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


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.


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


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


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?”


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.

OCD and a Great Weekend


Its been a great weekend – and although busier than most – has left me feeling quite relaxed and at peace with the world, if not more than a little tired.

On Friday evening the better half and I ventured down to the coast and met up with some friends and some boats to watch the ‘end of Cowes Week’ fireworks. With the wind very much present in my hair, a sunset to rival most others, and a ready supply of cake onboard, it seemed a truly perfect way to end the week as the five of us watched rockets take to the air and erupt with a satisfying boom, sprinkling showers of impossible colour over the water. Thanks to Simon for making it possible (you can take a look at the photo’s on the gallery).

Saturday saw a swift turn around as we headed back home for a much needed shower and then out again to a BBQ. This was another extrodinarily good combination of things I enjoy – namely BBQ food, relaxed sunny evenings and most of all new people.

It has started to turn into a bit of a strange hobby of mine that I very much enjoy spending time in the company of people I don’t know so well. It is something that has developed over a number of years since I became sufficiently confident to introduce myself and strike up conversation. Now I revel in the chance to chat with someone new and learn about their own take on life, what interests them, what inspires them, and what, if anything, we share as common ground.

This weekend I met a lovely lady who not only works in a vaguely planning related job, but it so conspires that she too has ‘obsessions’ that verge on being OCD – needing labels on tins to face forward in cupboards as an example. I was greatly relieved by this as I have started to develop habits that are worryingly becoming ‘must do’s. One of which is keeping my desk at work neat. Increasingly I am becoming a ‘tidy person’ in general –  a little sad because these things shouldn’t matter, although I can let the odd misplaced object at home go. At work however my belongings are tidied with almost regimental order, not in the least my magazine files that need to be placed in alternate colour order (stripey box, red box). In addition to this the contents of each file are stored in not only date order, size order but also ‘frequency of use’. My colleagues often marvel at my bizarre tidiness – because as anyone that works in a planning would know – planning offices practically breed books,plans, maps, drawings, surveys and anything that can be feasibly use, be shaped in the form of or bare a distant relation to paper. Keeping anything tidy therefore takes supreme effort.

What’s more – I have a ‘thing’ about pegging clothes on the washing line in order – with underwear having its own exclusive side of the whirlygig.  I order the clothes in my wardrobe by colour. I’ve started to have trouble thinking over a problem without holding a pen in my hand. I can’t sit with a dirty plate in front of me for too long, I find it very difficult to go out without washing my hair, and having sharp objects pointing towards me is a no no.

I don’t want to even get onto the need to place the shaving gel behind the mouthwash in the bathroom.

Its a little worrying, although I was heartened to be told at the weekend that such habits add to our uniqueness, and as a result we are different and thus special people.

I’m going with that.

Its a darn sight better than ‘weird’.

Magical Mystery Tor

Turner’s Tours has now entered into its second year.

For something that started out as a trip to ‘Go-Ape’ in Bracknell Forest (see gallery for photos kindly provided by Mr McMichael), we’ve actually managed to fit in visits to quite a few places including ice skating at Somerset House on New Years Eve, Ghost Walks in London, an evening at the Covent Garden Comedy Club, and a lots of bopping on ‘bar benches’ at the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival. Its really just been a great excuse to catch up with people I might otherwise not get to see so often and do something random and silly. I hope we can keep it up, I’ve had a lot of fun so far!

Anyway, due to a bit of nagging that Turner’s Tours should acquire a slightly more official status, I hereby launch its new look…but one that might need explaning.

Turner’s Tours has become Turner’s Tors

You see ‘Turner Tours’ already exists.

Turners Tours’ also already exists.

I thought about  making it ‘Turner’s Tourz’, but decided that sounded a bit common and lowered the tone of such a classy organisation with its high profile members.

I therefore have settled on Turners Tors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor) as a play on words. This is because tors are known for their magical, mystical properties (thus a magical, mystery tor…) , they are the ‘high point’ (they are for me), and seeing as base camp for tours is at WHS Lilac Walk, situated on quite a steep hill,  it seemed rather appropriate.

So I had a name. Just needed a ‘look’. This is what I came up with:


Lots of Tors have a castle on top, thus does mine. I also decided to make the hill into the world, just because it looked prettier and I guess you’ll never know where we might end up on a Tor – especially if I’m map reading!

I’m open to suggestions for alternative designs.

Apparently a range of ‘Tor’ pants could go down well though…

I’ll leave it there.

Outside these four walls…


There are times, as the other half will confirm, when I need to escape being indoors and go out somewhere. Often it doesn’t matter where, but it would seem that I do not possess the ability to spend a whole day inside and not experience the world outside of our four walls. I feel trapped.

My favourite place to escape to are the woods and fields that surround the tiny hamlet of Sulham. These are little further away from my current residence, but when I lived with my parents were a short 5 minute walk away. What still amazes me is that there are about 15,000 people that live in my ‘Village’, yet when you head out to the woods and ‘7 ponds’ (as the fields are know locally – named after the dew ponds that sometimes appear) it is quite often that foxes, deer and bunnies will be your only companions.

I have pretty much grown up in Sulham Woods and 7 Ponds. I used to sit in the long grass of the fields and read my famous five books, revise for my exams or just listen to the grass hoppers twitch and the birds chirp their merry tunes. I used to meet with my guide pack in the woodland clearing and cook sausages on trangiers and make sherbert dib dabs. In the winters when I was younger and it actually used to snow, my friends and I would take our sledges to the woods and set up runs down the steep and uneven footpaths, doing our best to avoid the bramble bushes at the bottom. My Mum and I during the spring and summer months would walk in the woods and fields most evenings, stopping to sit on the old tree stump half way along our route which became ‘our spot’ for putting the world to right. I used to roll down the hills there, hug the big trees there, play hide and seek, watch the farmers crops grow, say hello to the horses, pat the cows and play ‘knock ’ems’ with fir cones and conkers. It was even where I taught our dog Basil to sit independently in puddles – much to my parents delight.  

On such a beautiful day as this, with a seamlessly blue sky and bright sun light streaming through the window, I regret that I have to be in an office in Wokingham and not the woods and fields at home. I am also starting to feel a pang of guilt that as a town planner I occasionally have to inform the residents of Wokingham  that the places they hold dear have just been given planning permission.

Sadly that’s what happens in a country that can’t seem to build enough houses.

I’m just glad my woods and fields are protected nationally. I just don’t share that with the people that live here….


Such is my fickle nature, with this post I will appear to perform a u-turn of opinion from my last. However the marked difference is in this post I share my delight of internet shopping – an experience so well thought about, so ingenious, so lifestyle compatible that you can experience it at its fullest whilst wearing your pyjama’s, drinking a mug of tea, and you don’t have to give two squats about the fact you have ‘happy hair’ this morning.

Most of items I buy these days are purchased on the internet. Although I know I should be buying things from local retailers and supporting ‘real stores’ which bring vitality to our ‘real streets’ (blah blah blah) , shopping on the internet means a) I don’t have to experience any of the trauma of the high street I formerly described and can get on with more worthwhile activities, b) things are quite often better value online, c) a smiley courier will deliver my purchase to my doorstep in exchange for a quick squiggle (that would be a signature…) d) if a shop is worth its salt it will have a website anyway (our local butchers is very handy in that way).  

One of my favourite shops at the moment which has a magnificent website is ‘Tchibo’* (pronounced ‘Chee-bo’ I believe). I have made several excellent purchases from their online store, including a snowboarding outfit with pockets large enough to offer safe passage across a border, a jolly nice document sorting device I use for university work and a pair of very stylish lamps that illuminate our newly decorated bedroom. Every once in a while I also recieve – via e-mail – a newsletter alerting me that Tchibo has received some new stock. I normally have a look every time this happens to see if I can grab another bargian, although I also enjoy seeing what theme the purchasing and website team have gone for this week – and in the past they have been quite imaginitive….

Last week was an ‘office product’ based page which was nice…..

This week they have really pushed the boat out in their presentation….

Check it out: www.tchibo.co.uk

I never knew a microfibre mop could be so exciting….!

* other websites selling things that you can buy are also available.

Shop – Shape


I have committed to virtual paper in the past my general dislike of clothes shopping, which (for if you were fortunate enough to have missed that blog on Aimstation)  stems largely from a lack of patience of large crowded stores, unflattering changing room lights and shop assistants that have more interest in telling their colleague ‘how much Julie lost on the Cabbage diet’ than helping you purchase your item. It also doesn’t really help either that I am the shape of two squares hinged together in the middle, and getting anything to fit the right bits in the right places, flatter my robustness and present itself in a colour that does not (as my mother says) make me ‘look terminal’ is a challenge in itself.

It was therefore on Monday, with a trip to Reading town centre planned, I drew in my breath (helps to make my tummy look flatter) , donned my lucky pants and marched on into the ‘Oracle’ shopping centre (known locally as the ‘Orrible’) to see if I could find anything to help me with my clothes crisis. You see, lately something has taken over me  demanding ‘out with the old, in with the new’ – something last week that applied itself to my wardrobe. As I now share hanging space with my ‘better half’, it was actually time to thin out the fleet a bit and review of all of the things that either don’t fit, are too old now, or were a mistake on purchase – like the fitted pink top with a buttoned high collar which makes me look as though I am representing Russia at shotput. Having turned out two whole carrier bags worth of stuff however, I am now left with 2 pairs of ropey blue jeans, a few t-shirts and some work trousers that – if I’m honest – have seen better days.

I need new clothes.

My venture to Reading however was sadly less than fruitful, and thus I share with you a further grieveance of shopping….

It is now my experience that if the current ‘fashion’ does not suit your tastes/shape, you are largely buggered. This is because all high street shops sell virtually the same clothing, the difference being an occasional bow or button, or a split down one side. At the moment the ‘1980’s appear to be once again ‘en vogue’, and where leggings and flourescent pink tops never ‘really did it for me’ the first time round (oh dear, I sound old) it would appear their remergence onto the fashion scene has not improved how I look in them either. Indeed all of the clothes I tried on in an attempt to join in with the ‘hip kids’, simply made me look like a sturdier cast member of ‘Flashdance’.

I can’t even do a cartwheel.

I am therefore off to the ‘Next’  conveniently stationed next to Sainsburys before the weekly shop tonight, hoping they may stock some more’ conventional apparel’….

Because the only stop left after that is BHS or Littlewoods…

And I’m not that old.