Sunny Shiny Happy

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‘It’s all happening’. 

It really is.

2007 seems to be another one of those years where everything appears to be moving and rearranging,  a new door is teetering on its hinges waiting to be opened onto a new chapter, a new episode in this thing called life.  What next is in store is anyones guess, but for now I am content that after months of watching those dear to me experience endless worry and stress, things are looking up – and by appearances the sun has also decided to drop in for the occasion. 

Yesterday my friend Helen told me her man of 5 years had done the decent thing, had got down on one knee in the kitchen of their new house and popped the question. The result being a magnificent ring on the finger of this magnificent lady.

Congratulations Helen and Chris, wishing you a happy forever….

and Helen, I’ll look into a big BBQ! 

Spectacular

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I have been ‘HD ready’ for a while.

For about a year and a half in fact.

It was only until a couple of weeks ago however when I finally managed to book an appointment for an eye test that all became clear.

“Please read the letters on the board for me, right down to the lowest line you can manage”

“A….. is that an E?.. and an O?….I’m sorry that’s all I see”.

The nice optician lady handed me a card with some interesting looking numbers on it and asked me to bring in my old pair of glasses to compare prescriptions. From the look on her face when I handed back what had fondly become known as ‘my librarians’, it was clear that I was going to need to choose some new spectacles.

On Sunday I picked them up and ….wow.

It’s like opening the window for a couple of minutes to clear a misted bathroom mirror, it’s like the difference between VHS and DVD, it’s like finding the optimum focus on a zoom of a camera, like peeling back the protective layer on a pane of glass, like drawing a black line around otherwise anonymous shapes with a pencil, finally revealing their true identity.

I see the world now in HD and I like it.

Very much.

Brown Bag

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Just down the road from my office is a little cafe called the Brown Bag.

Sometimes – although normally on a Friday – the youngest members of the office decamp here and we enjoy a whole solitary hour in the comfort of the big brown leather sofas, putting the world to right over a luxurious strawberry milkshake.

Except me, since I can only enjoy anything dairy now in moderation, so I make do with a tea.

You see, apparently one of my ‘enzymes’ has gone missing.

The local constabulary since however have told me “it is not a police matter”.

Deeply disappointing.

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Strange familiar

Where I work we have quite a unique way of doing things when it comes to car parking. Due to the limited grounds surrounding the Council Offices, employees are issued with a free pass that entitles you to free parking in any one of 3 public car parks in Wokingham Town Centre. As I travel in on the M4 I have been given a pass for a car park the other side of town, about a brisk 10 minutes walk from the (dis)comfort of my office chair.

Although initially I was rather miffed at adding an extra 20 mintues onto my working day, especially as it takes at least 45 minutes in the car to reach Wokingham, I have since got the hang of my small hike across town and find it a great way to either prepare myself or wind down from a raucous day in the planning office.

Plus I love the little bits of peoples lives I experience, especially in the morning, all in the space of just under a mile.

Normally I arrive at my car park at approximately 08:20 which means I can make it to my desk for an even 08:30 unless anything unforseen apprehends me on the way, like the other morning when a disability scooter had broken down outside of the bakery causing a pedestrian pile up, or the time a young mum lost a wheel from her buggy which I dutifully chased after. Otherwise, without fail, my morning walk resembles the same pattern of people and events that if I’m honest, I would miss if I was given a different parking pass;

At approximately 08:23 an alarm clock will go off at the house with the blue door as I exit my car park (I’m guessing the clock is slow or the owner a little quirky…). On the street corner by the art gallery I pass by a lady with very curly hair taking two small boys to school, the elder one always lagging slightly behind. As I walk up the high street the chap who owns the pet shop puts out the rabbit hutches he stores in a lock-up to the side of his property, a lady will be waiting in the entrance of the estate agents, presumably for the key holder, and the girl with the alternative taste in leggings will walk through the door of the hairdressers.

As I approach the town hall I often see two ladies walk by, deep in conversation and wearing sky blue t-shirts who I think work in the travel agent. Walking past the bank, a professional looking gentleman with a tan briefcase will say hello to me – I still can’t decide if I know him from somewhere or not….

A little further down the road I will wave to my friend Karim who owns a sandwich shop in town as he runs to the newsagent to get his daily paper before the second shift starts. Finally as I round the corner past the barber shop, with my office in sight, I will pass a full figured lady who has the most beautiful smiling face – the sort of person you can never imagine being angry or sad. We normally smile and wish each other a good morning.

I then scrabble about in my bag looking for my security pass to try and get into the Council building. Carl, the caretaker, who stands in the main entrance each morning will often take pity on me and open the tempremental automatic doors, usually at the point where I have started emptying the contents of my handbag onto the pavement.

I do wonder sometimes whether people think of me – normally a little bit grumpy looking (due to it being a.m.), quite often with ‘happy hair’ and remenants of toothpaste still lingering around my mouth – as part of their morning routine as I regard them.

In a way I find it a little sad that we share a part of each others lives on an almost daily basis, yet it is quite likely we will always remain strangers….

To be honest though, if one of them stopped along their way and started a conversation with me ,I’m sure I would be a little taken aback.

But I hope I would think of something to say….

Because all friends start out as strangers. And you can never have too many friends.

In fact I think this chap is spot on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6958227.stm

Doodling

I’m a doodler.

I doodle when talking on the phone, in meetings, on the back of my train ticket, on till receipts, and curiously once on my knee during a 5 hour bus journey in Peru which didn’t wash off for ages, and I’m sure was the reason airport staff searched me on my way back through Houston…

Indeed – I’m not sure what it is, but when there is a piece of paper in front of me and a pen in my hand, a world of opportunity presents itself and I can show no restraint in wanting to fill the blank surface.

I came across this article (http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/tipsandideas/a/doodle.htm) today and apparently doodling can reveal a lot about what a person is thinking and feeling – a sort of exhibition of your subconscious trying to make itself heard.

Recently I stepped up in the doodling world and one of my scribbles has been included on the top of an official planning document – a small attempt on the Council’s part at making this excessively dry information a little more visually appealing to the public. Today we had a meeting to discuss this very document, and with a copy sitting in front of me I (of course) started to doodle.

In respect of my last post, I think the random additions I made to my ‘official’ doodle (which is meant to represent Wokingham – the place where I work) says it all of how I am feeling in my job at the moment, so the psychology there doesn’t really bother me too  much…

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What does worry me however, is that yesterday I drew a geriatric chicken wearing flip flops….

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Answers on a postcard.

Apathy in the ranks

It has been on my summer break from university (I am studying part time for a Masters Degree in Spatial Planning) that I have really begun to really take stock of where I am and what I’m doing. The constant day to day pressures of my course and the copious assignments we are required to churn out on an almost weekly basis have occupied the majority of my thoughts over the past year, and previous to that my rollercoaster of a private life had been somewhat all consuming. It is now however that things have slowed down and home life is happy that ‘what I want to be’ has once again reared its ugly head and is questioning my current career choice.

Two years ago I thought I had it sorted. With a Geography Degree to my name, contacts in the field, a level of inherited knowledge and a naturally nosey nature, ‘Planning’ seemed the obvious choice of career. Lately however, its rigidity, its formality and its unyeilding bureaucracy has started to temper with my opinions as to where ‘Planning’ will take me and what it has to offer.

For two years now I have sat in this cold office counting housing completions and writing consultation reports. I read letters written by the same people about the same things and regurgitate what they have said with an official title. My chances of progressing from this broken record of a job is to finish my masters degree and attempt to move on to what else planning has to offer.

Whats worries me is that even this prospect does little to excite me.

For the past few months a need for originality, for creativity, for a chance to excercise the extent of my imagination has been eating away at my sense of reason. I tried to satisfy this unexpected hunger in a small way by giving myself this space in which I can write – a desperate measure to try and keep alive the bit inside me that still ‘thinks’ before the procedure of my professional life diminishes all.

I have really started to crave a job I feel a passion for, a career that accentuates and is an extension of me, a way of making money that doesn’t have me glued to the clock from 9am until 5pm.

If I could ever get a job like this is questionable.

What this job may be is another matter entirely….

So I will sit tight and do the sensible thing, finish my degree and see how far my horizons can be expanded by this one, not so simple task.

I hope it takes me further than here. This blog just isn’t big enough.

Dreaming and Rhyming

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Have you ever had a dream so real that you can pick flowers and smell them, read a letter and recognise the hand writing or even have conversations so vivid that you wake up to the hear the last words resounding in your ears?

I did…. and I do.

Regularly.

I have always been the owner of a slightly overactive imagination, but lately it appears to be working overtime and mostly during my hours asleep. Whereas this doesn’t normally bother me – especially when unconsciousness places me in an exotic location or in the arms of Jude Law – but for the past week I have been experiencing the most disturbed sleep where often it has been necessary to wake me up. Indeed, in my torpid state I appear to have experienced the whole spectrum of human emotion over the course of 4 nights, from the most blissful euphoria to the most heart shattering depths of sadness, a feeling that stayed with me for the duration of the next day.

Whereas I have never been so encapsulated by the joy I experienced in these dreams, or so frightened by something that I myself had created, now that I seem back on track with a more restful sleep pattern – I can’t help but be fascinated by what my brain managed construct without my conscious authority.

In fact it has left me feeling all the more respectful of my body in general which manages not only its day to day maintenance without any personal thought required, can repair itself when I am careless enough to injure it, but effectively co-ordinates all of its different parts so that I am able to run, jump, laugh, cry, talk and play at will.

I need to look after it. It’s only fair really.

It does such a good job of looking after me.

Anyway – on a more light hearted note, I thought I’d share with you the fruits of almost a fortnights worth of e-mail literary creativeness that myself and Paul (house mate at university and treasured friend) have produced in the duller moments of our working day. Amongst the games of eye spy (played with more than 70 miles in between us), jokes, plot lines for ’24’, great adventures to all four corners of the earth, I have chosen to post the lyrical goodness of our ‘lymeric game’. The rules were simple – take it in turns to write the beginning of a rhyme and the other person would do their best to complete it. Here are few we came up with:

There was a big penguin called Doug,

Who, if honest, was a bit of a thug,

One day with his flipper,

He caught a big kipper,

And beat it to death with a rug.

———————————————–

There once was a gerbil called Frank,

Who one day escaped from his tank,

After drinking some tea,

He was desperate to pee,

And the smell was decidedly rank.

———————————————

There was a young duck called Pete,

Who did not have webbed like feet,

Instead he had toes,

And was thus asked to pose,

As a celebrity on the cover of ‘Heat’.

————————————–

There was a young woman from Slough,

Who ate a midget but didn’t know how.

She soon came to reason,

The midget was teasin’

And was actually the size of a cow.

—————————————-

There was a young girl from Bahrain,

Who had a mishap on a train,

Her skirts got all sticky,

And as she was picky,

She didn’t sniff UHU again.

————————————–

There once was a tiger called Mike,

Who one day decided to hike,

But along the way,

He met a Tigress called Faye,

Who overtook him quite fast on her bike.

—————————————————

Anyone up for joining in? Here’s one to finish – and if you fancy dropping it in my comment box sometime – I’d love it!

There was once an elephant called Ted,

who went for a cruise round the Med,

It was somewhere in Crete,…….

The Change

More often than not when I travel by bus, I will spend at least some of my time pondering why old ladies (normally well represented on this mode of transport) all seem to sport the same hair do.

It would seem that at around the age of 65, you no longer harbor any desire to ‘add a few layers and keep the length’ when you visit the hairdresser, your mop is no longer contaminated with every spray, spritz or serum stocked at Tony and Guy, and the curious way in which you used tie up your barnet using only chinese chopsticks seems no longer appealing. No, the new order of the day is short, white, tidy and most definitely curly.

For a while I did wonder whether like a bus pass, at retirement age you were given vouchers for free trips to a hairdresser that only offered this kind of do – perhaps as an economy of scale. Recently however, I have reasoned that maybe all elderly people’s hair is simply styled this way as an issue of practicality, being able to fit under a rain hood without any bits poking out and getting wet for example. The ‘old person look’ therefore is potentially not simply a matter of taste, but occurs through a number of sensible decisions having been made.

You may ask me why all of a sudden I have arrived at such conclusions.

You see, the fact of the matter is that I have a shopping bag.

This didn’t occur to me until the other day as the bag I carry in addition to my handbag is normally used for transporting my lunch to the office. Recently however I have found myself venturing out with it with the sole intention of storing any intended purchases within its robust hessian material, and have delighted in the comfort of its padded handles – much more user friendly than your average plastic carrier bag.

The problem lies in that it is only really old people that have a designated shopping bag -but thus is my argument. I can see their point.

So along with my bag, the flat, sensible shoes that I purchased a little while ago, the tissue stuffed up my sleeve for ease of use and my general disapproval of the behaviour displayed by most young people (pull your trousers up please, I do not want to see your underwear) , I am well on my way to being a proper old person.

I just know when I start writing to the council about rubbish collection and am attracted to anything crocheted I’ll truly be there.

I can’t wait.

Faking it

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I am avid subscriber to the ‘Magazine’ Section of the BBC news website which read every morning (accompanied by the mandatory cup of tea), provides a useful kick start to the grey matter – knocking me out of the daze that so I often arrive to the office in.

Yesterday I came across an article that particularly caught my eye (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6943223.stm) about individuals who are not only using their ‘out of office’ as a means of delaying a response to e-mails, (despite being very much present at work), but in cases where a person is not at thier desk, it is becomingly an increasingly popular medium to boast about their alternative whereabouts.

Unfortunately working at a Local Authority most things are standardised, so the only alternative or even interesting automatic responses I receive miss out the ‘l’ in ‘public’, (although Rodney in Childrens Services obviously hadn’t noticed his ‘automatic spellcheck’ box was ticked when he signed his Out of Office ‘regards, Donkey’).

The ‘Out of Office’ phenomenon has thus passed me by, although I am noticing a similar equally frightening trend occurring on ‘Facebook’. A fairly recent member (I have been a practicing ‘Booker’ for about 2 months now), initially the people that occupied my ‘friends list’ were those that knew me well, people I see often, people who know I listen to Simon and Garfunkel in my car, who know I have not yet left my birthplace of Reading, who have access to many an unflattering photograph of me (mostly because they took them), and who know that my career in a planning office is neither dynamic or well paid. Back in the early days I felt no pressure therefore to appear jet setting, beautifully groomed or even interesting. I could set my status to ‘Amy is: tidying her reciept drawer’ without fear of being judged.

Now all this has changed.

One quite unnerving feature of Facebook is that anyone can track you down. Anyone. People that have sat next to you in restaurants, shared a crayon with you at Sunday School, copied your maths homework, have left you feedback on ebay, are cousins of your mum’s friends brother – anyone. Every once in a while I login to the ‘Book’ see if any of my closest acquantancies have decided upon a new favourite colour or have challenged me to a quiz about their sandwich filling prefences, and a little message pops up noting that I have ‘1 friend request’. On the odd occasion I actually know the person, I gladly check the box and add details as to how this unfortunate individual came across me. More frequently however, I have been added to the friends lists of people who look familar or I recognise the name, but I wouldn’t know where to send their Christmas Card to. In such instances I generally feel too polite to reject an open offer of friendship and we become Facebook friends. What’s the harm anyway?

Well it would seem increasing pressure to perform…or at least appear to. As my ‘Friends Box’ becomes filled with buff looking pictures of ex class mates and postings on my ‘wall’ appear from those riding elephants bare back across the Sahara Desert for African Orphans, it has started to make my trips to the Southsea Tram Museum seem somewhat tame. Indeed countless photo’s of holidays in Bali have been posted, someone else has just got engaged to an investment banker and is living in Zanzibar, Tiffany is: ‘just too tired to get out of the hot tub’ and Dave’s interests include ‘rollerskating around the private tennis court’ .

It is tempting to let any insecurities overule reason in situations such as these, and it has occurred to me on the odd occasion that I could dig out any pictures of me in which I may appear to be in either an exotic or death defying/adventurous situation…but that’s not real.

Which has started to make me wonder how much of Facebook is.

So I will return to drinking my cup of tea, in Reading, happy in the knowledge that there are at least some of my friends on Facebook that are willing to accept my old person music taste, own a picture of me with three chins, listen to my tales of transport Museums and acknowledge all that is truly me….

and I couldn’t want for any more.

Remaining Neutral

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The better half and I have been on a bit of a decorating frenzy since we moved into our house last year, liberating it of its drab 1970’s decor and attempting to turn it into a palace of peace and tranquility…… with a touch of class.

I think as ‘moving in together’ goes, I have been very lucky that the better half has fairly compatible tastes with my own, and despite making the odd compromise over curtain material and the odd fixture or fitting (admittedly on his part…), it can be almost guaranteed that let loose in the same homeware store, we’d walk out with an almost identical basket.

Our ‘taste’ on the whole is uncluttered, clean and fresh. We like to use natural materials wherever we can and subscribe to using ‘proper wood’ wherever possible. These are all happy admissions, however when people ask me the colours we have chosen, I always feel slightly embarrassed to say “its all mostly neutrals”….

I’m not sure why I find this particularly bothers me, especially as I have recently arrived at a very liberating place in life where I have stopped apologising for who I am – which is maybe why in fact, I am afraid of being regarded as ‘neutral’…

You see, as anyone who has spent as long as me glued to ‘UK bright Ideas’ or queues at the newsagent on the 3rd of every month to pick up their copy of ‘Living Etc.’ will know, ‘neutrals’ are generally associated as being the ‘safe option’ – they are used to make somewhere universally appealing to everyone, most show homes are drenched in them as generally they don’t offend anyone and will go with everything. That’s why when people ask me what colour we have painted our rooms, often a reply will follow “Oh, are you looking to sell when you finish?”

No.

Well not straight away…

Interior design magazines are currently filled to the brim of smug home owners showing off their designer flocked wallpaper, intricately designed table lamps, tartan carpets and red perspex coffee tables. The homes of people I know even contain black gloss skirting boards, purple living rooms and ‘accent walls in’ green and gold’ – the reason for this – they “like them” and represent a little bit of their individual personality.

So what does that make me? Am I the unimaginitive Mrs Beige therefore? Does my love of ‘soft chalk’ and pale voile curtains make me the human equivalent of a white clad Kingsoak ‘Show Flat’ – one amongst the masses and largely unforgettable?

Having never really thought about this before (though to be quite frank it is probably not something that would ever bother ordinary people), I pondered as to what the answer was. And I came up with this:

Modest that I am,  I would like think my life consists of many colours, but it is the home the better half and I are making that reflects how I strive to feel permanently inside and how I think we are; united, together and calm. I don’t want drama, I don’t want fuss and I don’t want anything that is going to cause an arguement with my senses and give me a headache.

Plus I just like soothing colours. They look nice.

So… with this post I will hereby make a bold step out of the interior design closet and admit to something that ‘Ideal Homes’ would regard as strictly faux pas:-

I’m remaning neutral.

So sue me.

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