This is my 411th blog post; it is also my last.  At the same time as retiring from my blog, I have also decided to suspend my Facebook account, which I will be doing today.  This all feels quite dramatic, indeed in my world I suppose it is.  However, the end of both has been a long time coming and I have been unexpectedly excited about writing this post for the past week that I’ve been considering it.

I started this blog as a writing project to get me into the habit of writing.  I had read that if you write 500 words a day for six months, you have a novel.  I wasn’t ready to write a novel so decided a blog, ie something public, would get me into the habit.  Six months was last June and I didn’t feel ready to start writing something more substantial and significant but didn’t want to get out of the habit of writing daily, so I carried on.  I would say it took about a year of doing this every day (albeit with maybe a total of three weeks off) for it to become a habit.  So I am not going to stop writing, though as I’m going to work in the Cayman Islands tomorrow I will take that week off; I am instead going to start writing the novel I’ve been wanting to write for ages.  I really hope I contribute something to it every day, but having moaned about how hard it is doing a blog every day, I fear I will find it a lot more difficult to write something towards a novel every day.  But I feel ready for it now and I’m actually looking forward to it.

As for Facebook, for a long time now I’ve had mixed feelings about it.  I resent how much time I spend looking at it, particularly when that time was earmarked for something else.  However, I really like that it has me in touch with people I might not otherwise be in touch with or know anything about.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that my Facebook life not being a real reflection of life irritates me and, for example, sometimes I find myself feeling envious of someone else, when deep down I know that you often only put things on Facebook that (to?)  make your life sound great; the highlights, embellished as appropriate.

Much as I like having work friends on Facebook, I have recently been feeling very negative about work and my career and I am finding myself comparing my work experiences with my friends/colleagues, which isn’t really helping my enthusiasm or positivity.  Though that said, they are also a form of support and I will miss rant exchanges and sympathies and keeping up with work news.

As for friends on Facebook who are also friends I regularly see, well I don’t need to see their statuses as we are in touch anyway.  Mind you, I know there have been things I’ve discovered about them only by being on Facebook.  I guess what I’ll miss most is the exchanges with people I rarely, if ever, see and who I’ve enjoyed being back in touch with.  However, Facebook is largely creating a false world and I would far rather email someone once a year and have a proper exchange than have a year of snippets and comments on Facebook.  But I did speak to a friend about leaving Facebook and some of my reasons for thinking about it and he pointed out that you can use Facebook more as a source of information rather than pretty much solely for reading friends’ updates, so maybe that’s how I’ll return to Facebook, assuming I ever do.

I am not meaning this to be a general moan or remotely a slagging off session, particularly as I have always culled people I don’t have any Facebook interaction with or who annoy me, but I do find myself getting caught up in other people’s rants or moans and I have plenty of them of my own without getting involved in other people’s.  I also think that when I am feeling a bit sorry for myself for whatever reason, I read Facebook and usually feel worse as there is always someone promoting something amazing going on in their day, which is not what I want to hear at that moment.  Yes, I know I could not look at Facebook but I feel I am addicted to it and sometimes I get annoyed when nobody has posted since I last checked.  I also get annoyed with all these “like” advertising things and other advertising (the latter I know you can get ad blockers for) and sometimes I think that because my friends and I know what the other is up to via Facebook, I suspect we are in touch at times less frequently by a personalised email or text.  I have also heard myself far too often of late saying things along the lines of, “I read on Facebook that …” and they are often things I feel I should know from more conventional lines of communication than via Facebook.

I know I have checked myself in at exciting places, composed exaggerated status updates and selected the most fun-looking photos to post, as we all have at least occasionally, but right now I feel a need to have a break from it all.  I am under no illusion that I won’t have major Facebook withdrawal, I expect I will reactivate my account again one day and I know I will feel that I am missing out on what has become a replacement for the weekly gossip magazines I used to spend waiting time at train stations reading, but therein lies one of the things I dislike most about Facebook.

As for my blog, I think I will miss that too, probably more than I expect, and I bet I am flooded with post ideas that haven’t that often been particularly forthcoming.  Maybe I will write this blog again, though it would have to be in a different guise for I feel it has been a vehicle for this particular project/writing challenge, but I would far rather send people a link to my novel than my blog!

So it is with a strange and new kind of sadness coupled with a sense of anticipation and positivity that I find myself writing something that never fails to give me a thrill:

The End


{25/02/2013}   Very old books

My three £5 leather booksFor the bargain price of £5, I bought three very old books the other day.  They are all leather bound, hand printed and they all have lovely artwork inside them.  Two of them even still have their raggy old ribbon bookmarks and one appears to be a first edition.  I bought them because they were all books that interested me to read but now I’ve had time to study them I am appreciating them even more.

One of the books, “A Woman  Killed with Kindness”, a play by Thomas Heywood, was printed in 1897.  The pages are rough because the print is indented.  There is something truly magical about that book.  Also, the leather is really soft and the publisher, Dent, has a beautiful gold logo stamped into the leather on the front.  The paper, like the type, is not smooth.  It’s really good quality thick paper.  This book is 116 years old and is still in amazingly good condition.  I love it.

I also now have a 1924 copy of King Lear.  That is also lovely, but the leather isn’t quite as soft and the typeset isn’t as lovely, but it is still a beautiful book.  When I was at school reading “boring” Shakespeare, I’m sure that reading from old books like this would have made it far more interesting.  Also, this book has someone’s beautiful handwriting in the back and they have painstakingly written out maybe their favourite or maybe the most famous quotes from King Lear, complete with page references.  Finding things written or slips of paper maybe used as bookmarks can be more interesting than the books themselves and I love that this copy has such beautifully handwritten quotes written out.

The third book is again wonderfully soft leather, though the spine is a quite worn and the front cover is as good as unattached.  This book is a very dark green leather and has a beautiful gold indent of an owl on the front .  This book, “Lectures on the English Comic Writers” by William Hazlitt, was printed in 1900, a staggering 113 years ago.  I really want to read it as I’m convinced it’s going to be scathing about the various writers he’s passing judgement on.

Admittedly, these books came from a house that stank of cigarette smoke and the smell lingers on your hands after you’ve touched them.  I can’t think of anything nice to say about that as it really is a very stale smoke and not at all atmospheric or a joyous memento of their previous owner.  However, I shall read them and display them and love them for as long as I can.  I’m also convinced I might actually enjoy King Lear.  I would have bought Hamlet but that really was in bad condition with pages and the cover merely a pile of papers.  It is also a shame I wasn’t interested in any of the William Thackaray books, though once the call came through from the bloke who put them in the shop (there was a long story behind it!) that for three, £5, I didn’t want to start going through them all again to get the ones in good condition.  I should have done probably.  But for now I am happy with my three old, smelly, leather bound books that I have so far enjoyed touching more than reading!

I bought three £3 DVDs the other day to compensate for not having been to the cinema for ages.  I have watched two of them, Black Swan and Bucket List.  The former I was expecting to be dark, the latter I was expecting to be light hearted and fun, despite it being about two characters with terminal illnesses.  One made me feel truly wretched and the other had me crying dreadfully.  I have concluded, at least temporarily, I am in the mood for cheery films so I’m hoping my third film, which I fully expect to be dreadful, The Tourist, will at least not leave me feeling miserable.

One of the many things I’ve always loved about films is that they are escapism and I get drawn into the world the film creates.  This is why I don’t watch horror films and rarely watch thrillers and anything remotely scary – like I will ever watch Blair Witch Project for example!  Sometimes, a film like Black Swan slips through the net as I have reason to believe it’s a good film.  However, brilliant and convincing though Natalie Portman was, it was not a happy time I spent watching that.  I watched it with Chris, who got bored and said it was very cliched.  My overriding feeling was that it was just too disturbing, though I was distracted from that by my eventual conclusion, like Chris, that it was a bit cliched.

I don’t like watching dark films before bed, it always leads to either dark dreams or waking up knowing you’ve had a disturbing night, the latter which I felt the next day.  It is a fairly good film but I’m afraid it was lost on me as I wasn’t that interested to know what happened and I don’t like watching films where reality is so mixed with, in this case, what’s going on in the disturbed head of the lead character.  A lot of ankle snapping and blood, most of which didn’t really happen.  Yes, I get that it’s kind of “clever” and develops a character, whose character development, indeed the whole story pretty much, is based around her mental health, I just don’t find it easy or enjoyable to watch.

As for Bucket List, I had thought it would be quite an uplifting film, despite being about two men diagnosed with up to a year to live.  But it was a bit slow and I wasn’t rolling about in my seat with the comedy of it all, which is what I’d been promised.  It all just seemed a bit unbelievable, which was a shame because I like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  I ended up crying my way through the last quarter or so, probably dwelling too much on the concept of living life to the full, ideally while you’re still young and healthy.  I suppose my main issue with that film was that I hadn’t expected it to make me feel a bit miserable, I really had believed that it would be funny.  I also hoped and expected the script and concept would be better but it was all too Hollywood cheesy and “easy”.

I guess different genres suit different moods and I haven’t been in the mood for being made to feel miserable of late.  So fingers crossed for The Tourist.  At least I’m expecting it to be dreadful and I have no reason to believe it will make me feel miserable!

I love watching and listening to the sea, but I don’t particularly want to be in it or on it.  Yesterday, in perishing cold wind, I walked along the sea front at Deal, at times walking into small pellets of snow.  It was truly mind clearing and exhilarating but I could barely speak afterwards as my face was so numb.  The sea was wild, noisy and, looking at boats out at sea, scary.  Earlier that morning, I had stood on the cliffs in Folkestone and spent a good 10 or 15 minutes gazing out to sea.  I realised then that however much I love the sea and watch it, I will never, ever understand it.  I wish I had grown up by the sea, ideally in the midst of a fishing community, so I could have at least a bit of an understanding of the real power of the sea.

While staring out to sea, steadying myself on a kind of viewing balcony wall, I watched the sun’s ray desperately trying to squeeze through the heavy grey cloud.  A small patch of the sea was lit as if by torch light and it was moving closer to Folkestone, having possibly been as far away as France before I got there, and I followed its path.  I then watched a small fishing boat heading, probably, towards Folkestone harbour; it was being veritably buffeted by the wind and the waves.  I tried to imagine being on that boat but all I could think was that I would be feeling pretty seasick and I would be convinced of imminent death by wind and waves.

The only time I’ve ever been on a small boat in weather conditions I’m sure should have resulted in my going overboard was around the Faroe Islands.  My friend and I, without life vests or prior warning that in open sea we would have to cling on, no kidding, for dear life, were on a post boat, the only people on the outer deck.  I have no idea why the captain didn’t advise us to go outside.  We got drenched, more so than you can probably imagine.  It was raining and the waves were crashing over the boat and over us.  I did not find it exciting.  I got a dreadful case of involuntary swearing and shouting loudly and repeatedly, “Oh, ****, we’re going to die!” and I felt like everything I had ever eaten was going to be ejected from my body and probably blown back over me in a vomit, sea and rain drenching.  Somehow I wasn’t sick and somehow we didn’t lose our grip on the rail, but, oh, I remember with so much relief, the feeling of being on calm waters when we went from open sea to sheltered bay.

People sail, navigate, etc, in sea conditions like that all the time.  It astounds, horrifies and amazes me.  I watched that fishing boat being thrown about on the sea and I was struck by the fact that there were probably fishermen on board who had been fishing to earn a living.  It made me want to buy fish from a proper fishmonger, or ideally directly from the fishermen.  But despite feeling worried for the boat and the fishermen, I loved that the torch of light and warmth from the sun made it to them and gave them a minute or so of sunny hugs.

I am not a hot weather person, I hate touristy restaurants, I don’t want to scuba dive, I burn easily, I don’t like cocktails, I’m prone to sunstroke, I hate fish soup (people always go on about fish head soup and such like when on Caribbean islands), I am conscious I don’t have a bikini body and I hate resorts.  I have agreed to do a job (a week, of which only two days will be at leisure) on Grand Cayman and everyone I tell is more excited for me than I am for me.  However, looking out the window on a windy, grey day, I looked at the resort hotel my colleague and I are staying in and I had a moment of excitement, seeing blue sky, pale sandy beaches and beautiful blue pools.

I know a few people who have worked in the Cayman Islands and a friend’s brother lives there so I have had more insights about the place than, say, for my Ethiopia work trip.  I had hoped the weather, it being the Caribbean winter, wouldn’t get above 24 degrees, which is roughly my limit of tolerance.  It appears to be more like 29 degrees.  If you are reading this thinking how lovely that would be, the odds are you wouldn’t find -5 degrees a joy.  I would.  However, despite bursts of rain, it will largely be sunny and hot.  Admittedly, the thought of sunshine and blue skies is incredibly appealing at present; dull and windy is never pleasant.

As I do have a bit of an insight, I don’t think I will find it hugely different to how I imagine.  However, I’m not convinced it will be somewhere I will fall in love with and want to stay, beyond the loveliness of the Caribbean Sea and coastline.  I would be disappointed if the beaches weren’t of the Caribbean idyll and I have no reason to believe they won’t be.  Of all Caribbean islands, the Cayman Islands appeal the least, largely because I expect Grand Cayman in particular to be swamped by wealthy tourists, largely American, and a lot of wealthy second-homer types, of which I know of one.  I also think most restaurants that will be within walking distance of our “suites” will be of tourist quality with tourist prices and this will serve to make me very angry.  (Yes, yes, I’m going through a particularly ranty phase at the moment and the odds are high I will return waxing lyrical about my Caribbean mini break, ie the two non-working days, and I should just be happy about going somewhere sunny and more exotic than Leeds or Manchester, where I have most often been on away-jobs)

I didn’t used to get why multimillionaire types bought islands.  I now get it, it’s because the Caribbean is such a popular tourist destination, particularly for cruises, that where tourists visit, so resorts emerge and where resorts emerge, prices go up, food quality goes down and your idyll of lying on a white sandy beach with warm sea lapping nearby is easily ruined by noisy tourists and beach vendors selling tat.  I have been to the Caribbean before, to Dominican Republic.  We went on an all inclusive holiday and, while it suited our purposes at that time, it didn’t make me want to return to the Caribbean.  However, while delicate from excessive fruit consumption and unwittingly (deceptive overcast sky) slowly burning, we had one amazing day on an uninhabited island which we got to by boat (I suspect that’s obvious!).  That was more like it.  A day like that, though without the delicate tummy and sunburn, might make the 12-hour flight worth it, but I’m not optimistic we’ll find a little piece of beach tranquility in a resort along Seven Mile (5.5 miles in reality) Beach.

But, despite all my negativity, seeing photos on the hotel website has given me a glimmer of hope that it mightn’t be too bad a work destination after all.  I like the idea of walking along the beach in the early morning to get to work …

{21/02/2013}   A cola challenge

The cola challenge, pre-burp festI am not a fan of cola, but it is one of those drinks that a few times a year is the only drink that will hit the spot, usually when the weather is hot and it is served with ice and lemon.  However, while I was in Iceland (the country), I read that Icelandic Coca-Cola is supposedly the best Coca-Cola as it’s made there with glacial water and no corn syrup.  I tried some and declared it delicious.  So I bought a few of the 500 ml bottles home, bought 500 ml bottles of a selection of other colas and had a blind tasting session with Chris – what heady things we do for kicks!

I took it all very seriously and made sure the bottles were all the same size and plastic and that they were kept in the same area of the fridge and were served in identical glasses.  I then stuck mini post-it notes on the bottom of each glass with the name of the drink on them.  I then added another piece of paper for our one to six taste order and even did it again the next day when the colas would have been a little less fizzy, ie I had to get rid of all the cola somehow (there are still six bottles of cola in my fridge waiting to be finished – I am over cola for a while!).

I am not entirely sure what I expected, indeed I wasn’t convinced there would be a huge difference between them.  We had three Coca-Colas (Icelandic, British and Diet Coke) and three Pepsi Colas (Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max).  We had done a four taster experiment in the summer (sad but true) and we had both put the four drinks in the same order, with the Icelandic Coca-Cola being the favourite by a long shot.  So I figured it would probably be number one for both of us this time.

It is quite hard putting six drinks in order of preference but what I did find was that three were horrible and three were ok.  I remember from doing the four-cola test previously that the two Coca-Colas were numbers one and two and the two Pepsis three and four.  I wondered whether it was this time three Coca-Colas in the top and three Pepsis in the bottom.  But one thing became clear, which is that cola doesn’t really taste very nice, it makes you burp ferociously, that some colas are a lot more fizzy than others and that there are slight variations in the shade of brown.

So the results, which surprised me:

Me:                               Chris:

Day one (fizzy) – Day two (not so fizzy)

Coca-Cola                       6 – 4                             3 – 5

Diet Coke                        5 – 6                             6 – 6

Diet Pepsi                       4 – 5                             2 – 3

Icelandic Coca-Cola   3 – 2                            4 – 4

Pepsi Max                       2 – 3                            1 – 1

Pepsi                                 1 – 1                             5 – 2

There is nothing particularly conclusive about our informal tests but my top three and bottom three always remained as three I thought were okay and three I thought were degrees of horrible.  The main issue I had with the top three was that they were really sweet and the bottom three were relatively tasteless and left a really horrible after-taste.

All that said, I like cola less than I used to and, once my fridge is rid of the cola, I’m not sure I’ll be choosing a cola drink in the near future.  Just had a brilliant thought: as I am experimenting with a cleaning chemical free life, I know that cola down the toilet is good with stains …

{20/02/2013}   Why bother with craft?

I go through phases of making things.  Most stuff I make looks home made (not in the quirky, desirable way) and I am sorry to say I have inflicted some of these home made creations on friends.  In my defence, there is the odd decent thing that slips through the net but (and I am not seeking reassurance from gift receiving friends – I really do know) most are a bit naff, to be appreciated for the thought rather than the beauty and usability.  I am just entering another craft phase now and was thinking of making a few things.  Then I thought I could make some presents (still feeling shopping guilt from my Saturday in Hastings, not that I spent a huge amount) … then I remembered how naff a hand made present can be.

I once went to a pre-Christmas craft fair in search of interesting presents with a reluctant male.  I promised him, it being in a fairly small town hall, that I would be round it and out within five minutes.  Scraping his feet, he checked his watch and followed me in.  To my slight chagrin, he enjoyed it more than I did.  Because it was so utterly dreadful.  There was the odd stall selling knitted/sewn/crocheted things and they were fine, just not what I was interested in.  The rest made me feel that the things I’d made that I wouldn’t have dared embarrass myself by giving to a friend were actually ok and even saleable.  Seriously, it was terrible stuff.  That might have been the year a few people did get some of my creations, buoyed by the fact I’d seen proof that I could have given them worse things that I’d paid for.

Whenever I have a craft phase, I end up having to buy materials/tools.  Occasionally I am left wondering if it wouldn’t have been cheaper just to buy whatever it was I was preparing myself to make.  I have just parted with £44 to buy some tools.  I fear this is wasted money as I will have to make a lot of [them, ie friends with birthdays coming up soon may lose the surprise element if they read this and what I’ve just bought, ho hum] to make this a cheaper enterprise than just buying something.  However, something well-made that’s essentially bespoke can be a great gift and I have had a few such presents that I have loved and treasured.

One year for Christmas a friend and I, who at that time had time, decided to make each other’s Christmas presents.  I was very much into making things at that stage and I loved having a craft purpose.  Some things I gave her I hope and expect will have long been thrown out but there’s definitely one still in existence.  I particularly enjoyed giving and receiving with her that year.  However, I do appreciate that you need plenty of time and enthusiasm to be able to do that.

As I have just started experimenting with a few things of late, I am really enjoying it and I hope this current interest lasts.  However, despite thinking about making a few presents (though that’s with the things I’ve just ordered not what I’m experimenting with now), I have realised that I should make something for myself, leave it out so visiting friends can see it and if it gets a “Wow, that’s cool” type reaction, I could extend the line perhaps?!  If it comes out how I am picturing it, it will be a joy.  But that, for me, is a huge problem with crafting; things never seem to turn out how they look in my head.

Being as I was passing a Space NK with time to spare, I thought I’d go in, having only ever been in there with a friend who was merely making a purchase, ie not loitering/testing.  There is promise of so much and, having just had extraordinarily awful passport photos taken, I was feeling in desperate need of miracle cures.  Yes, a very, very bad time to go into a shop offering false promises at genuine promises prices.

I was only intending to slather on a few samples and proudly exit the shop without succumbing to some kind of magic cream, but with my lack of purpose I was an easy target for a helpful staff member and before I knew it I was atop a chair having a mini facial.  Yes, I was lured into a world of facial souffles and brightening creams, and, yes, the last occasion I had time to spare and was caught browsing at LHR Terminal 5, I ended up with an array of overpriced creams that not only didn’t do as they said on the box, they gave me a red blotchy face which I refused to acknowledge every day on the grounds that it was (a) made by a “doctor” and (b) that I was promised it would be good for my skin so no pain/no gain and (c) at that price, how could it not work?  Duped.

The nice lady at Space NK did a brightening test on my left hand.  The exfoliating brightening cream (it was of course explained to me how, ahem, it brightened things, all natural, ahem) was wiped off after a few minutes and without a shadow of doubt my left hand looked astonishingly younger than my right.  Softer was one thing, but younger and more even and she just knew I’d be buying a tub of that.

As for my face, using the same brand (one for sensitive skin and lacking a long list of chemical ingredients I know I shouldn’t use) I was cleansed and moisturised.  There was nothing spectacular about that but I was then left without make up so thought I would take the opportunity to sample some foundation.  She went for tinted moisturiser and a white powder that allegedly set the moisturiser.  As far as I’m concerned, that didn’t work.  I sweat profusely on my face and the setting powder did not work, even for as long as it took for her to apply it and me to reach for the mirror.  At least I didn’t have feel I should buy that stuff too!

I was actually quite pleased with myself for only making two purchases, the cleanser (I needed a new cleanser) and the “Facial Glow” (I didn’t have one of them, unsurprisingly – that was the hand brightening exfoliator).  I made my purchases and was relieved not to have been taken to particularly expensive products.

However, about 30 minutes later I saw a friend and told her about my trip to Space NK, she gave the knowing “you didn’t leave there without spending money, did you” look.  I produced one of my lovely boxes and told her how much younger one of my hands looked, to which I proffered my hands and asked her to guess which was the young hand.  As I looked myself, I realised they both looked the same – that wretched cream only lasted long enough to get me out the shop via the till – and in the end she actually pointed to the old hand as the young hand.  Oh very dear.  However, this morning, believe it or not, my left hand looks and feels better/younger/smoother than my right and, as I applied it to my face last night, I will clearly be asked for ID the next time I buy alcohol … right?!

PS.  If Annette reads this, yes, I blame you for taking me into Space NK the other week, though I know you blame Sarah for getting you in there in the first place, so I blame Sarah too.  And, yes, I am now in possession of a loyalty card too!!!!

I met a friend in a kind of shabby cool cafe in Shoreditch the other day.  It’s a lovely cafe and I’ve been there a few times over the years but it somehow made me feel a bit fake, like I was pretending to be cool by being there.  I’m not sure how or why I felt like that as there weren’t that many people in the cafe and it’s not a pretentious or remotely smart environment (mismatched tables, plates, chairs, etc).  I had intended to go into a cafe about 100m away but on going in I realised there was a queue of people waiting for seats and a lot of people sitting down were expensively dressed iPad types (yes, yes, sweeping generalisation, I know) and I felt out of place.  Actually, I suspect it was more the area (though how come so many people were lazing about drinking coffee, chatting and iPadding on a Friday morning at about 10.30 am in the Brick Lane side of Shoreditch, ie not so close to Liverpool Street and the offices around there?) than the cafes but it got me thinking about cafes and what makes the environment feel right and conducive to sitting around drinking coffee.  Yes, I was a 10.30 am not-working coffee drinker, lounging about and meeting a friend but I wasn’t one of them, as it were, or so I thought.

I love cafes, indeed I want one of my own, but why do so few make me feel relaxed and comfortable?  The more I think about it, the more I realise it probably was more to do with the people in the area, it’s a bit hip and trendy and I am neither and nor have I ever wanted to be.  But I do like a good coffee and both those places serve good coffees.

For me, an ideal cafe would look similar to the one I met my friend in, Leila’s Cafe on Calvert Avenue.  I love that the food is prepared in an open kitchen, like a big kitchen in a house.  The menu is simple and they have an adjoining shop which sells what they use as ingredients.  They do lovely ham and eggs, cold meats and cheeses; simple, good quality food.  The coffee and cakes are also good.  I like that there are slabs of butter in old enamel dishes on the table, food is served on old wooden boards or in terracotta oven dishes or in enamel plates or bowls.  They use old, mismatched sugar bowls; it’s kind of rustic and refreshingly informal.  So why do so many painfully cool people end up there?  It annoys me.  Admittedly it was a sunny morning but far too many people were wearing sunglasses.  And they didn’t take them off inside either – too cool, huh?  I saw lots of skinny jeans and trousers – the men.  There was an iPadder with a very smart coat, a beautiful couple who rocked up in a taxi, knocked back their freshly squeezed blood orange juice and left and a rather magazine pretty man wearing magazine type clothes.  And there I was, embracing the shabbyness of it all, resplendent in a white top (so not my colour) with a large coffee stain along the neck line.  I think I take the chabby chic look too literally perhaps?  Actually, it’s that I have no magazine style, something which I’m actually proud of, though I don’t usually go out with milky coffee stains down my top.

I did part of my degree in Oxford, Mississippi.  We used to sit in late night cafes studying for exams and doing our homework, fuelled by caffeine and feeling part of a film set for being in a cafe.  At night time.  Drinking coffee.  That’s not how it was in the UK in 1996 and I missed those places when I got back.  It was some years after that that there suddenly seemed to be cafes everywhere here, though sadly most were and are chains.  I still think of them as places to go to do something, ie studying, reading, writing or merely waiting for someone or something.  I do often just get a takeaway coffee but most of all I love being in cafes.  My main issues are that I will do everything possible not to go in a chain, but sometimes it’s hard to find an independent cafe, and that most places serve hideous coffee.  I know I’m a coffee snob but I genuinely only enjoy coffee when it’s good.  I would rather have no coffee than a powdered cappuccino (I’ve had that in a cafe before, more than once, and it was nauseating) or a massive bowl of weak, milky coffee from Costa or a coffee from Starbucks that gives me excessive shakes.  So why on earth does good coffee have to be associated with trendy cafes?  Why can’t a normal cafe serve a really good coffee?  And don’t say I haven’t tried, I really have, and I have wasted a lot of money on revolting coffees.  Maybe, probably, it’s a matter of taste, kind of how some people enjoy ready meals while others would baulk at the idea … and therein lies a minefield of controversy, socio-economics and politics!

I have never been a clubber, beyond it being something I felt you did between your late teens and early 20s; after that I thought of it as being more of a choice and not one that ever appealed to me.  Once past the Saturday night highlights of television and/or sleepovers and trying to have a midnight snack session, it all became about alcohol and meeting boys.  Nowadays, I stay in on Saturday nights perhaps a little more than I would like, but the things that interest me have changed a lot.

At the risk of sounding a bit of a middle class bore, I like going to friends’ houses, having friends round and staying in.  I have written that and I am cringing, it really does sound dull.  How did that happen?   It just sort of crept up on me!  I would now rather go to a restaurant than a pub, but in part there are fewer traditional pubs around, which is what I like, and I baulk at the prices and too often of late I’ve heard myself saying, standing outside a pub, “Oh, shall we just get some beer/wine and drink it at home?”  I really am not liking how this is making me sound in terms of excitement levels!

However, last night Chris and I went out and had a fantastic night.  We went to another house gig.  You bring your own food and nibbles and everyone (c30+ people) sits around on all seats the hosts can rustle up.  We talked to a few people, which is more than I do when I go to a pub or restaurant, and we could take our shoes off and curl up on the armchair.  And we got to listen to two fantastic guitarists, one of whom was also the singer.  They sounded great and we had a lovely evening.  We were there from about 7.15 pm until shortly before 11.15 pm.  A night of good music, the company of people with similar interests (I would say people ranged in age from about 16 to 60s) and as you could bring whatever food and drinks you wanted, you could be as posh or cheap as you wanted.  We somehow ended up with me on decent wine, Chris on Pepsi Max and an array of crisps and a big bag of chocolate buttons.  In future, I will go for something more nourishing, substantial and tasty, say a cheese and ham selection.  Listen to me, I’m so middle class!

I guess in some respects, my interests and priorities have changed where spending my free time is concerned.  I want to be around friends, if there’s music it should be music I want to hear, I want food and drink of decent quality and I want to be in an environment I find comfortable in.  House gigs are so the way forward for me!  Sadly, I’m away for the next gig and then they won’t host one again until late autumn, in part because their house looks so good and creates such a great atmosphere when it’s dark outside.

Yes, I feel a bit boring, or at least that’s what I would have thought looking at me from my 18 year old eyes, but so what, I had a really good evening and I was out on a Saturday night, I was listening to music, I was socialising, I was with somebody I wanted to spend time with and I did have good wine and, ahem, good food (or at least I could have done had I made a proper effort – I bought crisps in a moment of “ooo, let’s have snacks” giddiness).

et cetera