I can’t imagine how anyone can view their pets as returnable, especially for unnecessary reasons.  A friend of mine posted two stories on Facebook that shocked me about people perceiving their pets as mere accessories, which can only mean they aren’t loved or part of the family.  I couldn’t surrender my cat, she is a huge part of my sense of home.

I find the concept of pets up for adoption/rehoming as terribly sad.  It pains me to walk past a local cat adoption centre and see pictures of homeless cats.  I don’t know how people can volunteer at such places and not end up fostering or adopting huge numbers of cats.  I am getting increasingly sentimental these days, but the number of cats and dogs up for adoption is staggeringly high and statistics or stories about them can render me a teary mess.  I know in part it’s because people are struggling to afford to keep their pets, but a lot of these poor animals are just no longer wanted or, what upsets me most, have been cruelly treated.

My pet rescuing friend, for whom I have the utmost respect for what she does, put up a story about someone who had surrendered their Yorkshire Terrier.  Why?  Because its owners had had a hardwood floor fitted and they didn’t want the dog’s claws damaging their floor.  May they have a flood and their floor be ruined for doing that to their pet.  The other story was of a Siamese cat who was surrendered because it didn’t match the owner’s new décor.  Seriously, pets are not accessories.  I wonder if the cat owners changed their hair colour to match their precious new colour scheme.

I see a fair few people with husky dogs, most of whom look somewhat pudgy.  I suspect few if any of those dogs get the huge amounts of exercise they need, particularly where the advised hour to two hours of running is concerned.  But, hey, what does it matter, they look cute.  I have had the privilege of being pulled by a husky on a sled in Lapland.  Their strength and stamina is incredible but, oh my, does their poo stink, especially when it’s the dog in front that’s just pooped and your sled runs across it.  Seriously wretch-inducing.   Is that really a non-working, home-living pet?

In 2009, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home had to put down about a third of the dogs it took in, of which more than half were healthy.  Apparently a lot of problems arise with dogs that could be dangerous.  I get angry at the amount of irresponsible dog owners who abuse the capabilities of such dogs, making them potentially violent/dangerous.  These dogs are then part of an image; a “tough bloke” can’t be seen with a cutesy, friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier for example.  It goes back to my pet accessory point.  That is not how a pet should be chosen.  And when the accessory doesn’t perform, it ends up being hard work/expensive/not colour coordinated etc, people get rid of them.  It’s disgusting and I wish such people wouldn’t be able to have the gift of responsibility for a pet.



{30/07/2012}   Lazy day off

Courts are pretty much on holiday for the summer and I find myself with days off, no holiday sorted, nothing specific to do and a bank balance that matches the philosophy that when you have time you don’t have money.  Plus, my blogging is getting a bit slack and I am far too consumed by holiday planning to write anything of particular interest.  Therein lies my current problem, apathy (or maybe atrophy would be more appropriate as I am veering very much towards armchair travel!) making my ramblings far less pointful than ever.

So I shall write about my day in the hope it makes me realise it was a little more worthwhile than I currently think, extracting all the bad bits of sitting around, swearing at the computer and travel companies causing me rage (seriously, this single supplement thing is going to cause me to have an embolism).

Roughly twice a year I feel a need for a sausage and egg McMuffin meal and once the need strikes, it will linger until it’s fulfilled.  I have needed this breakfast for about three weeks now and this morning, I finally had my McDonald’s breakfast.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and even my reluctant dining companion enjoyed it, in fact so much so he had two meals.  It hit the spot for me and I won’t need another one until the new year.  We then had a coffee elsewhere before heading for a walk by the beach and sitting down admiring the choppy sea for a while.  There, that was a good morning.

Fast forward, fast forward, holiday issues, stress about stressing about a holiday, tax bill panic, stress about being stressed, fast forward … at around lunch time I headed into town to buy a guidebook on Greece, having decided I would go to Ithaca.  Then, by virtue of having borrowed a friend’s tongs for a BBQ on Friday evening, I went to said friend’s house to return the tongs, whereupon I was fed a lovely homemade gorgonzola and tomato puff pie (flaky pastry, it’s not puff, I know, but puff sounds funny!) and a salad.

By the time I got home, I was less sure about Greece.  Then I had the revelation to go to Germany by car.  I have visions of me as Jack Kerouac on a European road trip adventure.  Minus the drugs, alcohol, women, cigarettes … anyway, I shall be beat and bohemian.  Ish.  But I haven’t booked my channel crossing, decided when exactly to go or thoroughly thought out the possible expense.  One friend has already suggested it would be cheaper to fly.  But it’s not very Kerouac Does Europe, is it?!  Plus, I am unexpectedly enthusiastic about taking my German car back to her roots so she can try out the autobahn and “get a good run”!   So I walked back into town and exchanged my Greek guidebook for a German one, to the amusement of the sales assistant.  As an aside, if anyone I know is planning to go to any of the following, I have (bit sad, I know) guide booked myself out so feel free to borrow: Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, South America, Southeast Asia, Central America, Vietnam, Madagascar or the Caribbean Islands.  Pff, I never thought I’d end up going to Germany, it doesn’t have the excitement factor of Madagascar and I fear there won’t be lemurs roaming wild.

I think best to end my day there.  But I have had the mindset of going to Germany for a good half day now and I am getting quite enthusiastic and I suspect bookings may well be made tomorrow, hurrah!


{29/07/2012}   Table manners

Bad table manners make me very frowny and annoyed.  I put my elbows on the table and I spoon soup/cereals towards me rather than away.  Double standards to an extent, but I was recently reminded how unbelievably horrible it is to dine with someone incapable of eating with their mouth closed.

Where do you learn table manners?  I assume it’s from your parents.  I largely know what I shouldn’t do, but when it comes to elbows on tables, not eating at a table, I have my own rules.  But I don’t mind other people doing the same!  But I do get irritated by people who start eating before everyone at the table is ready to start.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get about that.  I don’t think it’s the etiquette side of it that bothers me, more that it seems rude to be tucking in while other people are either awaiting their dish to be served or the cook/your friend is in the kitchen still.

As for eating with your mouth open; I just don’t get how you go through your childhood without learning that it’s rude, it’s unpleasant for others to view the masticating process, it sounds revolting and it makes people not want to go out with you.  There are few things that repulse me more where everyday habits are concerned.

Another one that annoys me is talking while eating, to the extent you can see food being churned around.  I do talk a bit while eating, but I at least cover my mouth and wait until most of it has gone.  It’s still pretty gross, really, isn’t it?!

I remember many years ago eating with someone who used to swill the food in their mouth with gulps of beer then do the swilling thing, mixing food and beer.  I was horrified, it sounded foul and the thought of lumpy beer was just too much to endure.  The result is also a burp fest of enjoy-it-twice sounds.

Now, as to burping, I burp.  I do make efforts to disguise it when I’m eating in polite company, but I am prone to burping.  Cucumbers and fizzy drinks are guaranteed to make me burp.  It’s horrible, for me and anyone eating within earshot.  Burping does, however, still make me giggle, the more inappropriate the situation, the better!  But it is horrible and shouldn’t be heard by anyone eating with you.

Living in Japan, I got to quite enjoy the slurping-is-fine way of eating noodles.  But it doesn’t translate well back here, it seems rude because it is considered rude, whereas in Japan it isn’t rude.  But if I eat soupy noodles at home alone, I slurp, and I love it.

Oo, beard dribble and bits is minging.  But that’s just unfortunate and isn’t about table manners.  I was getting side-tracked there.

As for fine dining, the etiquette there eludes me, scares me and puts me off my food; all this napkins a certain way, careful cutlery selection, which way to “scrape” your plate.  I guess I fall into the just about acceptable category of table manners, and there I feel relatively comfortable.  At least I don’t chew with my mouth open though, that to me is the worst table manners faux pax.


{28/07/2012}   Wearing white clothes

I am not designed to wear white, yet every year when it’s nice and warm, I insist upon the wearing of white clothes.  It seems right to wear white when it’s hot as I have in mind that white keeps you cool.  But I just can’t keep whites white and I end up looking grubby.

The other day, I wore a white skirt without so much as a passing concern as to whether this was sensible.  Shortly afterwards, while out and about and thus committed to my outfit, I caught myself “cleaning” my sweaty hands on my white skirt.  There were no particular marks left, but I’m pretty sure the white was far less dazzling.  Following that, I was then paranoid about sitting on something dirty and I felt thoroughly uneasy.

I wore a brand new white shirt to work a couple of months ago.  It was so delightfully white and crisp, I actually felt quite smart.  Prior to going into court, I bought a coffee, which I drank without incident.  I couldn’t find a bin so for some reason I folded the paper cup in half until I went into the court building, where there was a bin, into which I deposited my cup.  No incident.  I then went to the bathroom and while washing my hands, I looked up into the mirror and realised there had been an incident, for I had about five areas of milky coffee splatter.  Quite noticeable.  Actually, very noticeable.  I was incredibly disappointed.  I got rid of splatter marks where water rendering the shirt transparent was not an issue and they did pretty much wash out, but the shirt has lost its allure now.

I was idly flicking through a summer fashion supplement earlier and one item of must-have summer holiday packing was a white top.  Hello?  Like that’d stay white.  The mixture of salt, sweat, sun cream and brightly coloured cocktails is a recipe for disaster.

I saw a friend the other week who regularly pulls of the white trousers look.  I look at her with envy every time I see her strutting around in her pristine whites.  I have never seen her sit down, she’s far too classy to stand around drunkenly gesticulating with one hand clutching a glass of overflowing red wine and she’s never struck me as a wipe-hands-on-jeans kind of girl!  Unbeknownst to her, she is my white clothing heroine and I am often to be found subtly scanning to see if she has got a splodge, even a speck of something non-white on her whites.  She never has, but I fear my outspoken joy if I do ever discover something grubby adorning her whites.  I mean, she even has a white (possibly) cashmere jacket.  And it was still white last time I saw her in it!

As for me and my summer packing, I’m afraid to say there will be at least one white top (I gave up on my white shorts, they are now dyed black!) for I know I will persist with my belief that white is the way forward where there is sun.  I also find it doesn’t clash with the inevitable hint of pink colour I tend to turn in sunbathing conditions.

{27/07/2012}   Going to a work do

On Wednesday evening, I went to the first work do, leaving drinks for a colleague and friend, I’ve been to in years, probably five plus years.  It was good to chat to people I usually barely see, let alone have a chance to catch up with, and it was also bizarre to see so many people I didn’t know.  I enjoyed talking to everyone I did talk to, which for me was a lot of people, but I have no plans to go to another work event.

My work environment is an unconventional one as we are split between self-employed and permanent staff.  Those of us who are self-employed work unpredictable hours, days and locations.  It’s very unusual to finish work at the same time as someone else to enable you to go out after work.  We don’t chat that much in the office as every minute socialising is an extra minute later home.  I believe there has always been a bit of a divide between self-employed and permanent workers, which is a shame, but that has felt like the case to me for the ten and a half years I’ve been there.  That’s the way it is and I’m not particularly complaining about that.

I used to go to the Christmas work parties.  They were free and usually interesting locations and lots of food and booze.  They then downgraded to drinks and canapes in a bar and are now drinks in the office and I haven’t been to one for about seven years.  There are summer drinks and the odd leaving party, but I don’t go.

I do have friends from work and I see them outside of work.  I just don’t particularly enjoy socialising with everyone at a work event.  That said, I really enjoyed speaking to everyone I spoke to the other night, all of them people I usually only get to say a brief hello to.  I am going round in circles.  All I know is that I don’t like big work events, but it is nice chatting to lots of people I would always enjoy chatting to but never otherwise get the opportunity to talk to.

Some friends work in very sociable environments.  In some ways I feel envious of their work life being an extension of their social lives to an extent, but I don’t know how comfortable I would feel working with all grades of colleague and all of you knowing about each other’s private life.  What if you then fell out with someone?  I suppose I should just be relieved that I like most people I work with and I’m happy to see them on the rare occasions when I do overlap work time with free time.  I guess maybe if you like the company you work for and are employed permanently by them, you are more likely to go to work socials.  Maybe I’m just not a particularly sociable person.  Or maybe I should make more effort to see the people I barely see but always have loads to chat to them about on the rare occasions I do go out with them.  And at least by not going to Christmas dos, I don’t have the stress of what to wear to impress colleagues/potential snog in the stationery cupboard man/the boss who is the key to your promotion.  I see there are lessons to be learned from today’s post!

All anyone has heard from me since London won the Olympics bid is ranting and moaning.  Though that all stands, I feel a need to express my positive thoughts for the Olympics and I am going to express them without a single “but”!

As a rule, I have no interest in watching sport.  Unsurprisingly, I never set out to watch the Olympics, but I always end up channel hopping and seeing Olympic events and I pretty much always stop and watch.  For it is a privilege and a joy to see the world’s greatest athletes and sports people competing.  I also love the fact that, unlike, say, football, a lot of these sporting greats are not well paid and it has been through determination, ability and, I guess, the securing of sponsors that has enabled them the training and facilities they require.  In other words, the challenges haven’t solely been to do with their sport and that is a kind of determination and commitment that I find inspiring.

It is also kind of fun to be rooting for your country and there always seems to be an element of camaraderie between people, a sense of unity that doesn’t seem present that much.  I find it fascinating that most of the world has sporting representation.  It is a chance to educate people about different nationalities and cultures and about flag identification!

As for London, over the past few weeks the number of wheelie cases, map-clutchers and people visiting London has undoubtedly increased.  I have found it surprising that, based on the amount of police officers being asked for directions and the general looks of map bewilderment, a lot of people seem to have not visited London, maybe even the UK before.  I like that the Olympics are introducing people to a new country perhaps.  I also hope this influx of tourists does boost the British economy, though most likely centralised in London.

Walking around London, the mix of summery weather and the sense of Olympic anticipation makes for a nice buzz.  Despite there being lots of issues for commuters and pretty much anyone who works in London, there does seem to be a sense of excitement.  Everyone with event tickets and/or Olympic ID badges seems suitably puffed up and smug, and so they should be.  There are a lot of people with tickets who have never been spectators at a sporting event, children who are giddy about the thought of being a part of something so huge, as huge as an event can be, with most of the world represented in one small area.  It is exciting, it’s like we’re all hosts of a great big party, and with that comes the burden of responsibility to make sure it’s great and runs smoothly.

So for all my moans, hurrah for the Olympics and their enduring appeal and the great sense of occasion they bring wherever they go.  May the London Olympics be spectacular and may Team GB thrive on the extra support from being the home team; wouldn’t it be great if we did well, the sun shone, the economy boomed and we all had things to smile about over the next month or so.

Why do I have complainer’s guilt?  If you get bad service, particularly for something you are paying for, you have every right to complain when it’s not up to scratch.  So why on earth do some complaints make me feel guilty or that I’ve been unfair?

I wonder if it’s a bit of a British cultural thing whereby we don’t like to upset people.  But the reality is that if you’re complaining about something, you’re upset so shouldn’t feel bad about making someone else upset.  And so it goes round and round!

Last week, two friends tried to go into a café at lunch time.  Bizarrely, the doorway had two chairs across it, yet there were a few people eating/drinking inside and one of the owners was behind the counter.  So one of them asked if they were open, to which he was given a curt “No” before carrying on with whatever he was doing.  Both friends were fairly regular customers of this café and should have been recognised by the owner.  The friend who had spoken wrote a complaint on their Facebook page and a scathing review about their customer service on Trip Advisor.  Bear in mind that there have been customer service issues before, though never that extreme.  So far so good and reasonable, right?

They then responded on Facebook and asked for him to go in so they could address the comments.  Then I started to feel bad because someone else had seen the Facebook comment and posted that they didn’t like poor customer service so wouldn’t be going there.  But the comments weren’t unreasonable and they did reflect how he felt at that time.  I have no idea how they will address it, if indeed such an exchange occurs.  But I was surprised by how bad I felt that there were negative comments up there that they obviously wanted to address.  Silly really because the owner had an opportunity to be polite at the time, he just needed to have explained why it was closed despite being open, it wouldn’t have taken much, however bad a day he may have been having.  Or he could have put a notice on the chairs explaining why the café was unexpectedly closed at lunch time.  Customers don’t want to go places where there is a chance they will not be treated decently or with respect and simple courtesy.

Poor service has stopped me going to a lot of places.  Nowadays, it’s easy to write or read reviews, and perhaps we take them too seriously.  But if I’d read about that café having poor service, I wouldn’t have wanted to go there if I’d never been before.  Is that fair?  Should we not make our own minds up?  Or should we quietly seethe, only venting to our friends about shoddy customer service?  How should owners respond to complaints or criticism?  It’s true that we remember the negative more than the positive.  But in terms of his writing negative comments, he was perfectly justified.  I’m not sure that their, come in and we’ll talk about it, type of response was ideal, but the public nature of reviews nowadays makes it uncharted territory to an extent.  I have no idea how they will address the issue, given the chance, but customers can and should be particular about where they spend their money.  And I shouldn’t feel bad that someone sounds upset about negative comments when it was their rude behaviour that triggered the complaint in the first place.

I have recently been to a 40th birthday party and this has made me get strangely excited about the prospect of my next landmark birthday in a few years, namely my 40th, and how I’d want to celebrate it.  In fact, why I’d want to celebrate it.

The 40th I went to was a lovely evening, well organised and with lots of attention to detail, including photos of the newly 40 year old at various stages of his life.  There were good canapés, a bar (obviously!) and a disco.  The venue was a part of a former country estate, now conference/venue hire.  There were loads of family and friends there and it was very much a child-friendly place, despite at least one trip to A&E!  I felt it was a good reflection of the birthday boy and it was a really enjoyable, sociable and unregimented celebration.

I know a lot of people don’t celebrate their birthdays particularly, not even for landmark birthdays, and I do understand that.  I, however, enjoy birthday celebrations once I get past the no one-is-going-to-turn-up panic and the social stress of being the centre of attention/host!

I had a fantastic 30th birthday and in fact had a whole host of celebrations, from a few quiet meals out to a 3rd birthday party and treasure hunt and a long weekend with friends in Riga.  30th was the first big event since 21 and at 21 all I really cared about was going out and getting drunk for my birthday.  At 30, having formed long and lasting friendships by that age, my friends and I gave each other significant and often decadent birthday presents (first landmark birthday where we all had salaries) and it was a novelty to have a big party.

At 40, there is a widespread belief all your friends of a similar age will have more money (I don’t remember any 30th birthdays where the birthday girl or boy paid for everyone’s food and venue hire) and social events will be different, namely because so many people will have children, be in couples and potentially more flush.  So when friends my age start having 40th birthdays, I realise they will be very different to 30th birthdays.  Likewise, all our remaining landmark birthdays.

I find the concept of your landmark birthdays being celebrated in a way that reflects your life at that moment fascinating and it makes how you celebrate your birthday both a pressure/burden and a joy.  In my early 20s I was adamant – really, truly adamant – that I would be retired by 40.  On that basis, I am thinking about paying for all my friends to join me on an exclusive island somewhere in the Caribbean for a week of eating, drinking and general decadence!

{23/07/2012}   A leisurely Sunday

I am currently under-slept, recovering from a minor bout of sunstroke and have aches and pains I shouldn’t have (from work and a challenging morning sea kayaking on Saturday).  Fortunately, Chris was of the same lazy-day mind.  I ended up having a relaxing and restorative day.  So, like a Monday morning English lesson, I am going to tell you about my relaxing Sunday.

With sun forcing its way through the blinds, I got up and went for the paper, cat food and milk at 8am, detouring to the Leas cliff walk to see the beautifully calm morning sea.  As I often feel when I’m out and about early, I felt privileged to be one of the few people to see the glorious early morning blue sky and sea.

I made a stonking breakfast of sautéed mushrooms with garlic salt, pepper and crème fraiche and sautéed potatoes with bacon and onion and a fried egg.  We both lazed around, read the paper and drank tea and coffee.  At around 12.30, I made us a picnic and we set off for the sea.  Chris has dicky knees at the moment so we compromised and sat on a grassy bank just above the sea and read, ate, snoozed, chatted and marvelled over how clear it was across to France.  I am not usually a sunbather, particularly in view of Saturday’s sunstroke, but slathered in sunscreen, all was ok.  It was just lovely to be outdoors under a blue sky and sun with the sound of the waves.  We also got to eavesdrop on some Jeremy Kyle-style conversations!

After that, we sat on the prom by the pebbly beach and took some silly photos.  We then headed home.  Having left the morning’s clothes wash to dry on the balcony, that was all dry, which gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction.   I then fell asleep on my bed-sized beanbag in the sun with the balcony doors open and the cat on my lap.

Still feeling achy, I decided to have a bath and used a birthday present Lush bath bomb.  Just so relaxing.  Actually a bit too relaxing as I had a post-bath slump and felt disinclined to do anything other than sit.  Chris suggested a pre-dinner walk/sit on The Leas as it was a blue sky early evening.  We sat for a while on a bench looking out to sea across to France and Dungeness.  I’d brought my binoculars and my camera.  I love binoculars, you can see so much more than you expect.  I was fascinated by the clarity and delineation of French fields and the beach around Dungeness.   We also got to snoop at a very odd man who I regularly see walking his large dog while wearing a full Scottish kilt ensemble.

All finished off with some bubbly, courtesy of my recent France trip, and a roast lamb dinner.   Sometimes I think we worry too much about how to have a good time, a relaxing time, and that it must cost loads of money.  Yesterday was a simple, unplanned, relaxing and enjoyable day.  It’s not hard to do and it wasn’t remotely difficult.  A fantastic Sunday, the kind I wish I had more often.

My mum has a habit of cutting out newspaper articles that she thinks will be of interest to me.  I often roll my eyes and pretend I’m not interested, harking back to my youth when articles were usually ways of educating me about sensible things that I didn’t want to be educated about.  But in actual fact, they’re always well-chosen and of interest.  One of my friends also has a habit of doing this.  I have just cut out some recipes from a Sunday newspaper and I am poised to put them in my newly established cuttings folder.

My cuttings folder is thing of fascination to me.  Well, I have one for recipes and another for everything else.  Prior to the introduction of these files, I would find scrunched up bits of newspaper and magazine pages shoved in a variety of illogical places.  I love it, it’s becoming like a magazine designed just for me, it’s full of relevant and interesting information and articles.

The other day I cut out an article that I really enjoyed reading.  A friend gave me some information about an RSI hand exerciser (which looks like a torture device!), my mum gave me an article about Oxford, Mississippi, where I lived for a semester’s study.  There are nostalgia articles, health articles, some pieces that I think are well written/funny/interesting and a lot of recipes.

I have found myself tearing things out for people as well, but I don’t think they’re always that well received.  I think there has always been a sense of, “Ah, thanks for thinking of me”, but bits of ripped or cut scraps of paper can be a nuisance.  Maybe it would be different if I’d emailed them?

I guess sometimes, you read something and it piques your interest or you want to act on it, because you are in the right mood.  But sometimes, you are just not in the mood to absorb information, however interesting or relevant it might turn out to be.  Some of the articles my mum gives me, I don’t read straight away.  I have been known to unearth them years later and read them with interest.  I find it bewildering that I am not always open to digesting information.

Back to my clippings file.  It’s got clear pocket pages and I love flicking through it.  It returns me to a long-held interest I have in having my own magazine.  I like random things, I would love to create a magazine that doesn’t have regular topics or columns but is varied and haphazard.  That is how my life is and how my interests, conversations and thoughts flow and I know there are a lot of other people out there like that.  Magazines always seem to be quite niche: hobbies, interests, fashion, gossip, news or trade; it’s only really weekend supplement magazines that are varied, but each week you know what subjects will be covered and often by whom.

I wonder if my clippings folder will ever become the start of my magazine publishing empire.  Meanwhile, anything I might be interested in, cut it out and pass it on, you will then see it in my clippings folder, which is currently the bathroom read!

et cetera