed. And when I am more than a tad annoyed I get just a little bit snarky. Which isn’t good when it comes to dealing with council officials. Yet filling in to a faceless void of an online form just encourages the worst. Surely it’s the reason forum comment section are full of such hate.

So wish me luck tomorrow. It won’t so much be a case of bitemarks in my tongue as gnarled up fingers from having to stop myself from typing torrents of snidy sarcasm.

And at least I got to vent here. If it only serves to feed the fire of my frustrations would one of you please be kind enough to come and bail me out of the cells/loony bin (depending on which vehicle gets to me first).

Here’s hoping they overturn the penalties. If they don’t it may be small town Armageddon!

In the meantime maybe I should attach a Specsavers voucher to my wipers. Or would the warden’s guide dog not pick up on it?

Prince George breathes a sigh of relief

In light of the past few Disney films the world must be a tough place to grow up in as a future monarch. Princes have, of late, been given a bad rep. In early Disney films they were heroes. Heroes without names and limited screen time and/or personality (‘let me bump into you early on, eponymous heroine and then I’ll show up again in the penultimate scene to save you.’ See Snow White/Sleeping Beauty). But handsome and dashing all the same.

But then things changed. The princes became fallible (The Lion King) and feckless (The Frog Prince). Girls instead had their heads turned by good-looking rogues with a kind heart (Aladdin and later on Rapunzel). Princes were stupid with non-princely names (see The Little Mermaid. Prince Eric? Really? I think it was better when you guys were nameless). Loving a prince increasingly became bad news. Although, without exception, love conquered all flaws and they all lived happily ever after.

  

Attractive as hell, but lazy and greedy, with an eye for the ladies. 

And then came Frozen.

(Spoiler alert: if you’ve lived in a cave/religious cult for the past year and have avoided all talk/internet discussion of Frozen, but would like to see the film wish fresh eyes, stop here. Get the DVD. Watch it. Come back here.)

Oh, how they used the handsome prince rule book in that film…and then smashed us round the head with it!

Handsome, dashing, charming, dutiful. *Sigh*

  

And then, that moment…his hand on Anna’s chin, leaning in for the kiss that will save her life, true love’s kiss…

  

‘Oh, Anna, if only there was someone out there who loved you.’

I swear I heard the illusions of a hundred little girls shatter in that instant. There was audible gasping. (And may I remind you, we don’t do public displays of emotion in British cinemas. So that was new.) My chin had bruising from where my jaw hit the floor.

Princes weren’t the object of the fantasy any more. Who’d want to marry a prince? Even in real life, marrying a prince doesn’t guarantee you life in a castle as a princess. Kate Middleton had the Disney hair to lure the prince, but ended up as a Duchess living in a house in Norfolk with her future-king husband flying helicopters along the coast, for heavens sake. That was never part of the ever after as we dreamed it. 

Anmer is lovely and all, but it isn’t this:

 

Now, that’s the least we expect from our fairytales.

 

  

And then, just to kill the dream for definite, there was Maleficent (fairy falls for prince, but he betrays her and cuts her wings off; fairy goes boo-loo!) and Into the Woods. Nobody got their happy ever after there.

  

‘I was raised to be charming, not sincere.’

And I thought, poor Prince George. He’s a prince whose going to have to grow up in a world of girls who’ve had the veil lifted from their eyes. They’re going to be indoctrinated to believe that a prince should never be trusted. They’ll assume that he’ll be a self-serving narcissist destined to break their hearts. Sure, he’ll still have a title, expensive education, money, good looks and international fame on his side (don’t feel too sorry for him)…but somewhere deep in the psyche of his female peers will be a sense of distrust (if it’s true that all it takes is a bunch of Disney films to have us believe in the fairytale, that is…but after all the internet inches written about how little girls are ruined by believing in the fairytale romance then it must be true, right?). 

But, thank heavens, Cinderella has come along to save the poor little prince.

And I was worried there for a while, because the dolls Disney have produced just look so stern. Stern was never part of the fairytale. Not when it came to the ever after couple at least.

  

That’s the same look I give Teflon Man on a regular basis, and it ain’t one of happily ever after.

BUT…

After the royal wake-up call we can fall back to sleep into this sumptuous dream, where all is as it should be. A dashing, handsome prince once more, with morals and principles and a massive fucking palace of his own. A prince willing to sweep the right fair maiden off her feet once she’s swept him off his. 

  

Boo sat motionless throughout the entire film. Literally nothing from her. 

‘What did you think?’ I asked her at the end.

‘I loved it,’ she swooned. And then she spent the evening making a carriage out of a cardboard box and twirling round the living room.

So, Prince George, your future is saved. Little girls believe in fairytale romance once more. 

  

‘Does that mean the pretty girls will like me again now, Daddy?’

Although if you’re going to grow up in my neck of the woods I’m thinking it might be prudent to invest in riding lessons for Boo. You never know, after all.

  

Reduced…to Tears

Having more or less resolved my mutton/lamb styling issues for my birthday I decided it was time to shop. Things did not go well…

REASONS I HATE SHOPPING IN THE SALES

#1 It’s only a bargain if it actually exists in your size. Until I’m either a size 20 or a size 6 that never actually happens.

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Oh, but they only had my size in the Saint Laurent jacket…excuse me while I don’t part with Ā£1,770!

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I didn’t have any more luck looking for a sequinned skirt either.

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For heaven’s sake!

#2 There’s plenty of completely random stuff that’s not an urgent purchase out there though.

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Who needs to buy a Santa jumper right now? Why is it clogging up the shelves of the internet, available in every size, when instead shops could be selling stuff I actually want to buy?

Mind you, apparently 20 other people were looking at the jumper at the same time as me. What is wrong with these people? Don’t they realise they’re perpetuating the shop’s belief that we could actually be interested in such expired tut? Gah!

#3 You decide you’d be happy to pay full price, but can’t because the options are purely of non-existent stock.

Could normal shopping service – or stuff that costs a bit more, but are actually things you want to buy in a full range of sizes – please resume as soon as possible please? Preferably before I spontaneously combust with rage and frustration. I’m having a fashion crisis here and you retailers really aren’t helping!

Neither Mutton Nor Lamb

Three weeks til B-day (I’m not rounding up, I’m not rounding up). An amazing and wonderful and thoughtful friend has taken it upon herself to organise a night out of fabulousness – food, cocktails, dancing – and I’m actually getting excited. A select group of friends who know how to party hard but classily have been invited – all said they were on board in a heartbeat – and my sister (who is yet to reply). Blood may be thicker than water, but water can be turned into wine (or something).

But anyway, the essence is, it’s going to be a great night. And technically I shall still be 30-something, so will hopefully feel less old.

The only question is: WHAT TO WEAR???

Because, the thing is, nightlife isn’t really targeted at those of us who have reached the apex of our personal hills and who are now taking a leisurely meander down the other side. We’re meant to be eating in fancy pants restaurants – from the size of my backside I’m clearly on board with this as a leisure pursuit – but cocktails and dancing? Isn’t that for the young/skinny/beautiful people? No one wants to be the woman the ‘kids’ look at with pity as she shakes her muttony thang on the dancefloor.

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And actually, getting busy on a dancefloor is fantastic! And there shouldn’t be an age limit on it. But, don’t tell me you can look at this picture of Goldie Hawn and not judge just a little bit:

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The Daily Mail certainly did! Although, in fairness, it was the Daily Mail – they judge everything. But still, there are a lot of people out there who are like walking Daily Mails, ready to rain on your parade for not fitting in.

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To add to the pressure my celebrations aren’t going to be happening in our little two-bar town where it’s easier to be a saddo amongst a group of saddos. No we’re off to the giddy heights of Cambridge! (Ok, so it’s better known for its universities and all things esteemed and learned, but if there’s one thing students know how to do its party!)

So there we’ll be, supping our Manhattans, surrounded by the young, the skinny and the beautiful (and brainy and probably rich and entitled, dammit). No one wants to be Samantha in East Anglia’s answer to Sex and the City. Or worse, the woman at the bar wearing a scrunchie!

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Because dreadful though the thought of being mutton-dressed-as-lamb is, being mutton-dressed-as-mutton is almost as bad. Dump the frump – my invited friends are all, without exception, beautiful creatures. I don’t want to be the old one wistfully staring into my vodka cocktail creating ever-deeper frown lines about having frown lines.

I thought my dilemma would be easy though. I Googled ‘what to wear at 40th birthday’ and checked Pinterest out for the same. Now, either these women are ageing incredibly well or they’re not actually anywhere near 30, never mind 40.

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Dammit.

Or worse, it seemed I’m meant to be in fancy dress.

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Just no!

So instead I turned to the world of celebrity. Ok, my own version would be closer to Primark than Armani, but there have surely been enough famous people who’ve passed their own landmark birthday and are still deemed young and beautiful enough to party.

Queen of Partying, Kate Moss turned 40 last year for a start. I seem to remember it being typically epic, so how did she do it?

Apparently she went to Necker Island and presumably wore not-very-much. Not really an option when facing January winds blowing across the Fens. For her birthday lunch she opted for black with leopard print.

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Except formative-years TV has a big impact on the psyche and I know I’d feel I’d be channelling Bet Lynch in leopard.

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Again, no.

A red ball gown like Princess Letizia (whoever she is) might be a bit much.

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Ditto Sarah Jessica Parker’s frock:

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Well, thanks for nothing you two.

Gywneth Paltrow looked rather fabulous and not-at-all mutton in a black and white strapless jumpsuit for hers.

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And Posh Spice went for black and strappy at her bash.

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But then neither of them had to end the night waiting for a train. Or have bingo wings. Even a micro macrobiotic diet won’t bust those babies for me in three weeks. I’m definitely going to need more upper body coverage.

So black, warm and body-friendly. Maybe I should wear a burka!

But then – thankfully – I discovered that The Guardian’s style columnist Jess Cartner-Morley is 41 and always looks fabulous and therefore I can trust her over and above Pinning 20-somethings and celebs with far more niche celebrations/far more toned bodies than me. Plus she wrote in favour of sequins for New Year wearing a very covetable skirt.

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I looked for it on Zara.com. It’s in their sale! Yay! Sadly it’s out of stock in anything but XS – but at least it’s a starting point!

Bring on the party! But first let the shopping commence!