Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Nearly a Year


And, whilst we feel that we're getting more of a handle on the area we've moved to there are still a few nooks, crannies and crevices which remain to be explored.

So this weekend we decided to put that right.

The weather was good.  Dry.  Bit chilly.  But no rain.  And no wind to whip round you, play havoc with the nerves of your teeth and ensure you come home with a tired wind-battered face complete with headache.

The plan was set.  We would get up early (or at the time one would normally rise for work), leave at about 6.15am (or thereabouts) and walk from our little plump bungalow all the way to Hadleigh Castle.  Whilst the Chuppies does not survive well when venturing out long without fodder he had decided that he would be fine to shlep the 3 hours or so to the Castle on little more than a coupla glasses of water.

"Are you sure you'll be OK?" queried London-Lass (all concerned 'n that). "What about one of your breakfast chewy bar thingies?"

"I'll be fine," replied the Chuppies all patient and huffy.  "Besides I dont want to be carrying anything with me."

"They're light snack bars not luggage.  And you know what you get like when you dont eat anything," London-Lass replied full of portent and doom.

"I'll get something whilst we're out," the Chuppies heckled back and, then before London-Lass knew it, they were both outside the bungalow's front door and starting their walk to the Castle.

Which turned out great.  So early was it in the morning that only the occasional jogger and the odd over-enthusiastic cyclist could spoil the serenity of the spectactularly soul-souring sunrise. (try saying that after a coupla sherries)

But then just over an hour in it started.

"Breakfast", the Chuppies mewled, whilst eying up a seafront poster promoting a joint that might just deliver the tastiest southern fried chicken you could possibly ever consume in your life.

"I told you to bring something with you," London-Lass barked back whilst hurrying the Chuppies along. 

Reasons for not venturing into the café that promised to serve exquisitely cooked poultry of the southern fried nature?  1) I had already planned a home-cooked brunch of bagels, salmon, scrambled egg, yoghurts, fruit juice, tea and a toasted hot cross bun on the side, 2) the Chuppies eats too much sweet beige fried stuff when left to his own devices, and 3) the café was shut.

So the Chuppies manfully continued in as we began to move away from the more commercial end of the front and into the more historic/weatlthy/prettier area full of cockle sheds, eccentrically named public houses, ultra expensive but tiny fisherman cottages and a train station that would mark the start of a maze of footpaths, fields and dirt tracks that would take us to our final destination.

But just before we left the seaside village and ventured into its pretty countryside London-Lass espied a nifty little café-cum-seafood-merchants wherein the Chuppies was rewarded with a sugary coffee and a bit of a sit before making our way to the Castle.

Which greeted us after a further 20 minutes or so.  

3 hours on the hoof without breakfast - my brave soldier























































































and whilst only small portions remain of this once grand property you could really get a sense (when standing up close and having a bit of a gog) as to why King Edward III was so drawn to the gaff and spent so much filthy medieval lucre doing it up to enjoy it in his dotage.

So after lots of marvelling over the majestic ruins and cooing over the view from where the Castle had been perched, we nimble-footed it back to the closest train station and choo-chooed it back home.

The Chuppies has just now woken up from a 1½ hour napping session whilst I have been quietly typing away with a half empty bag of M&S Chiccy Choccy Mini Eggs by my side.

Arent long Bank Holiday weekends the greatest invention ever? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

That's The Way (Uh-Huh Uh-Huh) I Like It

DPD.

You may have heard of 'em.  But, in case their name means nothing to you, they are a parcel delivery company (operating here in the UK and worldwide).

And they are aces.  No, really they are.

I mean, look at the delivery status update that was waiting for me when I got in the office this morning ('bout 30 minutes ago - yep I start my working day that early) :-












Not only does this company provide you with the delivery person's first name and an hour timeslot for delivery but, if you study the above image closely, you see that you (the recipient of your very important item) also have the option of changing some of the delivery details (whilst the package is on the van!) perhaps to another date, have your delivery upgraded or get it delivered to a neighbour (that is, if you trust the person living near to you to be able to take in your very important item and not accept it from the DPD driver on your behalf and then attempt to sell it on E-Bay for a quick buck).

O, and in case, anyone is interested, the very important item being delivered is a little Photobox pressie I've created for the Chuppies to marvel over on our 1-year anniversary in our bungalow (3rd of May).

So, to summarise : DPD are ruddy marvellous.

Now let me tell you about a company what isnt.

City Sprint.

Now I would agree that the name makes 'em sound rather good.  Nothing quite excites the mind's eye than the addition of the word `sprint' conveying images of a delivery driver racing at break neck speed through the snarled London streets stopping at nothing to get your parcel delivered.  Maybe you also imagine him (as I do) in his van cabin loosening his top delivery driver's uniform button, hurling abuse at other drivers on the road and downing multiple cans of energy drinks just to ensure he gets the parcel delivered on time to keep the customer happy.

Unfortunately their actual delivery time is cack.

Ordered a little item on Amazon on Wednesday.  I'd opted for one of those nifty `One Day Delivery' thingies that you get gratis via your Prime Membership (which has now vavoomed up to £70 per year - watch your wallets, people).  The parcel was loaded on to the City Sprint van early yesterday morning and yet did not get delivered to my Mayfair offices until just before 6pm last night.  How is that possible?  Yes, we all know the streets of London are pretty chocc blocca the majority of the day but there is no possible explanation as to how a parcel can end up being loaded on to a van (presumably in Shoreditch - the address of their London Service Centre) and then not delivered in the West End until ten hours later.  The fact that someone was still at my office at just before 6pm was pure luck - I think we would all agree that the majority of offices these days close around 5pm anyway - and so the absolutely marvellous one-day delivery service (included within your £70 Prime Membership fee - watch your purses people) does not seem to be being adhered to that well by Amazon's chosen courier, City Sprint.

I have another parcel being delivered on a `One Day Delivery' service via City Sprint today.

I suspect I wont see the item until Monday.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pretentious, moi?

Beetroot emulsion.

Tree syrup.

Tiger's milk.

Yes, these and other wonderful curiosities were what were awaiting me and my office crew when we arrived at our elected venue for our Christmas Do this year.

And, whilst you may think that `nouvelle cuisine' has long since died a death in your neck of the woods (ask for `Breath of Quinoa' in any of my local eateries and you're likely to get a smack up the chops) in Central London it is bubbling.  And, to make it worse, people are paying for it.  And, on some occasions, actually eating it (Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and all other skinny celebrities aside).

"So what's your preference, London-Lass?" Boss No.1 queried as I re-scanned the menu in the hope of understanding just one frigging word of its daftness.

"Er, probably the scallops to start ... " I hesitantly began, "followed by ... not really sure yet."

"Yes, that's the thing with this place," Boss No.1 replied, "There's just too much wonderful stuff to choose from."

Righty ho.

But it was then that I was saved.  For one of my fellow office chums mentioned something about the restaurant having turkey as the day's `special' (tis the season after all and perhaps that ideology had even made it in to this joint) so, on taking our orders a little later, I proudly announced to the waitress that I would, yes, have the scallops to start with, followed by turkey for the main.

Happy with my choice I then began glugging back the vino (it was not cheap so to waste a drop would have been bad economics) and after lots of happy Christmas bantering with my office chums the starters were served.

And I suppose that, yes, they were scallops.  However, they had been sliced so thinly you could see the pattern of the plate behind them in addition to being dressed so heavily in a rich spicy sauce you couldnt taste the thin slithers of scallop when you took a mouthful.  And a large mouthful was pretty much what was on the plate anyway so after a coupla seconds it was back to the vino again.

A little while later our mains arrived.  Which were, to be fair, a fraction larger (say a couple of mouthfuls more).  Although certainly not recognisable as a `turkey dinner' in any shape or form.  Even though there were plenty of shapes and forms on my plate (little tubes of this and patterned loops of that) and I guess you could have called the finished dish rather `pretty' (if you're of that ilk).  However, I didnt want to frame my meal and put it on the wall, I wanted to eat it and not fight my way through the artistry to try and discern what the ruddy hell was on my plate.

"So how was it?" enquired Boss No.1 burping contentedly and patting his stomach.

"Ruddy marvellous," I parpled back, not wanting to come across as an ungrateful merchant with all the social manners of a turd.  "Any more wine?"

At this point my glass was refilled and the rest of the evening is a bit of blur (recall drinking a bit more at a teeny tiny Victorian pub and then getting absolutely drenched whilst fighting my way back to the Central Line later).  I possibly might not have got so loaded if the majority of the food I'd eaten hadnt included so many ingredients with `mist' and `breath' in their descriptors, and if I hadnt had so much in the way of the champagne at the start, but ...'tis the season to be jolly :

Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la !

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Christmas Stuff ...

So on Sunday we kicked things off with a late breakfast (or `brunch' if you're of that sort) :-

Toasted bagel/granary toast, smoked salmon flakes, cheesy scrambled egg
with a pinch of spring onion, and pigs in blankets (burp)





















Now I'm not usually one for such massive meals in the morning (unless I'm in New York) but as I've been planning for a while to cook up a nice festive brekkie on Christmas Eve morning for the last coupla weekends I have been doing a few `dry runs' of the breakfast (to ensure nothing gets burnt).

The Chuppies has been nobly assisting me in the eating of said `dry runs' and we both agreed that the Sunday tester was pretty much spot on.  Naturally for Christmas Eve we shall be popping open the champagne which was generously donated by our next door neighbours when we moved in to our new gaff.  The Chuppies does not feel he can face the champers neat so we shall be procuring some fresh orange juice so he can make his own Bucks Fizz(es).

After brekkie I then took a look at the Chuppies' recent handiwork.  He has started on the shelving either side of the fireplace (which will also have a cupboard either side at the bottom) and, whilst it's the bare beginnings of what will be done, is already giving a loose idea as to how it will feel with storage either side of the breast (the chimney variety) :

All ready for Santa




















The Chuppies has a habit of leaving-things-lying-around-everywhere-and-never-putting-stuff-back-after-he's-used-it so it will be nice to have a coupla little cupboards for things to be stored in (even if it's still me picking stuff up and putting stuff away).

And, so, in the afternoon we headed off for a rare treat : a chance to see National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at the Palace Theatre in Southend.  Whilst me and the Chuppers had seen the film many times before, the novelty of sitting in a theatre and seeing it on a large screen was enough for us to purchase two front row tickets in the circle and what a cute 'n intimate little theatre it is :-

Projected Christmas Stars


















Gorgeous Old Fashioned Film Studio Reel





















Whilst the theatre itself is a little bit tired (it could do, as estate agents blather, with a `bit of TLC') its original elegance, intimacy and grandeur (albeit on a small scale) was marvellous.  Whilst the boxes could not be booked for the film (viewing the screen from the angle provided would have been nigh on impossible) it would be tempting to return to the theatre to watch a play just to find out what it would be like to sit in one of the boxes and feel all sophisticated 'n that.

Proceedings at the Palace Theatre started with a bit of banter from a christmas hat wearing theatre manager :-




















who was very Christmassy and jolly-y and invited us to sing along with a pre-film cartoon that dated back to 1949 and featured a very long rendition of `Jingle Bells'.

Shortly after Christmas Vacation was shown :-

"Cant even see the line"




















and, whilst the theatre might have been quiet during the `Jingle Bells' sing-a-long opportunity everyone suddenly found their voices during the film with the opening song sung from beginning to end and much merriment had over the funniest lines in the film (of which there are many).

Following the film we returned back to the bungalow to sit for a bit with our Christmas tree and eat (a fair bit of) chocolate.  The Chuppies ate too much so retired to bed early with a massive stomach but a happy face.  London Lass quickly followed (after picking Chuppies' stuff up on the way).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fireplaces are fantastic arent they?

Me and the Chuppies are endlessly fascinated by ours, at any rate, and it's not even finished yet.

Ok - so we have the log burner in.  And the mantle up.  But the painting's still not 100% finished.  And there are still a few fireplace hearth tiles to lay.  Not to mention the ropey old carpet that needs taking up and shelving to be built either side of the chimney breast.

But, by Christ, add a few ceramic decs, a bit of garland and a coupla stockings and you've got A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS ON A PUMPKIN PIE PLATE :






















O, and throw in a coupla log baskets and you might as well be back in Ye Olden Days when Christmas was all about mulling and wassailing and carolling and merry-making :-




















The Chuppies has also managed to procure some sweet chestnuts from one of his work sites and I fear that with the burner lit and the chestnuts roasting on top of the burner I might very well combust.

O, and this is our tree (recently purchased from John Lewis) :-


























Kindly avert your eyes from the disgusting curtains in the background, the aforementioned ropey old carpet on the floor and the exposed heating pipework on the walls, and concentrate instead on the bushyness of the tree, the over abundance of decorations on its branches and the tastefully decorated pressies on the floor.

These are all for the Chuppies, by the way.  I understand that whilst my pressies are all bought and paid for (online) they are still `in the post'.  This does not fill me with confidence as we all know how crappy any delivery service gets at this time of year but the Chuppies seems quite calm about the whole thing and does not see a problem that we are only about fourteen days away from the big day and the only gifts to be opened in the house are all for him.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Barnet

I went to get me locks seen to over the weekend.  This was done with a bit of trepidation (not so much to loosen one's bladder, or fill one's crotch with pools of sweat, but just enough to make one think "Is this really such a good idea?" as you squeeze in to the extremely busy salon and try not to cry).

However, it all turned out rather splendid.

And, whilst there may have been a few odd moments during my hair appointment - the most awkward being my having to take the most central seat in the place - thus allowing anyone queuing in the barber-ing section to sit and bog at my gonk whilst I sat in my chair reading my mag and pretending that I didnt have endless amounts of paper stuck in my dripping wet hair and that I really didnt have my gi-normous forehead on show (with fetching smear of hair colourant marking in a very obvious fashion where my extremely high forehead finished and my hairline actually began).  In fact, anyone walking past the salon would have had an extremely good view of me whilst working the full forehead effect - which the Chuppies attested to after having confessed to walking past the salon and having a bit of a look in to see how it was going.  He quickly went on to say that he hadnt nipped out especially to look at me but had needed to get his watch battery replaced in a nearby jewellers (o, and the salon just happened to be on his route) but I'm not so sure ...

Anyway, even though I had what felt to be the central throne in the salon nothing untoward happened.  No-one threw down their mag in the barber-ing waiting area and pronounced me to be the oddest thing they'd seen (which, after studying my reflection with all the clips and papers flapping, I am quite surprised they didnt).  Nor did I get one tiny pointing finger or even a muffled giggle.  Even the hairdresser didnt seem that concerned that I had morphed into a weirdo as he flapped and whirled around my barnet.  "Hmm ... this is very attractive!" I giggled to him whilst pointing up at all the clips 'n that.  And my massive forehead.  "Darling" he crooned, "you look just like Cleopatra!"

I think I should point out here that my hairdresser (whoops, sorry, `Chief Colour Stylist') was as camp as a box of feather boas and that through constant bantering (from the time I entered the salon to my departure 2½ hours later) I discovered that he'd been single for nine years ("It would be nice to be with someone - you know, when you get home, to have a moan with - but, apart from that, I'm pretty happy to be alone - I've got me house, me garden, and me 200 cacti"), he is rather sensitive about his age ("I mean you walk in to anywhere round here - pub, club, whatever - and all you're finking is `shit, they're all at least 15 years younger' ... "), he's not into effeminate man ("Oo no .. dont want a camp one ... he's gotta be big and burly ... you know .. quite macho") used to work as a Pastry Chef in the Ritz ("But it was long hours, babe, and hairdressing has always been my first love") and is a `silent partner' at the salon ("I havent got a friggen' clue when it comes to paperwork and maths, you know, I leave the other manager to sort that out ... he tells me what we've earned, what I can spend, and it all works out OK.").  When I likened him and the other manager to a sort of typical 60s `husband & wife scenario' (as in the husband would bring in the reddies and then set a household budget for the missus) he giggled so much he had to quickly sit down.

And, so, after 30 minutes of allowing the hair colour and highlights (and everything else) to do their thing, the Chief Colour Stylist (or `CSS' for short) had a quick peak at one of me locks, announced very loudly "Sam, I need these colours rinsed!" and, before you could shout `Head & Shoulders', I was whirled round to a nearby basin and having my hair washed through by Sam who was still buoyant after having scored a VIP ticket at a club I'd never heard of and had, as a result, been able to get free entry and free drinks all evening. "Where do you go?" she asked me, all wide-eyed and young.  "O I dont - I'm a bit old and tired these days to do anything other than collapse on the settee when I come home from work."  As Sam had a 10 minute cycle commute to the salon (and she was about 20 years younger) this allowed Sam to enjoy the clubs and pubs during the week.  But I dont think Sam really got that and I suddenly found myself naming a few venues in the area as places I sometimes go to in an effort not to look so old, and drawn, and dead.

CSS then re-emerged and I was wheeled over to his `favourite chair' - which I was relieved to discover was the furthest one away from the shopfront (although, as by this point the barber queue had disappeared and the salon had gone rather quiet, where I was sitting in the salon didnt really matter any more).

"So, how are we for layers?  Where's your parting, babe?  And how would you like your fringe?" these questions were fired in rapid succession as he took out his toolkit of goodies and began to style, and puff, and dry my locks, until they were all shiny and fresh.  CSS then ran his hands through my hair and began to puff the bits up at the sides whilst saying "Oo, babe, you could really pull off the `big hair' look!" - but I had to stop him there as last time I dared to tread the boards of `big hair' was back in the 90s with my constant perming and that was a path I did not want to go down again.

Whilst all this pampering was taking place a chap fell down outside the salon.  Wondering what had happened, me and CSS stared out in confusion as the chap had his glasses and hat handed back to him (they had come off in his fall).  "Oo no" CSS bleated, "I hope the poor guy's OK."  But I think it was at this point that both CSS and myself noticed that the chap (although laying down) couldnt seem to keep balance and his sobriety (or lack of) was confirmed a few minutes later by the other salon partner who had just returned with a sandwich he'd procured down the road, and had witnessed the chap who'd fallen over weaving around the pavements only a few minutes earlier and swearing at anyone and everything whilst clutching half a bottle of Scotch in his paws.  When I retold this incident on my return back to the bungalow the Chuppies confirmed he'd also seem the same guy when he'd nipped out to deal with his watch battery.

"Yes, I saw him too.  As I got near your salon he was just a bit ahead of me.  He was reeling all over the place and, as a group of young lasses walked past, he started waving and shouting `Merry Christmas' as them.  He then turned and looked at the `White Horse' pub and told it to `Fuck Off'."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I am not (very good at being) a Grown Up

I mean, look at me!

Sitting here (alone) in the office and what am I doing?  Blogging.

That is after checking my (personal) e-mail.

And eating all the office (chocolate) biscuits.

I might well be coming up to my 41st birthday this weekend but I'm not really doing a very good job at being someone in their forties.

OK - so I have a mortgage now.

And, yes, got proper grown up utility/council bills to pay.

O, plus a house to keep spic 'n span (which may, or may not, include waking the Chuppies up at just before 7am each Sunday before I spend the next 4-5 hours blitzing the gaff free of hair, snot, splashmarks, spiders and any other wee critters that have decided that outside is far too cold to exist in at this time of year and a short vacation in a cosy bungalow is more their cup of tea).

So what?

I still have my greasy spotty teenagery skin.  My greasy lanky locks.  My mood swings.

And my simplistic naive approach to life.

For look at what I was doing this morning at just before 8am.  On Regent Street.

Whilst getting in the way of all the other (properly grown up) commuters.


























That's right.  Taking piccies of the lights.  Cos they are cute along this thoroughfare.  And gradually spell out the `Twelve Days of Christmas' carol.  I mean what could be nicer?  And set your heart a-glow?

Except this is not the proper grown up approach.  I should have instead just been walking along the street.  Head down.  Listening to my iPod/mp3-player.  And looking all stern 'n that.  Christmas lights?  Pah!  Them's for kids.  Not us adults.

(etc)

And I definitely should not have been taking piccies of the next door neighbour's cat at the weekend either.


















It's only cos it's quite blessed (for a cat).  And has snow white paws.  Which look all furry and soft.  And, whilst taking the photo, I definitely should not have been crooning over the fact it had a weird sleepy expression that made its face go all warm and wonky.

Nope, I should have just got on with cooking in the kitchen.  In a stern fashion.  Head down.  Perhaps whilst listening to an iPod?

And it's definitely not on to be marvelling at some weird little crinkly pink trumpety flowers that have emerged from a small planting bed on our front garden either.





















Which, after much researching on the Net, have discovered to be part of the Guernsey Lily family (or, to be formal, Nerine Sarniensis).

I should instead have strode past the sprouting flowers whilst out shopping at the weekend with my head down.  Perhaps whilst listening to an mp3-player?

It's also not very grown up to be all excited about our 6 footer we picked up from John Lewis a coupla weeks ago.


























The `Dexter Pine', a veritable 11kg bundle of delight.  It is all I can do to stop myself from cracking the box open now and rubbing its little branches.

But that's not right.  I should instead be ignoring the whole Christmas debacle.  It is nowt but a heavily commercialised marketing vehicle, after all, for large corporations who just want to get at our dough.  Yes, there is nothing to get excited about at Christmas.  Except if you're a kid of course.  It's the most wonderful time of year (for children).

So, move on all you 41 year olds.  You're supposed to be adults.

There's nothing to see here.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Hallowe'en Shenanigans

It is with a heavy heart that I have had to bin my little toothy friend :-



Whilst others might not understand (or believe) that someone could fall in love with form an attachment to such a thing, I'll tell you I felt a little tug inside me as I upended the toothsome jack o'lantern in to my food bin this morning and carted same outside our bungalow for the bin men to collect.  Even the Chuppies grew rather shrill when he discovered that the little fella was no longer perched on our mantel.

"O no!  Gone?!  ALREADY?!!" the Chuppies yelled at maximum volume this morning.

"Fraid so my good man.  It's November now - Hallowe'en 'tis no more," I spouted back, all posh 'n that.

"Aww.  But it still looked so fresh... ", the Chuppies whined.  And then I think he had to quickly disappear in to the loo to compose himself.

But returning back to the point of this post - i.e. last night : the only evening out of the whole year where the undead are able to walk the earth once more, etc., etc.

And, not sure if my brain caught a whiff of all the dead stuff whirring around yesterday, but whilst travelling back from work on the blessed angel that is c2c, I decided enough was enough.

I had to do something about my barnet.

The last time I'd had a hairdresser run their hairdressy fingers through my locks was over a year ago and now it was looking rather drab - dead almost.  So much so, that if someone were to bellow at me in the street "Oi Mrs Mouse, all the mouses in the kingdom want their mousiness back, you mousey-haired mouselet!" I wouldnt've been a bit surprised.

So, after much research on the Net, I decided to plump for a hair salon just 10 minutes or so from our bungalow, and yesterday evening at about 6pm after hopping off the c2c, I visited the joint to see what they could do.

And it was all rather fun.

Their `chief colour stylist' just happened to be coincidentally manning the reception booth on my arrival, and as I poured out my heart to him gave him a quick rundown behind the history of my locks, and who my hairdresser was before, he gradually sorted out what would be required (perhaps a weave and tint) and what sort of highlights would be applied (perhaps not woven but sliced).  A full head massage was included with the hair wash and as our conversation drew to a close, he totted up what the final treatment cost would be (just a couple of pound over what I used to pay my old hairdresser) which I happily accepted.  The `chief colour stylist' did seem to favour the word `babe' in his conversation, and I am not sure if it was that, his intense analysis of me and my needs, or the fact he was rather `winky' too, but I tell you, when I left the salon, I felt all chirrupy and contented inside.

Either that, or it might've been the slab of L'Oreal hair colour he'd wiped behind my right ear to do a quick skin test.

But anyway, so buoyant (o, and properly girlie, did I feel) that I walked full pelt back to the bungalow to regale the Chuppies with tales of hair colours and salons (he used to be a hairdresser so thought it might interest him for a coupla minutes).

Only to find he wasnt there.

The bungalow was in total darkness (save for our little toothy friend which the Chuppies must've lit and left on the mantle before departing the bungalow).  His works van and car were both parked outside, his dinner plate had been washed and left on the drainer to dry, and yet there was no sign of the Chups.  Scouting round the bungalow to see if he'd left a note (he hadnt) I quickly pootled to the kitchen to see if he'd taken his works Blackberry (which he uses as a mobile) ... unfortunately this was still in the drawer so I couldnt ring him to find out where he was.  Pondering what to do next - I entertained thoughts of knocking up our next door neighbours (but not feeling comfortable with my imagined proposed opening liners of : "O hi - sorry to bother you - but just wanted to know if you've got my Chuppies." or "O hello, I appear to have misplaced my fella, could you assist?") - I did the only thing I could think of.

I rang mother.

Which went :-

{ring ring}
Mother : "What?"
London-Lass : "Mum it's me."
Mother : "I know that.  So?"
London-Lass : "The Chuppies is missing-"
Mother : "So he's finally fucked off?"
London-Lass : "Er.  Well no.  At least I dont think so.  I've come back home and he's not here."
Mother : "O for fuck's sake.  Christ this is boring.  Shall I spell it out for you ... ?"
London-Lass : "Eh?"
Mother : "He's quite obviously popped over to the station to walk you home.  With it being Hallowe'en.  And all them dirty trick or treaters about.  And dark now.  And you've just missed each other.  He'll be back soon."
London-Lass : "O right."
Mother : "O and one more thing."
London-Lass : "Yes?"
Mother : "Dont bother me unless it's important, you fucking guttersnipe!"
{click}

And, by Christ, she was right.

For as I terminated the call with a smile on my face (it's always nice having a cosy chinwag with your folks isnt it?) the Chuppies was just coming through the bungalow's front door.

Following which there was lots of hugging and "Where have you been?!" from both of us, before a general calming down in front of the log burner, and a good dose of the original Halloween with a small glass of sherry (for me) and a large glass of Southern Comfort (for the Chuppies).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Surreal

Now you know I like Christmas.

Ok, scrap that.  I LOVE Christmas.

And you know that I'll have probably started baking up mince pies (for freezing and then eating nearer to the date).

And that I've probably (nearly) finished all my Christmas shopping.

And that I might (or might not) have had a dry run to work out where me and the Chuppies shall be hanging our stockings this year.

But I thought that the following conversation (overhead on c2c last night) was just a bit surreal :-

Contractor Type (CT) : "You got your Christmas decs up yet?"
Female Passenger Opposite (FPO) : "Ha ha, yeh right."
CT : "No really.  They up yet?"
FPO : "Course not."

{pause}

FPO : "Er, you havent got yours up yet, have you ... ?"
CT : "Too right.  Love 'em."
FPO : "It's not even November!"
CT : "Bah humbug!  It's only just over seven weeks to Christmas.  You gotta get them up now as it's all over too soon."
FPO : "Jesus."

{another pause}

FPO : "When do you take 'em down?"
CT : "Boxing Day morning.  Sick of Christmas by then.  Missus goes out sales shopping and I clear out the house.  Dont want the tree getting in the way of New Year."



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Writing is on the Wall

There's nowt quite so exciting than discovering something mysterious lurking underneath something that's kept it hidden for many years.

Like some writing, or perhaps even some artwork, and which has perhaps ended up being wallpapered over never to see the light until someone starts undertaking DIY to the gaff in question.

I remember how excited I was to find that someone had scrawled on the Chuppies' flat's living room wall the first coupla stanzas to William Henry Davies' fabulous poem `Leisure' which emerged as the final sheet of painted on wallpaper was steamed off.

"What is this life if, full of care ..." the Chuppies slowly read, whilst still clutching his steamer, "we have no time to stand and stare ... "

"No time to stand beneath the boughs ... " London-Lass continued on reading, "and stare as long as sheep or cows."

"Wow" breathed both London-Lass and the Chuppies as we stood and stared (for a bit).

"If you were staying here I would get that framed," London-Lass suggested.

"But I am staying here," the Chuppies replied, quick as a dart.

"No, you know what I mean.  Staying here .. as in forever, " London-Lass carefully explained, trying to point out that, yes, whilst it is the Chuppies' gaff for now, at some point in the future her and the Chuppies would have their own place and, to do so, Chuppies would have to move out of his gaff.

After a few pointed stares the Chuppies finally understood.

Well he must've done as we're both now residing in our plump little bungalow by the sea.

And what treasures have we discovered since undertaking DIY to our gaff?

Well these I shall list below :-

1) Two little dishes with decorative Spanish text containing a fruitsome collection of mothballs.

2) A whisker-encrusted battery-operated shaver and a bowl full of toenail clippings.

So, rather disappointing.

Until the Chuppies began steaming the walls of the bungalow's front reception room and unearthed the following :-




















Now we know that the bungalow was built in 1956.  So the above we're assuming indicates works that were undertaken to the property in 1967 (December to be precise).  As we can make out the capitals `CH' and `GB' we have guessed that this might pertain to Central Heating and a Gas Boiler that might have been installed in the property 11 years after it was bought.  But this is all guesswork as the writing (which is mostly abbreviated) is a bit of a mystery.

Unlike the unexpected pentangle which faced my boss during a viewing of a high end apartment in Central London last month.  I do believe that, whilst the apartment was in a beautiful location, it wasnt long after spotting the living-room's pentagram that my boss and his missus were hotfooting it out of the property quicker than you could chant "Aleister Crowley".

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Little Flies

When it comes to magnetism you've either got it.

Or you aint.

And, boy, do I have it.

I need only go out walking, say, in the sun for about, oo, 10 minutes and they come flocking.

Flies, that is.

Into my hair.

For some reason, when I go walking past their little fly homes they feel compelled to hop into my barnet and either casually dangle from my fringe (causing me to leap back in fright startling everyone in the vicinity) or stay rather quiet and still but then drop down and into my eyes just as I'm in the middle of a pooh/about to purchase something in a shop/going to kiss the Chuppies.  Additionally, it's almost a dead cert that if I'm about to get involved in a new situation with new people that a bloated bluefly will come slowly buzzing out of my follicles frightening everyone in the process.

Not sure if it's the colour, the smell, the style, or what, but it's ten pound to a penny that after walking around outside there will be at least one fly in my locks.

And it's not like my hair's especially long.  Gone are the days when it used to casually billow out beyond my shoulder blades and midway down my back.  Nor do I wear it loose.  After a few too many hair lice incidents from the tube (yes, I am looking at you, Central Line, you filthy fish) I have resigned myself to having my hair generally yanked up and pulled away from any other possible louse infestations.

Yet they keep trespassing my tresses.

Take yesterday for example.  Myself and the Chups had had to attend a family funeral (his grandfather had passed away a coupla weeks ago) and whilst the Chuppies was busy getting to know his estranged relations in the waiting area to the crematorium I remained in the background, reading the cremation's order of service card and stifling a few quiet farts.

Suddenly I became aware of the Chuppies calling my name and, with his arm around my waist, I was introduced to his distant relatives.  Smiling politely and cheek-kissing those who offered their cheeks (although, typing this now, I am not sure why) I made small talk with those gathered.  And all was going well.

Until a huge black fly fell out of my fringe.

Quite startling one old bloke who appeared to go into an airplane crash position nearly upending an occasional table between us.  

"Sorry" I quickly said, whilst backing off in to a corner, brushing my hair frantically and cursing the enormous fly that was now, after its brief foray in my fringe, looking to escape through a closed window pane next to the Chuppies.  

The rest of the day (and the service) passed without further insectoid horror but you only need one fly hair incident for people to make a quick (although mistaken) judgement about you, your personal hygiene and where (perhaps) you might have just had your head in order for a buzzing thing to have made a (temporary) home in it.

Which reminds me of a similar incident that took place when I was about 19.  

I was young, naive and working as an office junior in a small firm of accountants in the City.  I'd just become aware as to my fly magnetism skills and this particular lunchtime was studying my hair in the company's toilet mirror.  I'd recently returned to the office (after having spent a coupla hours delivering packages near St Pauls) and was due to sit with one of my bosses to run through some accounts and generally be in relatively close proximity - so did not want any flies to come hurtling out of my hair whilst running through a client's expense sheet.

Having satisfied myself that there was nothing contained in my hair do, I confidently ascended the stairs to the boss' office, and perched myself on the chair on the other side of his desk.  The boss in question was on the phone when I came in and, whilst he finished his conversation, I sat down and waited quietly (after smoothing down my skirt, pulling a stray hair off my sleeve and picking off an errant thread that had become stuck to my 40 denier tights).  After the earlier study in the mirror and my recent quick preening I felt as neat as a pin and ready to tackle whatever laid ahead.

The boss put down his phone.

"Ah thanks for coming up," the boss began whilst pushing some expense sheets towards me.  "And sorry for making you go through these again but-"

-and it was at this point he faltered.

For a huge bogey had fallen out of my left nostril and was slowly rolling on the desk towards him.

Quietly panicking as a huge bloom of sweat burst forth between my legs I was about to succumb to a good blubbing session of embarrassment.

When I suddenly had a brainwave.

"Pesky flies!" I quickly shouted whilst jabbing at the offending bogey (which quietly rolled off the desk and stuck itself to the boss' carpet).

"Ah yes," the boss replied, "we must be heading for a storm.  They seem to be everywhere."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Beach Huts & Good Fortune

As me and the Chups do like to be beside the seaside ...

O we do like to be beside the sea
Yes, we do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom
Whilst the brass brand plays tiddley-om-pom-pom!

... we've procured these little puppies for our log burner mantle.











































O, and if life couldnt get any better right now I ended up with a SOLID CHOCOLATE version of an M&S mini chocolate biccie which should have had a biscuit interior.

So amazed at my good fortune was I that I took the following quick snap of THE TOTALLY CHOCOLATE MARVEL for posterity :-


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Internet Dating and Long-Distance Communication with Just A Soupçon of Unusualness (although each to their own, etc., etc.)

Long enough post title for you?  Good.

In an effort to keep things neat (for I am nowt but organised), I was going to just entitle this post `Weird Bollox'.  I was also tempted to go with `WTF' in an effort to appear street and cool.  However, since both options would be unkind (and rather dismissive) to the people I am about to write about (and who are, I have reluctantly concluded, entitled to their own beliefs) I have kept the extraordinarily long post title to, you know, show how open minded I can be.  Etc.

But anyway - and to get down to the nitty-gritty - about four years ago I found out through my mum (who'd found out through an ex-next door neighbour from our old home town) that someone from my old schooldays had been trying to get in touch with me.  This someone was now based in the US (Massachusetts to be precise) but, on a home visit with her family, took to calling at my mum and dad's old gaff and, on failing to get an answer, tried our old next door neighbour who explained that we had all moved away but that she would see that a message would be passed on to me.

A scrap of paper with a hastily scribbled down name and e-mail address eventually found its way in to my sweaty little mitts and so, rather curious as to what this old friend was up to, I found myself in front of the Chuppies' laptop on New Year's Eve in 2009 typing her a quick message.  To fill you in a bit further : this attempt at communication was not the first time the old friend had tried to get in touch with me and, what with New Year on the doorstep (and the air thick with resolutions, positive vibes and hope) I decided to drag myself out of the funk of not being arsed about re-communicating with someone from the dim and distant past and be a bit more friendly 'n that.  So, after firing off a few sentences summarising where I was at in my life and asking her a few questions as to how she ended up in the States and what she was up to, etc., I pressed the magic `send' button, gulped back the last of my Christmas Sherry and plonked myself on the settee next to a snoozing Chuppie feeling jolly pleased with myself.

Four years later I have still to receive a reply to my note.

But, dear reader, that is absolutely fine.

As, after digging on the Net a few months after typing my note (to find out if I actually had the right e-mail for her) I discovered that she had become immersed with these guys, and since these are the sorts of loonies organisations that a wise person should ditch their high heels to run fast and run far from, it's probably for the best that, after making several attempts to track me down whilst over in the UK, she couldn't then be bothered to pen me a response when she got back to the US.

But that's all water under the bridge.

For, returning back to the present, and really the crux of this post, I now find myself faced with a similar situation.

With a chap.  Who I Internet dated about 8 years ago.  From Australia.

Although he wasnt in Oz when I met him.  He'd been in the UK for quite a few years and was quite the effervescent Londoner about town.  And, for the sake of this post, we shall call `Dundee'.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, me and Dundee dated for a few months.  He was always the gentleman and would meet (and pay for everything) at wine bars of my choosing (at the time I was rather fussy and, unless a bar for an Internet date didnt come equipped with moody lighting - i.e. dark - lots of expensive vino - i.e. overpriced and stupid - and big enough ladies toilets with enough mirrors to pull oneself together in - after drinking too much pricey plonk in a candle-lit wine bar - then I wasn't interested).  Anyway, whilst we were dating, his father passed away.  I am a bit hazy on the details here - it was quite a few years ago and well before the Chuppies came skipping in to my life - but I do recall him promising to keep in touch whilst he was back in Australia, which he did.

What I didnt count on, however, was receiving a phone call from a highly emotional Dundee saying that what had happened had put things in perspective, and it made him feel that life was all about grabbing opportunities and holding on to things that were dear to you ...

... and before I ruddy knew it ...

... he'd proposed to me.

Faced with a sobbing Dundee down the other end of the phone, I did the only thing I could think of doing at the time.  I changed the subject quickly (which not only worked but also immediately stopped Dundee's tears), promised to `have a chat about things' when he got back to the UK, and terminated the call.

I'm all heart, me.

And Dundee did return.  I, however, avoided him like the plague and then the Chuppies came along and our communications went from tentative to hardly ever - until he sent me a note to say that he was returning back to Australia for good.  Feeling nostalgic (and also slightly guilty for being such a cold fish to him in his time of need) I offered to take him out for a goodbye drink before he went back but something kept preventing me from keeping to dates we'd arranged for meeting up for the `final goodbye' and, before I knew it, he'd gone back to the other side of the world.

And that was that.

Until a couple of months ago when I cleared out my old Yahoo! e-mail account and came across all our saved messages.  Curious to see what he was now up to I sent him a quick note - only to receive an ever quicker response back from Dundee saying it was so strange, he'd been thinking of sending me an e-mail too, and that everything was fine, work was fine, life was fine and he was fine.  Glad that he was in a good place and that he appeared not to want to talk about the thing we never in fact ended up talking about (cos I was all heart) I continued communication with him and brought him up-to-speed with me and the Chups, our bungalow, my work and other bits 'n bobs that have occurred since we were last in communicado.

As Dundee's emails back have been upbeat and amazingly comprehensive (no short messages back but lengthy chatty messages) it's been quite nice having a bit of a pen pal thing going on.

But it's all gone a bit to pot.

In his penultimate e-mail Dundee told me that during 2008 (i.e. about three years after we'd dated) he had something happen to him.  Something that he has never forgotten and that only his close family and friends know about.  He didnt want to elaborate as he it was essentially a private matter and apparently not something you can drop in to conversation without some sort of a warning first but, if I wanted to know further, he had diarised the events in a secret Word document that he could share with me in his next e-mail.

Curiosity getting the better of me I said that I wouldnt mind having a quick gander.

Which I managed to do yesterday.

And I don't think I'll be e-mailing Dundee again.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Fireplaces, Stoves, Padded Hearts 'n Shit

It's been a while but we've been busy.

Progress has been made on our little bungalow and this post has been brought to you courtesy of a highly-skilled Chuppies, a wood burning stove supplier in Leigh-on Sea and a wood-burning stove installer from Grays.  And, of course, heaps of wonga from both London-Lass and the Chuppies.  Cos nothing's ever cheap is it?  Well nothing that's worth doing and worth doing well, anyway.

Which is what we did.  With a little help from the companies mentioned above.

For, in the bungalow's original decor, this is what we had to play with ladies & gentlemen :-

A shiny tiled 50s vision

















That's right.  A 1950s tiled fireplace.  Not the stuff of nightmares (there is something strangely elegant about it I'll grant you).  However, it did not float the boat of either the Chuppies or London-Lass, and was one of the first things we wanted to remove from the property.  Well, one of the first things London-Lass wanted the Chuppies to remove - him being so much more stronger, skilled and better at stuff like this, you see.

So down it came :-

Timber!

















revealing the aperture which we could see from it's blackened back had been used at some point in the bungalow's history.

The chimney's throat - delightfully eccentric

















On further removal/tidying up we were left with the fireplace above.  The exposed chimney's throat (i.e. the two brick archy bits either side of the fireplace opening) did cause some consternation at first (we had both envisaged a nice clean square opening when we started the work) but as you cant beat a bit of character/oddity to a property (particularly a fireplace), and as there wasn't anything we could do about the archy bits, we agreed to find them delightfully eccentric and move on with more important stuff.  Like how to do the hearth.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing in a local tile shop we finally plumped on some elephant grey slate tiles for the hearth which, as you will see from the piccie above, the dexterous Chuppies wasted no time in laying.

Once this was completed the heady task of removing all the woodchip wallpaper began and, as the exposed bricks to the fireplace were untidy, dirty and generally battered, the Chuppies purchased some brick slips :-























which as you can see immediately tidied up the opening and made it look a bit more proper (than, say, a hole that the Chuppies had decided to bash in to the wall as part of building fun) :-

















Feeling strangely nostalgic (over something that wasnt actually ours) we decided to keep a teeny tile from the 50s fireplace and this, as you will see, is now perched in the top left hand corner.

After rendering, a mist coat of paint was applied and suddenly (voom) a honed fireplace was beginning to take form.

















Obviously no fireplace is complete without a mantle, and so the Chuppies asked around at his place of work and managed to unearth an old oak beam from one of his sites.  After sanding and polishing (and treating for any possible insect infestation) the above mantle was produced.

So that was that, the hearth had been laid, mantle built and fixed - the only thing left was to install the wood burning stove - which as you will see from the piccie below is an extra wide 5KW model.  This contraption was purchased back in July but had a long lead-in time so was not installed until just before the weekend just gone.

















The Chuppies took the day off for the installation and witnessed it being `tested' temporarily with some kindling.  We have been advised not to use the burner for about a week to allow the cement to set but, have been assured by the Chuppies, that it was ruddy marvellous whilst in action.

Let's take a closer look at the beauty :-

















Unfortunately London-Lass is nothing but a perfectionist and, whilst the above picture may look complete, it wasnt long before she was whining for some chunky corbels for the mantle which the Chuppies set to in the back garden :-

















and the Chuppies even added a little exposed bolt for good measure :-



















So, there you have it.

The colour choice for the fire and walls is Eau-de-Nil by Little Greene.  We only have a sample pot but a full size 2.5ltr pot of the stuff will be acquired this weekend coming.

And, the plump little padded tartan heart (hanging from the exposed bolt) is just something that London-Lass felt compelled to knock up after staring vacantly and dribbling at the log burning stove on Sunday afternoon for about half an hour.

Imagine my catatonic state when it's eventually lit?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

No More

As I'm now travelling in to work from a different part of Essex this has meant that I have been able to say `bye bye' to my 50-minute long Central Line commute.

Which pleases me immensely.

This line can do damage to your soul, people, and trick you into thinking that travelling to and from work in crowded/smelly conditions is perfectly normal.

Priding itself on being a `metro' service (which I have had drummed in to me many times when attempting to make a complaint to Central Line Customer Services) it offers extremely little for the long-distance commuter.  As long as it keeps a regular service running through the tiny patch we call London, then that's all that matters.

Although it looks from the current travel update that even that plan has been buggered :-

Red and yellow, and pink and green, orange and purple, and POOH


So, anyway, what with the change in geography and the fact that I can now use the very marvellous and stupendous c2c, I only need to use the Central Line now for a journey that takes seven minutes.  And if, as shown above, the Central Line has gone apeshit, at least I know I can easily adapt my journey to get to Fenchurch Street (and then home) rather than cacking me underwear whilst trying to work out how on earth I can get to the other side of the Essex without using the only London Underground line that will get me there.

Course, my journey would be even easier (and pretty much like a dream) if I worked in the City.  However, as I am very happy where I am (the wilds of Mayfair) and, as there is zero chance of my bosses ever considering running an office in a London postcode that begins with the magic `EC', I have resigned myself to the fact that the short (but definitely not sweet) shlep from the West to the East will have to be endured.

But, anyway, did I tell you how wonderful the magical c2c are?  So wondrous is their service that I felt compelled to tweet their Twitter account and tell them in no uncertain terms how much they meant to me.  Which I did :-


For it is reliable, roomy, the seats are massive and comfy, there is legroom, plenty of aisle space, and each carriage comes equipped with air-conditioning for when the temps shoot up.  On each train there are also allocated `Quiet Zone' carriages which are there to encourage commuters not to fire up gadgets and handsets that are liable to pose a nuisance to other commuters.

And how bodes it on c2c in terms of passenger volume (I hear you cry)?

Well it's all very civil, really.  Dont get me wrong, there are a fair few bods that use c2c everyday and, if you're not prompt about catching certain trains from Fenchurch Street, it's odds on you'll be standing for at least half an hour until a seat becomes free.  But, in comparative terms (to the Central Line), it is a world away.

No more obtaining hints of tomato soup and general pong from someone's armpit you've been thrust up against, or the gentle aroma of unwashed buttocks as someone bends over in front of you to collect a bag that's become wedged next to someone else.

No more teeny tiny seats that cause the average sized commuter to spill over in to the next commuter's spot or tucking your feet under you as far as they can go and finding that they are still being trampled on.

No more apologising as you attempt to squeeze yourself in to the only empty spot on the carriage (which is about the size of a thimble) or deftly swooping to one side so as not to get a bag, a briefcase, or another commuter, in the face.

No more CRAP.

No more SHITE.

No more BOLLOCKS.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rarr

I am a tidying/cleaning freak.

Although I wouldnt say I'm OCD about it (since that is a proper affliction in which the person's life becomes a sheer obsessive hell), by Christ, I can border a bit on manic. 

But we all have our foibles dont we?  And, if mine consists of having x-ray vision when it comes to specks of dust in a carpet, or the ability to hone in on an errant finger print smear from 20 feet away, or the compulsion to spend five hours cleaning my new bungalow from top to bottom every Sunday, then I guess that's relatively harmless.

Until you throw a plumber in to the mix.  Along with a whole heap of building works. 

For you see, we have just had a brand new boiler installed together with half a dozen new radiators and, whilst it is very nice not to have issues with hot water anymore along with a very nifty (some might say `sexy') towel heater/radiator in the bathroom which'll be a boon in the cold weather, during the time of the installation my life was

PURE HELL!!

I cannot stress this enough.

If dust didn't end up in your eyes, mouth and up your nose, it found it's way into the carpets, on the walls, blinds, bedding, curtains and in certain other nooks and crannies that shall remain unmentioned.

In addition, in order to relocate our gas meter, half of our kitchen had to be dismantled and removed, leaving a great hole in the floor, dusty exposed pipework and the general look of a room that should be condemned.

And, whilst all of this was going on, the Chuppies was the epitome of calm.  Never being one to get that wound up about (or, even, actually notice) when things get messy/untidy/smelly, the Chuppies breezed through the plumbing installations as though nothing had changed and we werent actually trying to cope with washing, eating and sleeping in a place that could only be described as

THE PIT FROM HELL!!

Regrettably I cannot say the same about me.  In short, my behaviour became a bit unfortunate.

Not content with crying, raging and chucking a hissy fit over the state of our new gaff everytime the plumber departed of an evening, there were a couple of occasions where I stormed off to our (dusty) bed in a total rage leaving the Chuppies in stunned silence.

Fortunately things have now returned back to normal - in that the plumber completed his works and packed up all his stuff last Friday - and the house is no longer a dust-ridden hole after a mammoth cleaning binge on Sunday that took me seven hours to complete.  The Chuppies has also managed to fill in the hole in the kitchen floor and re-install our oven and, now that the old hot water cylinder has been removed (for we now have a nifty combi-boiler), I suddenly have this magically large cupboard which offers the potential for lots of organisation and storage (two things that lift my heart and keep me happy), and I have just spent the majority of the morning giggling over pictures of shelving, key hooks and labelling methods.

But I am really not OCD.

Honest.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

First In, First Out

Although the leaflet I'd been provided with a few weeks prior had warned of possible demonstrations, when we arrived at the place it was all quiet.

The clinic had asked me to arrive any time between 9am-11am for my procedure and, as the digital clock showed 9.01am on its display, my mum coasted her car into a nearby parking space, switched off the engine and left me to walk in.  We had spoken briefly beforehand about how things would go on the day and, whilst I had needed to be joined by someone on the way to the place, I preferred to enter the clinic by myself.

Opening the car door I gathered up my bag and appointment card, stiffly kissed my mum goodbye and walked to the clinic's large entrance door.  Just inside the entrance was located the reception desk and, after a quick check-in process, was advised by the receptionist to take a seat in the main waiting room and I would be called by a nurse when they were ready to see me.

Clocking the directional sign for the waiting room, I found myself tripping down a brightly lit hall, its walls busy with posters, leaflets and bar charts.  Although I dont recall feeling nervous at this point I do remember, on stepping in to the waiting room, that my palms had turned moist.  Quickly rubbing my hands on my sides, I furtively took a chair right at the back of the room, grabbed a magazine and sat down.  The room was relatively large with three long desks at its front with the balance made up of chairs arranged in rows.  As I fiddled a bit with the magazine I became aware of voices coming from the hall and, after a couple of seconds, two nurses appeared in the room loaded down with bags and files.

Catching the eye of one I quickly nodded hello and returned back to a bit of magazine fiddling whilst they plonked their files on the desks and busied about emptying their bags which contained numerous packets of biscuits and brightly coloured juice drinks.  By the time they finished unpacking all three desks were covered in food, drink, plastic cups and plates, reminding me of birthday parties I went to as a nipper.

"You alright love?" I heard one of them call as I put the magazine to one side.  Having lost my ability to read, I chatted with the nurse instead.

"Yes, thanks," I responded, "did you need me to fill in any further forms?"

"No you're fine" replied the nurse as she moved away from the food and began hooking up a TV attached to the wall.  "What do you prefer?  1 or 3?"

"Sorry?" I replied, whilst clocking the other nurse who'd begun shaking her head from side to side in a weary fashion.

"She means - `BBC' or `ITV' dontcha?" grumbled the head shaking nurse, whilst the TV hooking nurse tutted.

"Erm, BBC" I quickly replied.  However, ten minutes of viewing time later, I realised that it didnt matter what was on the box since I'd also lost my TV watching skills.  Resigning myself to being incapable of doing anything whilst waiting to be called in, I took to staring vacantly at a slightly chipped floor tile in front of me.  Whilst fidgeting a bit in my chair.

Ten minutes in and I'd been joined in the waiting room by six or seven other ladies who all, like me, had seemed rather puzzled at the unexplained bounty of food on the desks.  Each woman had also, like me, picked up a magazine but this was obviously a room for the ill-educated as it wasn't long before the lure of the floor tiles had grabbed each and every one whilst an unfeasibly tanned David Dickinson cackled from the TV into the waiting room.

"Ok ladies, if I could get your attention just for a couple of minutes," announced one of the nurses.  "There is no scheduled list of appointments at the clinic and you will be seen by order of the time you checked in with the receptionist this morning.  Therefore, if London-Lass could first come up and take a seat at the desks?  Thank you."

Feeling jolted by this announcement, but also immensely relieved, I picked up my bag and quickly walked over to the desk.

"Take a seat love" advised the nurse as I pulled out a chair and sat down.

"Ok, now there's nothing to worry about.  I'm going to just ask you a coupla quick questions and, once they're done, you can pop in next door to see Dr Gapna.  He is very experienced in this field and has worked at the clinic for 12 years. Ok my love?" the nurse clucked at me whilst opening up one of the files.

"Yep, sounds fine." I said whilst trying not to stare at the disturbing amount of biscuits on the desks.

"So, first things first.  Did you come alone this morning?  And, if you did, would you like us to arrange transport back afterwards?" the nurse enquired, whilst finding her pen.

"No, I was taken here by my mum.  She's waiting for me outside." I replied.

"Good, so that's taken care off, " the nurse answered whilst ticking off something on a sheet of paper.

"Do you feel that you've been given sufficient advice by this clinic before coming here today?" the nurse carried on.

"Yes thank you" I stiffly replied.

"Fine, and one more question for you" the nurse continued, "are you still happy to have the procedure this morning?"

"Yes," I quickly said.

"Great," smiled the nurse, as she gathered up my file and gestured me to follow her in to the room next door.

Pushing her way through a door marked "Surgical" I followed her inside and found myself face to face with Dr Gapna in a small room with a long table, desk and chair, and a large bin marked `Hazardous Waste'.

"Morning doctor, this is London-Lass," announced the nurse as she handed over my file.  "She is ready for her procedure."

"Thank you nurse," the doctor replied whilst opening up my file, and briefly scanning my notes. "So, I see you're roughly eight weeks.  I also note from the ultrascan that there is a good chance of a successful procedure today.  Most ladies who see us in the early weeks do not `show' clearly in the ultrascan whereas I can see from your slides two very distinct masses."

"OK" I replied, unsure whether to feel complimented that I had grown such clear bunches of cells.

"No, no, this is a good thing, my love" the nurse chimed in, whilst taking my file from the doctor, and ushering me over to the table.  "That means you wont need to make a return visit.  Anyway, if you wouldnt mind sorting yourself out (as if you're going to have a smear) ... remove your bottom clothes ... and, once you're done, if you can pop yourself up on this table here and Dr Gapna will be with you in a tic."

So, after drawing some curtains around the table, the nurse disappeared and left me to undress.  Quite clearly the ability to read and watch TV had also taken with them any skills in undressing, since it wasnt long before I had become tangled up on my own clothing and it was only through pulling, tugging and ripping things apart that I was finally able to hoik off my clothes and leave them in a messy pile next to the table.  Lifting myself up using its wheels I hitched myself up on to the table (that had been covered only moments earlier with numerous sheets and cloths), lay down and waited.

Shortly afterwards both Dr Gapna and the nurse came through the curtains and began fiddling with surgical tools and bowls.  The nurse quietly switched on a small portable radio and, as an Aussie bird began singing a Top 10 tune, Dr Gapna rolled himself towards me on a small chair with wheels, whilst strapping on his head what looked like to be a pair of welding goggles.

As all this was going on the nurse switched on this wee mini-lamp thing that had been sitting just to the side of the table and placed it just in front of my nether regions.

"So if you could just hitch your legs up as you would for a smear" requested Dr Gapna whilst producing a small tube of clear ointment.  "That's perfect.  Now this is your local anaesthetizing gel - I'm just going to apply this here a couple of minutes before going ahead with the procedure.  It's going to feel a little cold but this will only be temporary as the gel is a numbing agent."

At this point the gel was applied and, whilst it was pretty surreal to feel one's parts turn into a mini ice lolly, the sensation was brief and a couple of minutes later the doctor began to adjust his chair, the light, his goggles and handed the nurse a bowl.  Firing up a small machine that sat on the other side of the table, Dr Gapna explained that he would now stimulate the cervix to contract (much like at menstruation).  Every woman was different but two or three artificial contractions was generally enough for the procedure to be carried out.

"Ok, now if you could just relax a bit, that's it," instructed Dr Gapna whilst carefully inserting the machine's nozzle right up where the sun dont shine.

And, he was right.  The procedure itself was quick - you couldnt deny that.  However, what I hadnt realised was that, whilst I had been advised it would be uncomfortable and certainly not an experience you would want to revisit in a hurry, the procedure was rather painfully `jabby' and not something which one can really prepare for unless, I guess, you've had one before.  It was at the third contraction that the procedure was finished and as the nurse took away the bowl, switched off the machine and generally started clearing things up, that I realised what song had been playing the whole way through the operation - Big Mistake, by Natalie Imbruglia.

(which I should hasten to add, I did not take as a commentary on what had just taken place but rather on the events that had led up to me having to go to the clinic in the first place - you can read more on that delightful episode here)

Anyway, relieved that the whole thing was over, I made as if to hop off the trolley, only to be quickly advised to commence resting by the nurse.

"Goodness me, you've just had a surgical procedure, rest a bit lamb, before you go hopping about the place!" she berated me with a smile.

But I was happy, Ms Imbruglia had stopped singing, and all I wanted to do was get up, get out and never see the place again.  Even the swift injection afterwards in my right buttock (a necessity due to my blood type) wasnt enough to dampen my humour and, after letting me rest for a few minutes more, the nurse reluctantly let me get up and dressed, whilst advising me to have a sit down in the waiting room and have as many biccies and juice drink I could manage. 

Never one to say `no' to a Custard Cream, I happily stepped back in to the waiting room, the weight of the world off my shoulders, and contentedly scanned the loaded down desks crammed with biscuits and multicoloured juices - only to find, much to my dismay, that my appetite hadn't immediately returned.  However, I still managed to cram in two Hob-Nobs and a Garibaldi if only so they'd see me eat and let me go.

"London-Lass?" a nurse queried, whilst I filled up my cup with some purple-looking soda.

"Yes," I replied, biscuit crumbs wobbling on my relieved and happy chin.

"If you could sit down with your drink over there you can leave the clinic (if you're feeling OK to do so) after ten minutes.  Is that OK?" the nurse asked, whilst tidying up some biscuits I'd disturbed in my haste.

"Sure" I said whilst returning back to the very same seat I'd sat in a few moments earlier.

The waiting room had, by now, filled up quite quickly and I couldnt help but notice a few distressed looking souls dotted amongst the ones who looked (I imagined) like me when I'd arrived earlier - quiet, pale and blinky/starey.

The TV was no longer belting out auction type shenanigans but had been flicked over to a cookery show wherein someone was creating a very plump and very pretty apple and blackberry pie.  Beginning to feel my appetite return, I happily downed my purple fizzy drink and was just about to return to the desks at the front to grab another handful of biscuits, when a sharp stabby voice sliced through my contentment.

"I can only be here for a coupla minutes - I work just round the corner," screeched a woman to one of the nurses.  She was wearing a pair of paint splattered dungarees and looked very restless.

"Everyone is being seen in the order they checked in so I am afraid you will to wait your turn," the nurse responded whilst guiding the woman to take the last seat in the waiting room.

"Yeh, all right," responded the dungaree-clad wearer.  And it was at this point that I noticed someone else leave the surgical room with the aid of a nurse.  The woman sitting to my right vacated her seat and allowed the pale relic of a woman to be gently seated by the nurse.

"Cor, Christ!" said Ms Dungaree, "I dont want to come out looking like that.  I want to come out looking like her."

Her pointy fingers were jabbing in my direction and I realised that, whilst I'd been sitting there with a big bright smile on my face, juice stains and biscuit cream on my lips, a lot of others in that room were probably not going to end up sharing in (or really wanting to witness) the same tangled mix of relief and happiness that I'd just been wallowing in and, so, with the agreement of the nurse at the desk, I quickly got my bag, left the room and hurtled out of the clinic towards my mum's waiting car.