Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Review of 2008

So, another year is just about to end. I get the impression that it is traditional (although by no means compulsory) to do a round-up of the year's events, and possibly also to express one's New Year's resolutions, should one be the sort of person who goes in for that sort of things. I tend not to; there tend to be things I am trying to improve about myself no matter what time of year it is.

As this blog does not stretch back this far, my review begins in late 2007: on 12th September 2007 I handed in my MSc dissertation, ending two years of struggle (and joyous part-time work). I got my results a while later, and they were good; exactly what I had set out to achieve and not a mark more. I applied for a job on a new project teaching statistics to social science students and came second, but the lecturers in charge of the project were interested and suggested we do a research project together. I started putting together ideas. After a while they changed their minds and suggested that I would be better doing a PhD first, so I got an application in and started to apply for funding.

Meanwhile, HWSNBN's dad was ill. It turned out that the problem was a brain tumour, rather than depression and diabetes, and he died on 21st December 2007. We don't know that medical competence would necessarily have improved matters (he might have suffered through chemotherapy and radiotherapy then died anyway, with much more knowledge of his impending demise), but, you know, it is nice to know one can trust one's doctors. His funeral was on 28th December; thus 2008 started without him alive in it at all.

The start of 2008 saw me trying to obtain PhD funding (I think the interview was in March) and failing to do so (naturally this is because the panel was biased; there can be no other reason), then looking towards the open funding competition, whose deadline was at the beginning of May.

In the meantime, I tried to become good at climbing (at times building up a reasonably convincing amount of stamina and strength) and have now got to the stage where my skill level far outstrips my physical capabilities. I got this way by doing nothing, literally. For three months. Next time I go climbing my abdominal muscles will not be my friends for several days afterwards.

I also worked on martial arts (Kiaido Ryu); the moves are starting to become more instinctive, but I am still not particularly good. This stopped in September, and will resume on 13th January, at which point I expect to get into rather a large amount of trouble for my lack of fitness.

Hmm, this is jumping about a bit. Back to March, I think. I went to France to stay with Louise in the Toulouse region. That was fun, and the food and wine were excellent. I took great care to appreciate them both fully, and upon my return my climbing harness needed some adjustment. I returned to visit her in Bordeaux in July, and took Anne with me. That was fun. Bordeaux is lovely and I recommend that you visit it (and stay somewhere central) should you get the opportunity. Louise's room had three massive French windows and a balcony overlooking the street. I liked it a lot. Again, we appreciated the food and wine, and Anne got a taste of French pub life.* She did not, however, have much to drink, what with being 12 and not into that sort of thing.

August marked the results of the PhD funding competition. I was looking forward to being a full-time student in October, but had also been wondering whether academia was right for me. I decided that I would take the funding if it was offered to me, but if it was not I would look into becoming an organ builder, as this was something I had vaguely considered for many years, but had not thought possible. Upon failing to be awarded this funding, I did nothing. The letter I had to write to the organ building firm I had selected was daunting because if I got it wrong they would not want me. Eventually, with the help of a couple of good friends, I got it written and submitted in October, I think. They told me that I should learn joinery, then get back in touch with them, so I set about finding a teacher, who shall be known hereafter as Brian. Because that is his name. Brian is a Master Craftsman of many years standing, and seems to be a good teacher. Apparently I am a good student, too, although I must back this up with some actual joinery before we next meet, next week.

Since August, I have mostly just been getting things done; it has not really been a happy time. In September I got a nasty cough and ended up with breathing difficulties which still have not been resolved; their cause has not yet been revealed, for starters. They are very annoying. I have done pretty much no exercise since September due to lack of time and inclination.

In December I played the organ for a carol service, which seemed to go well. This improved my playing, but brought to light the inadequacies of both my organ and my shoes. I am looking to buy new shoes.

I also learned how to make felt.

As 2009 starts, then, there are things that I must do. Firstly, I must get back in touch with my PhD supervisors and look into re-applying for funding. Having worked so hard, it seems a shame to turn down funding should it be available. Academia is more lucrative than organ building (which really does not say much for organ building).

I must also work on becoming good at joinery. Whatever happens, I want to give organ building a go, and I am not going to achieve that by sitting on my bottom. I also have plans to start making musical instruments, such as simple flutes. I am sure that it will be good for me, and also hope that it will be fun. I shall chart this on my other blog, I expect.

I need to get fit again; martial arts demands it, and climbing helps to engender it, as does yoga. These will be my focus in all of the free time that I have lying around.

I have to improve my organ playing, and shall make efforts to do so, probably in the two hour gap I have free between work and Postgrad group on Monday evenings. I am also looking in to buying an electric organ for home, but have so far found them to be too expensive and too far away. Roll on the recession, and all that. That shrinks the country.

Most importantly, I should be a better friend. I am apt to see my lack of free time as an excuse (to be fair, a lack of free time does make it difficult to take on extra things), and not be there for people except for by prior arrangement. I need to do more things to make people feel good about themselves.

I want to make a success of my vegetable garden this year. Realistically, I am not going to do this unless the weather is good. The last two years have been damp and crap, and I have failed miserably (although there are now more paths, and I have materials to make sure there are paths throughout). If the weather is good this year, I may be able to salvage the project and grow something worth mentioning. Of course, if the weather is good I will need to water it (it resides about 7 (or is it 3 1/2?) miles away), but that can only improve how well I look after it.

I want to blog more regularly and more impressively. I speak mostly of suitable use of English, and of not mangling sentences, but decent subject matter is not to be sneezed at.

OK; there are rather a lot of imperatives there. I suppose that none of them is important if I am happy to stagnate. I am not happy to stagnate; I want to do more, see more and experience more. And yes, they are a tall order; they involve keeping going at things and not giving up. I can do that. I shall review this post this time next year and marvel about how much has changed, hopefully. I hope that the changes are good.

So any New Year's resolutions, anyone?

*What sort of a phrase is this? How embarrassing.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Another Post

Today I have been taking my car to be fixed, shopping and tidying. Apparently I am good at making a mess. You will no doubt be pleased to hear, however, that two of my cupboards are looking much better. As is a large corner of the living room. Alas, the main bit of the living room is still horrid, but the heavy tidying has been accomplished.

I have discovered that I need a new bookcase for the books I have borrowed from people and from the library. Something really accessible would be useful, as the ones I borrow are the ones in which I am the most interested at the time. I also need a place to put it. Perhaps I should clear the crap off the top shelf of my big bookcase - I could then use that shelf: a novel solution to a pressing problem.

I am also re-distributing my silicone and ice cube moulds (sorry to mix classification systems there) and storing them on top of my kitchen cupboards, rather than in the nasty damp cupboard in the corner; they tend to be hard to clean completely and have a thin film of fat left on them, which then goes mouldy. Lovely. Mind you, the rice doesn't smell too good. If I don't blog again after this happens, place bets on bad rice!

Dinner today will be king prawn curry (king prawns on offer; curry paste re-discovered in cupboard; rice already discovered but apparently needs using quickly), and should be quite hot. Alas, I am without yoghurt to cool it down. We will just have to deal with it, I suppose. HWSNBN will have to demonstrate his manliness.

I still have no New Year plans; no invitations and I'm certainly not having people round here again. Last time, it took weeks to get the carpets clean. Actually, no; it was quite the opposite: they started complaining of tiredness at about 9pm. I have never attended such a non-wild party before, nor since. I did it a second year with similar results (although with fewer people - only one was complaining at 9pm this time), but shall not do it again. Apparently my party powers are limited and can only be revived by Vlad, our non-Russian who doesn't live round here any more, but can drink most effectively. I believe he will be around again tomorrow, and that we will go out drinking. Must wrap his vodka...

Enough stream-of-consciousness blogging; must add prawns to curry! Later!

Friday, 26 December 2008

And so this is Christmas

It has been a very busy few weeks, and I have not had much free time. However, today (well, yesterday now) was Christmas and the stress should be over soon. Louise and I will be preparing dinner for the family (13) tomorrow evening, and then I may not have all that much to do before returning to work on 5th January. What will I do with myself? Tidy the house, then prepare nice drinks and read interesting books? Make things out of wood? Sleep? Watch TV while lying on the sofa with HWSNBN lying behind me? Nothing? Climbing? The possibilities are endless.*

Tomorrow I must get up, prepare casseroles, then go shopping. I am not entirely sure from whence this shopping expectation came, nor am I convinced that Liverpool will be a good place to go at lunchtime on Boxing day (why are the shops even open? Shouldn't people who work in shops get a well-deserved second day off?), nor are there many things that I need, but I am sure that it will be a rewarding experience. Anne is coming with us; she doesn't need anything, either. Blogging about this is making me feel very sheep-like (for good reason). Ooh - I have come up with an advantage! Exercise! It will, at the very least, be a medium-length walk which I would not otherwise have had (I do not go for walks voluntarily, due to a series of unpleasant walking experiences, combined with not liking it that much anyway).

I am rambling and should go to bed. I hope that you have had a good Christmas!

*Actually, that is almost undoubtedly not true; I expect that the possibilities are somewhat finite.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Woo hoo!

Work is finished for the year, and I am therefore very happy. It is amazing what knowing I have done enough work to cover me for the next two weeks can do for my state of mind. Also what sitting down doing nothing for a morning can do. You know, I haven't felt this happy and relaxed for weeks - even the fact that I am likely to leave everything to the last minute today and thus be very late for a variety of things is not worrying me right now. Yay!

I did achieve some things, though. I invited a school friend round for lunch tomorrow, I arranged a doctor's appointment to try to work out why I still can't breathe properly (1 month of using a steroid inhaler has not helped, although the reliever inhaler is definitely my friend!), and have arranged for my car to go in to the garage for a few days to see whether or not the problem can be fixed under the guarantee, and to fix it. They reckon that it probably can, but they will find out when they open it up. Oh, and I have worked my way through the truffles I got out of the freezer yesterday to take to work (I think that I observed four chocolate orgasms, which is something that I have not seen before) - they really needed eating as they do not keep well, and I now only have one left. I shall sort that out this afternoon.

Now please excuse me for a little while as I go to the Post Office to collect a parcel. Patience, please!



Sorry - that took longer than expected - had to take some stuff to the tip, too. Went to HWSNBN's mum's house and took some photos of my joinery, though, so should be able to get those into some sort of document soon, as an indication of how far I have progressed (turns out it's not very far yet). Now it is time to wrap presents, take a shower (and rinse the bleach off the wall tiles - if I come out blond you'll know what happened!) and get a move on with my day.

I shall be visiting the parents shortly (I should leave the house in 40 minutes...) and stuff. Crap. 40 minutes. Must not continue to do this when there is selecting and wrapping of presents to be achieved. I shall be very busy indeed on Tuesday, which will probably be the next time I get the opportunity to get the house tidy. Time to call HWSNBN and let him know I shall be a bit late...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Six years

As of today, HWSNBN and I have been together for six years. I gather that we will be going out for a celebratory meal; this pleases me a lot as I am very hungry and did not enjoy my lunchtime soup at all.

HWSNBN has changed quite a bit since we became an item - he's much more mature and helpful now, and appears to have outgrown that extended moody phase (please, God!). I much prefer this version to the original. I think that I have become much less demanding (I have accepted that he hardly talks at all and, erm, has to do lots of important stuff on his computer most evenings) and more fat, but also more capable, with the knowledge that I can actually see stuff through to the end and achieve things. He is still kind and generous, and still has this misguided notion that he is innately better at all things computer than I am.* He is, of course, better, but I maintain that this is due to his education and current job. I am, of course, still insufferably self-assured, and annoying in a wide variety of ways. And also convinced that I will never do anything well enough (as I said, the varieties of annoying I can be boggle the mind). Ah, we make a great couple!

He has just called me from a shop - I shall be getting a 1l pyrex jug for Christmas! Unless, of course, he decides that he can't be bothered wrapping it (he doesn't like wrapping things, and this will be an awkward shape**), in which case I may just find myself getting an anniversary present! Then I will feel bad, as I haven't got him anything nearly so nice - just my presence.***

Hey - I could fill an entire blog entry with the extremely unexciting story of how we met! How easy! And how exciting-sounding and yet secretly very dull! I think I might get away with that. Did I just type that out loud? How unfunny am I?

*Witness my love of danger! It's a good job he doesn't ever read this blog.

**Top wrapping tip - for wrapping awkwardly-shaped objects, buy some wallpaper which has been reduced in a wallpaper shop - preferably pretty stuff. As it is so much stronger than wrapping paper, you should find that pointy bits do not poke through it quite so readily as they do through wrapping paper...

***Obviously, a 1l pyrex jug is better than this. My presence does not take kindly to the addition of 1l of boiling water, nor to that of caustic soda (which, incidentally, do not mix; caustic soda only likes cold water. Mix them and you may live to regret it...). Oh yes, and of course he gets my presence most days; it is quite ordinary. And I am, as previously mentioned, insufferably self-assured.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bimbling along

I have been very busy recently. Christmas preparations always take a long time (and this year's preparations are far from over - haven't even finished the washing up from the last lot yet), and there has been a lot of rushing around, as I tend to do. Joinery is proceeding slowly but surely (I must take photos of what I have done so far, though).

I have had quite a good weekend. I had Friday off and was able finally to take the car to be serviced. It only needs £600 (?!?!?) of repairs; I am hoping that the guarantee I bought with the car less than a year ago will cover this. If it does not, I shall be a little bit upset.

On Friday afternoon we went shopping and bought our Christmas wine; we should not go thirsty this year. The supermarket had rather a lot of offers, and most of what we bought was half-price, which was useful. We had takeaway with HWSNBN's mum for tea, and as half of mine was left uneaten I had a very tasty lunch the next day.

Yesterday was mostly spent making stuff for Christmas; we then went out to a gathering to see one of my university friends who got married to an American woman and moved over there; he came back for his PhD graduation. It was lovely to see him again, and I got to clear up a couple of points with his wife. She has been a little disturbed by his habit of wondering round after a bath with a towel round his shoulders, like a cape, rather than round his waist, as is usual for a man. Although it did cover up everything which had to be covered, it was a close thing. He used to do this when he was a student (which disturbed one housemate rather a lot, but which we were used to); she had thought that maybe it was something he picked up since marriage. I can't be sure that she was reassured by this information, though...

HWSNBN accompanied me to the gathering, which he does not normally do. This group was made up of people with whom I meet on Monday evenings; HWSNBN does not go to that group. However, I think that he enjoyed himself, which pleased me a lot.

The gathering had plenty of wine, and plenty of people to whom I had not spoken for a while, and a bottle of whisky at the end. I have come to the conclusion that this is not a scenario which ends well for me; I should try to avoid getting into such situations. This morning, at about 3am, I was not feeling particularly well, which was definitely because I was too hot; I can think of no other possible explanation. I went to sleep downstairs on the settee, underneath two blankets and my sheepskin coat, and it all got better after that. HWSNBN came down to get me at 7.30, when he realised that I was missing, worried that he had upset me. Which he had not. He left to go to the farm very early - I was surprised by his enthusiasm, especially considering our late return home last night.

Right now I am sort of watching Poirot, and thinking about decorating the Christmas tree - it is sitting in the appropriate place, and will look better with baubles and lights on. That will hopefully be done before HWSNBN returns home. I then have much tidying and cooking to do, and some more making to accomplish.

I think the standard of writing here may have slipped again (certainly the frequency of updates has done so); I am trying not to get out of the habit of blogging. Perhaps things will get better after I finish work for the year on Thursday. Yay! Can't wait for that, although I have a massive list of things which must be accomplished before that point. It will be very satisfying indeed when they are done - it will be a productive 3 1/2 days!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The carol service

Today was the day of the Christmas carol service. As you may be aware, I was feeling a little apprehensive about it, on account of being unable to play several last verses reliably without a congregation attached, let alone with one. Some of my other pieces were also decidedly dodgy. I was rather worried that I would play a wrong note at some point which would set a domino effect in motion and mean that I was unable to find any more right notes for the remainder of the verse.*

With this in mind, I was quite relaxed when I went to church this morning, except for the tension caused by my being late because I was tired and did not get out of bed on time. Again.** This morning's service seemed to go well - the vicar was a visiting one and she was lovely. She also sang very loudly, which gave the congregation a boost - it's not an overly enthusiastic congregation, singing-wise. My playing was fairly bad in terms of percentage of correct notes (the voluntary on the way out was so bad I gave up trying and made sure that I at least approximated one note out of every six in the last few bars - this did not make me feel hopeful about my playing in the evening), but the vicar said that it sounded good despite the woeful lack of tuning displayed by the organ (which is getting so much worse - the notes in the middle are out of tune now, too, not just the ones at the top of the keyboard). When I become an organ builder, that organ will see some changes. Except that I won't be in the area. But I digress.

After the service I had a quick practice session, and established that the pedal board on my organ is in bad shape, which did not come as a surprise. I have obviously been practising in great luxury on the chapel organ, which does not have wobbly pedals; I have been quite spoiled. The adversity is good for me, though - teach me to thrive in difficult circumstances. Eventually. I only played for about forty minutes to an hour, which went past surprisingly quickly (that is apparently what panic will do to me), as I needed to get lunch and my wrist was hurting.

I then went to Marks & Spencer and got a tasty risotto for lunch, which Heather and I heated up in her two microwaves (I know - such luxury!). It was very satisfactory, and much cheaper than eating out. Having checked my bank balance, I was in the mood for cheap.

After lunch I went to the chapel for the final rehearsal. I actually arrived 30 minutes early, which was very pleasing; I knew that the time of the rehearsal had a 3 in it, and sincerely hoped that it was 3.30 (it was) , but couldn't swear that it wasn't quarter to three. I arrived at 3, and got to hang around aimlessly for a bit.

We also rigged up a special system to hold the pages of my book open. I have no idea how familiar you are with the anatomy of a music stand on an organ, so I shall try to describe it to you. In most cases, the stand itself has a ledge on which one puts one's music, and there are four twirly bits of metal that stick up at the front (or lie down flat when not required) to stop the music books from closing, and also to reduce the probability of them sliding off the front of the music stand. The left middle twirly prong on this organ had been snapped off a while ago; as there was still a bit left in place, a new prong could not be inserted. The system we rigged up was very sophisticated - we tied bits of string round, and the music book could be slid underneath it - the string went from top to bottom, and sat on the outside edges of the left and right sides of the music book, so that they did not obscure any music. Genius! (Mis-spelled that on my first attempt...) When I am an organ builder I would very much like to incorporate a similar design feature (possibly optional) into my organs, as it works so much better than the twiddly knobs - it holds the whole height of the music where is it supposed to be, rather than just the bottom, and doesn't obscure any notes or footing marks. I think that those pieces of string will be staying there for a long time!

The rehearsal went quite well. O come, all ye faithful's last verse was rather a large amount of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I think that I ought to point out that I really love playing the organ sometimes - the feeling that I get when I am playing something loud and beautiful well is in my top three situations which make me feel good (one of the others is riding a horse in a field in summer when everything is going well...). I feel that I have complained about the organ and my lack of playing prowess rather too much, which may have led people to wonder why I bother.

The service itself did not start well; I did not play the first note at all, but started on the second note. This confused me, but I got the impression that nobody else noticed. Perhaps they are not very observant. There were a few other mistakes int he first carol, but nothing major.

After that I lose track of where it went wrong. There were at least two other introductions that I messed up (which is embarrassing as they are the easy bit - for the first introduction there was only one line, which was all played with my right hand), but people still didn't seem to notice. The last verse I was the most worried about went a bit wrong, but I picked it up and got to the end in style (very much enjoyed the second half of that last verse), and O come, all ye faithful's last verse had its moments (although not as good as in the rehearsal). All in all, my playing was mostly very good, with a liberal sprinkling of dodgy notes. I am glad that my teacher, Dave the Organist, was not there; he would have had many words to say about the quality of my playing, and they would certainly not all have been good. Now he can have the second-hand report, in which many of the dodgy notes never appeared.

Everyone I spoke to seemed to think that it went very well, so I think that I can conclude that I did not embarrass myself, and that none of the mistakes I made actually mattered. You know, it has just occurred to me that I achieved something**** - I successfully prepared a whole load of pieces in under five weeks (mostly in under three weeks), with pedals in many cases, and played them with lots of people to distract me. One piece had pedals throughout. I did lots of organist things, such as changing stops and opening and closing the swell box. Yay! I think that it will have done me a lot of good.

The parents and Anne came to listen - quite a long journey for a service lasting an hour, but I suppose that they don't get the opportunity to listen to me playing the organ very often. Nana wanted to come too, apparently, but Mother didn't think that she would be up to it - she walked to the village and back yesterday. There is not a problem, but back is uphill. I was impressed that she managed that, but slightly less so when I heard that Mother had gone with her - I had got the impression that she had gone to the village, then spontaneously navigated back to the house. Nonetheless that amount of walking is very good and very promising, depending on what one wants to be promised. I shall have to borrow Dave's organ and play for Nana some time over Christmas. Perhaps after a service so it isn't so deathly cold.

So that was it. Next year I shall be much better. And possibly located in a different area of the country altogether. Now I must put my newly improved skills to use and learn some of that music I bought in Oxford last weekend. It is supposed to be relatively simple, so I have high hopes.

*With the exception of the last chord - I have been confident with the last chord for a long time, and can reliably play it to an acceptable standard with acceptable timing, even when I fail to get any other notes right. It's just a talent that I have.

**Is the fact that I do not learn and modify my behaviour evidence that I am a bit thick, or just further evidence to support the theory that I am bone idle and need a kick up the backside?*** It's times like this which make me glad that I do not like my mattress much - imagine the trouble I would have if my bed were particularly comfortable!

***I realise that I did not cover every possibility here - there is not really enough information to allow you to come up with a working hypothesis. As such, there is no need for you to answer this question. Especially as I am not convinced that I want to know the answer. Ooh - another theory - I need more sleep! Then perhaps I would stop writing utter gibberish.

****I think it just occurred to me because I was so fixated on how it was probably all going to go wrong - I didn't even consider it going right as a possibility.

Friday, 5 December 2008


That last post was a while ago, wasn't it? Which is also what I said last time. Let's hope I don't make a habit of this.

On Wednesday I had my second joinery lesson, which went well. Apparently I can put down the chisel in an appropriate manner, which is considered to be a good sign. The magic I work when I pick up the chisel is, of course, overwhelmingly good. Ho hum. Nonetheless, it looks as though I may have the potential to wield it successfully and thus become an organ builder extraordinaire.

Yesterday I made three soaps. Using the same recipe helps - making in bulk is great! I only have one more soap that I absolutely must make before Christmas. Alas, I am nearly out of oils - olive, corn and hemp are getting somewhat desperate. Cocoa and shea butter are not looking good. Hazelnut oil is practically finished. Coconut, castor and palm oil are fine. Avocado is currently great, but will not be replenished when it runs out - I got this lot for free. My olive oil supplier* has stopped doing the olive oil that I need - the really cheap one which is cheap in so many ways. They now only do expensive ones, which are actually less good for soap making - a double disadvantage. Anyway, it is satisfying to be less far behind.

Sunday's carol preparations continue to go slowly. Today I practised playing with my eyes shut; I am hoping that this has reinforced the last verses enough that I will be able to play them with people singing (but with my eyes open, looking at the music - I was just trying to get the notes reinforced in my head). Apparently that can be useful in a carol service. Tomorrow I have the organ booked for three hours, but I am not convinced it will be enough. Perhaps I should ask them to postpone it for a week.

The preparations, apart from these verses, are actually going really well. Alas, adding in the pedals seems to be a bit too taxing for me. I can do it when there is nobody singing; even when there is someone singing we reach the last note at the same time (I have years of experience at reaching the last note at the same time); it's just many of the notes in between which are a problem. One of the sopranos in the choir kindly sang along with me this afternoon, to show up just how bad I am** (and to give me practice at keeping going), which was helpful. I shall have a few hours to sort this on Sunday. Mother reckons that I should just play the standard last verses, but I have plans to go out in a blaze of, erm, glory. I expect that my next update will be after the event (judging by precedent, it may be a while afterwards; please do not hold your breath).

Today I got home a little before HWSNBN. After a satisfyingly productive morning I had the afternoon off today (hooray - freedom!), and spent it singing carols at lunchtime and practising the organ afterwards. When I returned home afterwards, I was very tired. This was not at all due to staying up more than an hour after my bedtime e-mailing Elizabeth, of course. It was because I practised so effectively this afternoon. Tiring work. I went to sleep for three hours, which was nice. It is actually one of my favourite things, except for the effort involved with waking up. Now we are watching the television, and I am blogging (I know - radical!). And drinking wine. Very nice. Must get some more before Christmas, though.

*A supermarket, but a very specific branch of a specific supermarket.

**My words, not hers. Well not out loud, anyway.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hello again

Well, that last update was a while ago, wasn't it? Sorry about that.

Apparently I am currently putting on the "watch Abi have a breakdown" show. We are still in very preliminary stages, where people are asking me whether or not I am sleeping properly (getting to sleep is taking far longer than is necessary), but it would appear that I am not putting on a very good front at the moment. However, Christmas is coming and bringing holiday with it. I have another six days I must take before Christmas, most of which I shall add to the beginning of the Christmas holiday - I should get about two weeks off, which should give me a bit of breathing space, along with a chance to catch up on sleep and (gasp) tidy the house.

It is very frustrating, though, this whole not coping thing. I know that I am in an enviable position - I have a secure job which I can do well, I have a committed boyfriend who is being very friendly, I do a lot of things I enjoy doing, my health is mostly good, and my family are great, and I have friends who are there for me when I call on them (although I do need to work on having enough time to be there for them, too, even when they don't call on me).

So yeah, I am a bit frustrated. And, to be honest, I am probably mostly blogging right now because there are things I need to get on with - some joinery homework with actual writing (which I tried and failed to complete on Sunday, on account of not being able to write anything better than "and this is strong because the big bits stick together very well because they have a very big surface area for the glue", and giving up in shame) and some soap making - there is only one month to get the stuff dry before Christmas, which is as long as it needs, which means that it all needs to be made by now at the latest. Which didn't happen. Which is not a good thing. I shall have to do some tomorrow. Which is what I said yesterday and the day before. But things got in the way.

I also need to practise the carols, but I did about 1 1/2 hours of (sometimes half-hearted) practice already, with the pedals, so that is less urgent.

Tomorrow I start to learn joinery so that the organ builder firm will consider my application to be an apprentice organ builder. I shall be making mortise and tenon joints, and endeavouring to avoid removing any fingers with a chisel (or any other sharp (or blunt) object, for that matter). I do not yet know whether or not I have an aptitude for this - it could be very embarrassing. On the plus side, if I am dreadful at this I can pursue the PhD guilt-free, as I will (hopefully) know that I have given organ building my best shot. As the time draws closer I am getting more apprehensive - this is going to require a lot of self-discipline. Which I am clearly not showing by blogging instead of describing mortise and tenon joints.

So that is where I am at. Not a happy little teddy bear, nor very coherent, nor on top of things, but confident that things will improve soon.

Bugger this. They won't improve soon enough for my liking, because the conditions for improvement are not there - I need more free time, and for a higher proportion of the things I do to be interesting - I want to achieve things, and to have time to achieve them well. I predict that things will improve either in a year, when the organ builders decide that I am the apprentice they really need because of my enthusiasm and excellent woodworking skills, or next September when I give up my job a month before the PhD starts so that I can stay somewhere cheap and calm for a bit (I'm thinking of one monastic community in particular). That is more realistic. They will get slightly better after this carol concert is over, though, assuming that I do not die of embarrassment during the event. It is looking promising, insofar as I thoroughly messed up the last verse of "O come all ye faithful", but it was pronounced a success by the conductor; if all that I have to do is play some notes, loudly, and finish at the same time as everyone else, I should have very few problems!

Sorry for moaning. I know that I shouldn't, but it was that or no update today. Anyway, it's all minor stuff - it's only thinking that makes it feel like more. Alas, I think a lot.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A thought about creation

Now I propose to get a bit deep. No doubt this will be deeply flawed thinking, and I apologise for that. My humble thoughts are but the beginnings of an idea I shall fail to pursue any further due to lack of commitment and any particular theological bent.

The Bible says that we are created in God's image. What if the image of God is not to do with what we look like at all. Perhaps God only designed our insides. Perhaps the image of God is to do with how we are and what we do. Perhaps the image of God is just love. It doesn't matter what we look like* on the outside at all.

Yes, that is the thought. It seemed like a bigger idea when I was thinking it...

You might be interested to know that I am having a comparatively articulate day, in which writing original things seems like a very real possibility. This is gratifying to me, but the joy may not quite have worked its way to you.

*I reckon that God just set evolution rolling, anyway, and I am not convinced that He planned an end point per se, although I reckon that He did always intend to have people evolve. But not necessarily in this shape. But maybe in this shape - I can't rule out that He liked this particular design...

I like to think that, although He is omniscient, there was a little bit of Himself He kept in the dark about what was going to happen to all the creatures and plants, and to Earth, as evolution took place, so that He would always be surprised. I expect omnipotent beings can do that.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

My favourite type of migraine

Well, I had a lovely time visiting the parents this weekend. Anne and I went shopping, and I was able to buy a few essentials, most of which were what I was attempting to buy.* My aunt's birthday present still hasn't been bought, but I do have a little extra time for that. The goth shop was not very interesting, unfortunately. Perhaps I am getting old.

Nana seemed well, considering. "Considering" being the operative word.

From 9pm on Saturday until 10pm on Sunday it wasn't very interesting/fun at all, so I shall ignore that bit of weekend.

Yesterday evening was the first practice for the Carol Concert for which I am playing the organ. The playing was mostly passable, with some good bits. This was gratifying.

About 40 minutes into the practice my vision went rather blurry; I wondered if I was about to pass out. I thought about it for a short moment and decided that passing out at the console while rehearsing was bad for a couple of reasons: I would look rather stupid; it was a long way to the ground so I would probably injure myself when I reached the bottom. I therefore removed a couple of items of clothing in case I was too hot, and tried to follow what was going on/pretend everything was OK.

After a little while of this (I am so glad that I took the time to learn much of the music thoroughly), it occurred to me that I hadn't passed out, that removing clothing had not made any difference at all (and that I hadn't really been too hot to start off with, after all, but removing clothing is a small price to pay for that particular insurance policy), and that perhaps I had a migraine starting. This seemed more likely.

I made it to the end with few incidents, although the unfamiliar soprano descants I was sight-reading did not always go well. Fortunately they, at least, seemed to know what was going on.

By the time the practice had finished, I could almost see properly again, but I had a bit of a headache coming on. I absolutely love my migraines, as far as migraines go, because they haven't really worked out about the headache thing (it's all about the vision, or lack thereof), and as such they don't hurt very much at all. I went out and got some food and a drink, settled down for a bit, had a couple of paracetamol, and the headache went away within about half an hour. When it went, it left behind that wonderful feeling I get when I have been feeling really ill, but have just realised that I feel better. That feeling is always enhanced by going straight to sleep, but I had a meeting to attend, and so could not do that.

For the rest of the evening, my brain was fried. This morning I woke up with more visual disturbances, and today my brain is fried. More fried than usual, that is. Typing is not very accurate, and I don't appear to be able to make sense of a lot of things. For example, a friend e-mailed me to ask if I'd like to go climbing tomorrow. I replied that I can't make it today, and that it is a shame she didn't want to go tomorrow. She replied to me, and I think that it is sorted out now...

And I visited the doctor this morning. I am going on steroids via inhaler to see whether or not that causes my lung capacity to become more impressive. I shall see him again in a month to discuss the outcome, and decide what further action to take. He seems to be taking a very measured and sensible approach, and has also given me a handy tip about inhaler usage, which will help me to extend my Mastery of All Things just that tiny little bit further.

Alas, my Mastery of All Things is still in its early stages and does not cover such things as coherence and interesting posts. I promise you that you will get an excellent, interesting post when my brain returns to normal.**

*There was a chisel which did not match up to the description I was given exactly. The more I think about it, the less appropriate it seems. I shall be told to get another one this evening, I am sure.

**Not sure how you are going to enforce this one, to be honest. I think that the word "return" may be my loophole. Failing that, "normal" is to be my loophole of choice.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I have just pulled a weird little muscle in my hand attempting to manage a particularly big and difficult chord. It hurts. It also explains where that weird pain I had in my hand the other day came from. RSI, here I come! O Come O Come Emmanuel, go away!

So how does one exercise and stretch that muscle in the dip in the hand between back of hand and wrist? Should I be playing more studies? Should I put healing things on my hand? What? I have just deployed a tubi-grip... Should I just stop being stupid and over-ambitious (although I don't see how I can play this chord without being over-ambitious - my hands aren't very big)?

Humph. Not impressed.

Crossing things off

Today I went to yoga and made a new friend, then ate soup full of vegetables. All in all, it was a productive lunch hour. This new friend* is interested in coming climbing with us, and could well increase my climbing flexibility: he may be available when the others are not (they come as a group - I am the odd one out). Also, he can teach yoga, and is stronger and more bendy than I. That is likely to make me more competitive. I shall have to build up my core strength first. As this was the first yoga session I have attended for several months, I expect to be stiff tomorrow, but I may be able to do something later on.

However, yoga cuts in to my organ practice time. I didn't get a chance to practise on the organ at all today, and have to make up for it this evening on my fake piano. No doubt as the deadline to learn the carols approaches** I shall be less and less relaxed about the whole thing. I must try to get a few intensive sessions in this weekend. AARRGGGHHHHH! Sorry. That just slipped out. Deep breaths. Nope; no luck there. Slow breaths, then. There, that's better.

Sunday's hymns have now been chosen, and are nice and easy. Robyn, the guitar player, will be there this Sunday, so I only have to play two - the first hymn and the final hymn. That makes it easier.

By the way, does anyone know what happened to HWSNBN? I think that maybe someone stole him. The robot with whom he has been replaced is lovely and obliging, with some helpfulness and a sense of humour thrown in. I'm not complaining; please will whoever did this leave it with me for a while (for ever?)? They have obviously gone to some effort to make sure that the switch was not detected - the robot is communing with its computer friend upstairs as I type this, and HWSNBN's mum seemed to think it was the genuine article, but I know better. It coped with gentle teasing in a mature manner and then prepared some vegetables for dinner. That is not HWSNBN. Anyway, as I said, just passing comment. The robot is welcome to stay, to keep the bed warm, and to drive me to see my parents tomorrow. I hope it lives off food and drink, though - I don't fancy learning how to recharge it. Where would the plug go?!?

And on that note, I say "Oh crap! Is that the time? I'm never going to learn any hymns at this rate!"

*OK, so perhaps "friend" is a little premature. We shall see...

**The first deadline is Monday - in four days time - for a rehearsal. I must sound as though I know what I am doing so they do not dismiss me out of hand, and hate me for being incompetent. That would be embarrassing, and would result in a lot of my effort being wasted. The second deadline is Sunday 7th December, at 7pm. I think. I am not doing the maths to work out how many weeks that is until I can play what I need to play without making any mistakes (i.e. 12th December at 8pm, probably).

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Plodding along

Time continues to pass, as is its wont. I continue to make minimal progress in most areas of my life.

Here is the list of many of the things that need doing by me at the moment:
  • Start going to bed on time (really important - I'm too tired to think at the moment)
  • Get more exercise
  • Eat better food
  • Process some forms
  • Shred some paper
  • Work out how to ignore de-construction noise outside my office (I mostly shred paper)
  • Wash my mug
  • File massive amounts of paper
  • Change my bedlinen (HWSNBN has complained, but has refrained from stripping the bed himself. This annoys me, especially as I do re-make the bed when it has been stripped. In fact, stripping the bed is the single fastest way to make me re-make the bed. He is being too lazy to allocate work to me.)
  • Deal with the massive pile of washing
  • Invite a friend round to learn how to make soap
  • Write to my friends
  • Sort out my trip to see Louise
  • Sort out holiday for the rest of the trip week
  • Speak to big important person about access to an organ I want to play
  • Speak to less important person about access to the insides of a big important organ I want to poke around
  • Book the car in for a service
  • Buy come joinery tools - they need to arrive before Tuesday
  • See the doctor about not being able to breathe properly (Tuesday)
  • Learn how to play the following on the piano (for rehearsal) and organ (for accompanying 500 people, apparently): O Come O Come Emmanuel; Once in Royal David's City; While Shepherds Watched; O Little Town of Bethlehem; O Come all ye Faithful
  • Speak to Dave the Organist about that music he promised to give to me last year
  • Put some stuff on a website
  • Read lots of books about organs
  • Read a book about joinery (start before Tuesday)
  • Read some fiction books (low on the list - the library has surrendered its organ books to me, so I have a few to keep me going)
  • Be nice to HWSNBN, in such a way that he feels appreciated (maybe I should try not suggesting that he is lazy on the Internet)
  • Put photos from my camera on a different website
  • Put some clean clothes away
  • Start planning/assembling a birthday present for my aunt (ideally before Friday)
  • Get in touch with the vicar and pick some hymns for Sunday, then learn how to play them
  • Tell people with whom I go climbing that I am not going this evening, due to being too tired and lazy
That seems to cover most of it. It actually doesn't look so bad written out (except for the bit about accompanying 500 people on the organ - not much margin for error there). Alas, as soon as I try to get motivated to do most of it (i.e. most individual bits - I propose to tackle them in sequence, not all at the same time), it suddenly seems a lot more effort.

This lunch time I managed to squeeze in 15 minutes of organ practice. I established that O Come all ye Faithful is coming along nicely, and that an utter numpty wrote in the footings for O Come O Come Emmanuel. That would be me, I suppose, as I am not aware that anyone else is in the habit of writing in my carol books. I have attempted to remedy the problem,* and am a little happier with the situation now. If only I could play the thing... Fortunately, much of this piece is manuals only; I shall have a bash at that tonight.

*I only write on music in pencil, which makes it a lot easier to remedy mistakes.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Bonfire night

Today is Bonfire night, as far as the city council is concerned. To this end, I shall be going shopping, having some food with Serena, watching the fireworks, going to the pub, then going to The Field to see more fireworks. Oh yes, and I must practise the hymns for tomorrow. I said that I could play the first one, which I probably can, but I was actually thinking of a different one when I responded with enthusiasm. As I have learned both of them, and I am seemingly a little dense, I often confuse them for each other. I started learning tomorrow's hymn sooner, I think (probably about a decade ago...), so it may be deeply ingrained... Anyway, my pedal technique has come on in leaps and bounds (as it were) these past few weeks, so I am hopeful. If I arrive on time tomorrow morning, I shall give it a go.

Yeah, there's not really anything worth reading today, either. I am confident that I shall have something to say within a few days, though. Now I must have a shower, in order to have some chance of accomplishing everything is is necessary to accomplish within a suitable time frame...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

There is a mosquito bite on my heel

Either that, or I am having an allergic reaction to the hypo-allergenic plaster I had on my heel during the day yesterday. The latter is more likely (it's a bit of a funny shape for a mosquito bite), but the former makes a better title, and must not be ruled out.

So, I suppose I could tell you the story of why I have such sensitive heels. What a story that is, tinged with youthful impatience, and the dreams only teenagers can dare to dream...

When I was about 15, Doc Martens were cool. They were so cool, in fact, that my dream at the time was to be a cathedral organist with a nice house and boyfriend, and green DMs with yellow laces. Well, I got the green DMs with yellow laces.

Alas, DMs, even green ones, need a bit of wearing in. This may take as long as wearing out takes, from what I have heard. In the meantime, they shred heels.

And so it came to pass that my heels were under DM attack every day. Rather than being sensible and letting my heels recover, I commenced a love affair with fabric plasters (fabric plasters, how I miss thee), wearing plasters on my heels at all times for a period of several months. The end of this period was brought about by the first evidence my body threw at me regarding my lack of fitness for this life and the chemicals therein: my heels started to itch somewhat impressively, with raised white patches corresponding to where the sticky bits of the plasters had been. They itched every night for a period of several weeks (they probably itched during the day, too, but what I remember are the nights as I was trying to get to sleep. Yes - am remembering uncomfortable lessons in labs at school now. Ooh, that was itchy), and I could not make it stop. If only the wonders of hydrocortisone had been pointed out to me... Or perhaps I should have resorted to that old trick of letting Mother know that there was something medically wrong with me. For some reason I cannot fathom, I do not want people to know if I am actually ill. I feel embarrassed to say so. Mother, had she known, would probably eventually have taken me to the doctor, who would no doubt have introduced me to hydrocortisone. Mmm, steroids.

After my heels had stopped itching every night, my skin came up with a different trick: plaster marks reappearing in the bath. I got a cut on my leg (my manual dexterity with a razor was not up to much), and used a plaster on that; it took longer for the reaction to happen, but for weeks afterwards it was impressive to see the plaster mark reappear in raised white format at bath time. With itch effects. Eventually that went away, too, and I stopped using non-hypo-allergenic plasters.

So yes, I am sensitive to plasters. Hy heels seem to be the most sensitive bit of me, but I can usually get away with a hypoallergenic plaster for the day. Three weekends ago I did use a standard plaster for the evening on the same heel. Perhaps that is what did it.

Now the special tablet is kicking in, and my heel feels a little better. My body feels as though it is on the verge of declaring full-scale itch warfare any day now, though. I think that my doctor's scepticism about the efficacy of evening primrose oil against itchiness* may be wearing off, which is a pity. Hey - the special tablet should have made my shoulders stop itching. Why aren't you working properly, you naughty tablet? Come on - hop to it!

*I went to see him about my general lack of perfection a few weeks ago. Among other things we discussed the gluten intolerance, the failure to inhale effectively and my amazing hairy itchy legs, which were merely being amazingly hairy at the time. He expressed scepticism that the evening primrose oil was stopping my legs from itching, even though as soon as I started taking it the first time my legs improved, and shortly after I stopped they got worse again, only to improve when I started again. He asked me to desist, and to come back when I could show him a rash or something. I got the impression that his scepticism might have kept the itching away, but these past couple of days my arms, back and shoulders have been itching. It's a lovely bumpy rash, and my skin goes nice and bright pink. I have so much fun with my skin.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Sunday bibble, organ, and soap

Last Sunday, after having finished my organ practice, I had a very hard time motivating myself to pack up my bags and leave, which seemed to be especially heavy. Going to church this morning, I was surprised to note that my music bags were not that heavy after all, and came to the conclusion that there was something weird going on.

To be a little informative, I keep about 20 music books in my main music bag, plus two hefty hymn books and my organ shoes* in the second bag. I have never weighed them, mostly because I do not have any suitable scales, as opposed to because I am not that anal. I am that anal.

So, today after church I did some organ practice. "O Come all ye Faithful" is coming along nicely, I think. The piece I really want to play next week for Remembrance Sunday is not. Bugger.

Anne, my baby sister, was disgruntled when I "suggested" that she should be practicing the piano very slowly indeed, several bars at a time, keeping to a set rhythm, but I insisted that it would do her good. In a rare bout of insight, I realised that this would also do me good, and spent a while working on about five bars over and over and over and over again. After this, it was considerably less bad. I must do that again. In fact, I must do it again tomorrow. I must leave work on time and not spend two hours e-mailing important people this time.

After a couple of hours of organ practice,** I decided to leave. When I picked up my music bags, they had once again magically become very heavy indeed. On the plus side, the nuns hadn't shut the gate this time, so I was able to get off the grounds without wrestling with unwieldy bits of wrought iron. It does beg the question of why organ practice seems to take so much out of me. It must be the mental effort combined with the overdue lunch.

I know - my life sucks so much. I have to spend a couple of hours doing something I love, then carry two heavy bags 100m to the car. I can almost hear your heart bleeding for me.

I then went shopping, and bought my first Christmas present (excluding soaps, of course). HWSNBN has indicated that it will not be very well-received; it is perhaps a bit too practical for its intended recipient. However, it is just the sort of thing that she needs, and it is not as though I shall not be making her a special soap scented with her favourite perfume. Which makes everything better.

I also bought some toothpaste, some caustic soda and some coconut oil; the latter two are for soap making. Oh, and a chewy, noisy rattle-type object and three vests for my friend's new baby, who I may get to meet this week. So far I have only seen one photo of her; she looks very cute indeed. Her dad assured me before she was born that she would be a quiet baby who slept a lot. I will be very interested to find out how that is going.

When I returned home, I set to decanting the coconut oil from bottles to take-away containers. I don't know whether or not you have encountered coconut oil before, but it is solid at room temperature. Mine comes in narrow-necked bottles - I get the feeling that their packaging was dreamed up by someone more accustomed to warmer climes, in which the coconut oil would be pourable immediately.

As I am an impatient sort of person, and do not fancy heating up bottles of coconut oil every time I want to make soap, it was necessary for the contents to me melted and stored elsewhere. In a bold and imaginative move, I put the bottles on a radiator for a while to give the oil a chance to melt without costing me any additional money. Of course, had I been organised, I could have put them on a window sill in summer, and also paid less for them (the price of coconut oil has gone up). However, I did not, so there is no point beating myself up about it on such a wildly public forum (yes, your views are welcome). When they were melted (which took no more than five hours in any case), their contents went into take-away containers to set again - I can remove measured quantities of oil with a spoon now. Tomorrow, they get lids, then they go to join all of my other oils. Now, if only I can convince HWSNBN to buy me some more olive oil, my collection will be as complete as I can afford at the moment. Just in time for Christmas soap. Which, incidentally, is coming along nicely.

It is Grandad's birthday on Tuesday, and I shall be sending him some soaps for that. Had I thought far enough in advance, I could perhaps have got some siblings to take them back, but I did not, and nor did I have all of the soaps I now have. I tell you, it's a little soapy empire here. I have run out of suitable storage space. Quick! Send shoe boxes!

Grandad's soaps are all wrapped, except for the one I made yesterday, which is on the radiator, in a desperate attempt to get it a little more dry before I send it to him tomorrow morning. As the radiator went off nearly an hour ago, perhaps now is an opportune moment to rescue it. Then I shall read that book I was supposed to read instead of going on the Internet. That would be useful.

*Typically, organists will have organ shoes. These should have smooth, not too grippy soles (so the feet slide easily over the pedals), a bit of a heel (to make it easier to avoid hitting notes in between the two desired notes) and the sole should not be much bigger than the foot (to reduce the probability of hitting more notes than desired). Mine are OK except that the sole is a bit wide. I am looking for another pair, but they are surprisingly difficult to find. You will be reassured to know, I am sure, that my new man shoes do not seem to make my organ playing significantly worse; they will be useful when I become an organ builder.

**That is the figure I would like you to believe - I started at about 12 and finished at 14.20, so obviously I did do two hours, at least.

Friday, 31 October 2008


At work today, I got to spread joy and happiness for a bit, by e-mailing people with good news. I did not remember to attach the attachment, though, which was somewhat dense. I shall have to compose another e-mail about that on Monday. Bugger. That has only come back to bite me once so far, though, and that was mostly just an experimental nip; the mauling should not happen before Monday.

It's Friday, and I have no more work to do for a few days, so I am happy! The house is warm (thanks to HWSNBN having the heating on all day), and I am holed up in the bedroom with a glass of rum and pineapple juice, leaning against a radiator, listening to classical music with the lights off (except for some blue fairy lights and this lantern, in blue), trying to discourage trick-or-treaters. Two came earlier, and we were able to dig out some old marshmallows for them, but I don't think that they were impressed.

Today I went out for lunch with one of the chaplains and a friend who had just found out about her MSc distinction. Apparently I misread the e-mail saying when we should meet with the result that, instead of being 10 minutes late, I was 15 minutes early. I did some organ practice - the Chalpaincy Centre has a dinky little one. My new shoes do not improve my organ playing. However, unsuitable as they are, they do seem as though playing in them is a possibility, which is gratifying. After 20 minutes of practicing, I went and found the people with whom I was having lunch, who hadn't noticed me playing. By this time, I was 10 minutes late. Again.

Unfortunately, the pub we were supposed to be eating in was too busy, so we had to go slightly further afield to a wonderful restaurant I had heard about a lot, but had never actually visited. Damn. Because it was more expensive than expected, he offered to pay, which was wonderful. I ate duck with figs and mashed potato, with Madeira sauce. I think that the mashed potato may have contained slightly more calories than I would usually expect to find in my mashed potato. I therefore decided to pretend that they were not there and hope that they went away. Sure enough, when I next paid attention, the mashed potato was gone, and I was no longer hungry. Result!

This friend has not only got a distinction in her MSc, but she doesn't have a job at the moment (i.e. she has time off and can get up late), and she does have one that she will be starting soon (i.e. her current lack of job is not a problem). She seemed very happy (if a little drunk) today. Not that I am at all jealous, you understand. For I have a Plan up my sleeve. It is quite tightly wedged, and I can't seem to get it out,* but it is a Plan nonetheless.

Now to see what HWSNBN plans to do for dinner. I rejected going out earlier on the grounds that I wasn't hungry, but a take-away would really hit the spot now. I am hoping that the reason he has had no alcohol this evening is that he is intending to go food hunting shortly (to complement his mammoth supermarket shop earlier today). We shall see...

*Yes - The Letter and its follow-up. It went, I got a response. Will blog more when my mighty network of contacts actually comes up with information I can use to do what is required of me.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Right now I should be going to bed, but the settee is warm and bed is not. Instead I shall sit for a while and listen to the washing machine finish doing its thing, so that I can use the nice clean washing to make the house lovely and damp.

HWSNBN has gone to bed. I hope that he is on my side; it seems a shame for him to use all of that heat he generates on himself. I shall try to improve the heat situation by having a shower (which will also provide me with the opportunity to test my second-to-latest soap).

Goodness me, this is boring. I have a theory that it is less what one writes about and more how it is written which makes something readable, but I'm not really giving myself much to work with here. It has just occurred to me that I might be losing readers as a result of my lack of content. OK. Deep breaths. I shall not be a slave to what my readers want; I shall be true to myself. I shall continue to write crap for the satisfaction of having, erm, done that sort of thing. Yes. That shall be my strategy. Goodbye non-faithful readers; anyone who has made it this far is obviously hardcore. And not showing up on a stats counter. Hardcore and very discrete. Nice.

The washing machine is finished; off to the shower for me. Night night.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Autumn is well and truly upon us. Yesterday evening, walking to the pub, I smelled the promise of dark nights round a bonfire, huddling to keep warm and watching fireworks. This evening I smelled the promise of whisky before going on walks in the dark; visits to friends in their warm houses. There is a chill in the air; I shall dig out my old sheepskin coat and gloves, and prepare to de-ice the car.

The central heating is back on, after a few weeks of ultimately futile resistance, and that makes me happy. Other things which make me happy include food, sleep, Stephen Fry and tea, and I will have all of those within this next hour. I had pancakes for tea. I suppose that this means that I am happy. That's good, then.

Apparently I am not awake enough to write, though.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Many uninteresting things

Yesterday was a very tired day. I think that the high drama of the weekend, combined with failing to sleep for an extra hour despite the clock change, had taken its toll on me, insofar as it was difficult for me to get the motivation to pick up some bags and leave church after finishing some organ practice. Which was rather rubbish practice. However, I have established that I may be able to play the fancy version of "O Come all ye Faithful" in time for Christmas. This is very exciting - it's one of the pieces I have always wanted to play. Obviously it would be better on a more powerful organ (the organ I might actually have to play it on makes mine look like a monster: Frankenstein's monster), but the notes are the same whatever one plays it on. Perhaps next year I shall have access to larger and more impressive organs...

On returning from church (via the supermarket, in which I was to buy margarine and tea bags, of which I managed to remember margarine), I huddled under a duvet in the front room and shivered until the heating came on. I then read for a few minutes, then went to sleep accidentally while HWSNBN cut up mushrooms and onions for the mushroom risotto. This meant that I didn't have to wash mushrooms or peel an onion, both of which are annoying jobs. It also meant that I got five minutes of sleep.

After dinner, I made soap. Alas, today it looks a little weird. I shall leave it for a few days to see how it behaves, but I suspect that I shall be making a replacement batch on Thursday. Fortunately, I only used half of the fragrance, so it won't be too much of a problem. I think that maybe I should have stirred it more.

So, as you can see, my day was fascinating and stimulating. I just know that you are wishing I posted this sooner so that you wouldn't have to wait so long for your almost-daily dose of excitement. What does one do when one's life is so exciting? How does one de-stress? Skydiving? Now there's a thought.*

Time for a shower. Then to bed, then to work. Repeat ad infinitum.

*Not a very good one, though.

Saturday, 25 October 2008


I went to the Lake District today, to visit Lydia, one of my friends, who has recently moved into a new house. The house itself is a lot nicer than mine (with the exception of its lack of double glazing and full plaster on walls); they have put a lot of effort into improving it, and it shows.

Alas, it had been raining enthusiastically for rather too many hours, and the roads in both directions (i.e. there and back) were scarcely passable in places. My valiant medium-sized car did an excellent job of not drowning (with aquaplaning on the faster roads). There was only one puddle that I didn't dare to traverse myself, and there were two extremely helpful men who let me turn off the engine and pushed me through to the other side. I was impressed, and also relieved - I really wasn't convinced my car was up to that.

Unfortunately, the long drive seems to have taken quite a lot out of me, and I am tired. Otherwise it would be faintly amusing; it has potential.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Back to normal

Robert and Anne have returned home, as has HWSNBN. All is as it was, with the exception of the bed settee in the spare room, which is holidaying in the Lake District.

HWSNBN has brought whisky back with him - Aberlour. Very nice.* I took the opportunity to finish off a couple of bottles of whisky in order to free up some space in the cocktail cabinet.** I have also evicted the two whisky bottles which were already empty (I get attached - they have really nice stoppers), thus ending up with a dining table which looks like I had an excessively good time, and enough space in the cocktail cabinet to - get this - fit everything in! Very pleasing.

Now I think it is time for bed. HWSNBN has gone already, and seems unhappy with my lateness to bed (I was bored waiting for him to be ready to go to bed (which he probably was already but didn't say anything) and started to compose this post), my pouring the water in which the sheets were soaking into the washing basin and not emptying it (it would have been easier for everyone if I had emptied it apparently. I did not see how doing extra work made it easier for me), and my demands that he arrange the following for me: some cheese; a cup of tea; taking my dirty dishes from my hand into the kitchen, four metres away; the Internet; something else, probably, which I have forgotten about.

Reading between the lines of my righteous indignation,*** it is clear that I am not always an easy person to live with. I just thought I'd put that in in case you were fond of reading between the lines, but did not want to put the effort in at that particular moment. Although it really isn't hard in this case. Sometimes, though, I feel that bloggers get more of the sympathy for a story because they are the ones who get to put their side forwards. Not that I am having a go at anyone here - it just seems to me that it can be hard to blog in a fair and balanced way. Perhaps part of the appeal is that it isn't entirely fair - you get a story rather than the facts. Perhaps by trying to be vaguely balanced I am, in fact, being more boring. People who enjoy reading vaguely well-thought-out**** ramblings written under the influence of more than 2 1/2 shots of whisky (over the course of an evening) should be happy with today's post, though. Sorry to any other randoms who happen to be reading. Or perhaps the ones who like this are the randoms. That seems to fit better.

Ah, but those accustomed to reading between lines may take the previous paragraph to be a cunning suggestion to make people believe that I am in the right, as I am displaying admirable balance in my reporting of boring, insignificant household incidents. It's a common thing often found when one analyses speech - put the counter argument in early yourself and it can't be used against you. Although I cannot definitively state that this is not the case (tricksy things, these subconsciousnesses), I reckon that it is not. Especially as I an getting rather late for bed; HWSNBN does have a point when he says I should be there (although he is probably too asleep to say that right now). Anyway, I have nearly finished my tea. Yes - that is something else I did wrong - I didn't go into town to buy tea bags tomorrow, preferring instead to visit my sofa bed in its holiday home (it's a working holiday, but a change is as good as a rest and all that) in the Lake District. Perhaps I will visit Lucy's in Ambleside, where they have an excellent selection of gluten-free things. Or perhaps I will not. The possibilities are endless.

Your task for today: what else did you spot while reading between the lines? That I am a little unreasonable and bitter does not count, nor are you permitted to use this paragraph as evidence. Also, my state of sobriety (which is actually mostly OK) is not, technically, between the lines. Distinctions, my dears. But, you know, keep the really brutal bits out of the comments ;-) In fact, to increase the success of this, it would be better if you did not comment at all. That way, when I get no comments I will know that this was a successful, well-received post. Crap - more stuff which sounds like emotional baggage but is actually just mild sarcasm. I give up.***** Night night, everyone.

*Although I haven't tried the new bottle - only the old bottle. I assume that they will be the same...

**Each one had less than a shot (25ml) in, so they were taking up more than their fair share of space.

***I love reading between the lines on other people's blogs - it can be very revealing. Unless I am just wrong, of course. In that case, it just feels as though it is very revealing.

****I hope.

*****"Thank goodness for that", I hear you say.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

How to be a guiding light

Yesterday evening was generally fun, with the exception of the tidying. I still hadn't finished when Robert and Anne turned up (haven't done so yet, for that matter), but there is floor visible everywhere in the house except my bedroom, where the clothes have conspired to take over my floor. I obviously did not put them away firmly enough: more training is required.

The pasta and sauce seemed to be appreciated. The piano practice I compelled Anne to do was not. Poor thing. She is just at that stage where she doesn't really know what is going on, but she seems likely to continue in that way unless Steps are taken to remedy the situation. We concentrated on counting, timing and getting the right notes, before moving on to "How do you find "f" on the keyboard?", followed by "Well, how do I find "f", then?" For your information, it is just to the left of (below) the three black notes. I am hoping that she will find it a lot easier when she knows how to find the notes. We will have another session tonight, and she should then be the best she has ever been for her lesson tomorrow. Also, she may hate me; although she still seemed to like me at the end of yesterday evening, she was throwing a few dark looks in my direction, and playing rebellious notes.

Naturally, being the good and responsible big sister that I am, and in no way jeopardising her sleep so that I can gain popularity as the cool big sister,* I got her to bed on time, which meant an early night for me, and for Robert (I think he must normally get to bed at 6am, judging by how late he gets up).

This morning, I discovered that Robert had decided that my drive was not a good place to park his car, despite my gallant second-choice parking space usage with my own car, and instead decided to park so that my next-door neighbour couldn't get out of his drive. The mind boggles. I moved his car onto my drive (it seems quite nice, but makes a funny noise when I start it, and doesn't really want to lock - maybe it was hoping I'd take it out for a run), at which point my lift arrived. I left Anne and Robert lying cosily in my lovely warm house** and went to work.

Work was noisy. The deconstruction work they are doing outside my window has entered an even louder phase (including a circular saw larger than I imagined could exist in the scariest of my dreams. This is the ride-on version. I actually swore when I saw it). It's a bit like having birdsong in the background, if the birds were large, mechanical and tuneless.

Over the lunch break, Rose asked if I would like to sing/play the organ at a Christmas carol service. Last year was apparently dire, with the organist not turning up to practise, and failing miserably with the whole keeping time thing. It looks like I may have the opportunity to fail in a similar way this year! Hooray! I had better break out "O Come all ye Faithful", and give it a bit of an airing.

Onwards! Things to do! Children to torment!*** Washing to put in the machine!

*I think I established in the previous paragraph that I do not always pander to her desires, which adds credence to my story.

**In beds, not dead/cluttering up the place, or anything.

***Well, one child, anyway.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Guess what

I stayed up until 1am, and the house still isn't tidy. Upstairs is a bit better (the bathroom sink is sparkling, and many clothes have been put away), but I shall have to be very efficient at tidying up when I get home from work this evening. Never mind - the adrenaline produced when there is little time normally makes for a more efficient tidying experience.

It will be pasta and sauce for dinner, this being Anne's favourite food.* Seriously - what is wrong with this child? Children should not be this easy to please. I do hope she stays this defective for ever! (Except for with her partners - they had jolly well better not just feed her pasta and sauce and buy her socks for her birthday. That's my prerogative.**)

I have just realised that there isn't much in the house for lunch for them I think it may be beans on toast, or a trip to the supermarket. That will be an adventure for them, though.

I think I may just have surpassed myself with boringness of blog entry. Once again, sorry about that.

*Which is, of course, the only reason I am cooking it. There is not even the merest hint of lack of effort on my part.

**I never realised it was spelled like that. This has implications for my pronunciation.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The descent of Them

Tomorrow evening, Robert and Anne are coming to stay. Fun as this will be, the house is (surprise surprise) a bit of a pigsty, as I have only been home alone and conscious for about 3 1/2 hours since leaving it on Saturday, and I haven't quite got into the tidying thing yet. With them here, I suspect that I will continue to fail to tidy up, and HWSNBN will return to an untidy house missing some furniture (I haven't told him we're lending the upstairs bed settee to a friend for a couple of weeks).

However, this evening (in the half hour remaining to me), I must put the clean washing out, put the dry washing away, put some dirty washing into the machine, and some other stuff to soak, make my bed, tidy my bedroom floor, tidy the spare bedroom, tidy downstairs, do the washing up (what remains - I washed up until I ran out of space on the draining rack yesterday) and have a shower.

This is a familiar theme, and promises to be a recurring one. I rather suspect that about one in every twenty blog posts here will be on this theme. In fact, to save time I should probably just write a list of all of the things one can do in a house, and delete the two which I happen to have accomplished and will therefore not have to do. This will be boring for you, the reader, but then again, how much more boring can it get? Is this not the pinnacle of boring? Can one increase infinity by repeating it?

You may be wondering what the things I missed off the list because I have already done them happen to be. I know that I am. Anyone who can see a job which has been finished in this house gets a prize.* E-mail me with your answer. The things I can think of which aren't on the list are vacuuming (can't do that so late at night - it's not as though I have done it recently) and putting liners in the bins (I was being forgetful - I should do that, too). Ooh - the videos and DVDs are all nicely arranged, and my new soap cupboard is tidy on the inside! I feel better already.

Last time Anne came to stay, the spare bedroom was hideous. I shall avoid inflicting a similar situation on her tomorrow by putting Robert in there instead. It's not fair to deprive Anne of the TV until Robert gets out of bed. Anne can go in the front room. Maybe we'll make some soap. That would be both time consuming and useful.

Are you wondering when I will stop blogging and get on with the impossible task I have set for myself? Me too. It is with a heavy heart that I must leave you and go to wrestle with my duvet cover (I feel like last time and the time before when I blogged about this I had deja vu. People who have just read my archives are welcome to comment about whether or not I stated this both times).

*Predictable as this is, the prize may consist of the opportunity to tidy my house.

Monday, 20 October 2008

It is written! And sent off!

Thank goodness for that. Now I wait.

This weekend has been one of ups and downs. HWSNBN escaped to Foreign Parts again, in order that he might be lonely in a hotel room and do Technical Things to foreign computers. He appears to be approximately as happy with this as I would expect him to be, although I cannot rule out a degree of measurement error, insofar as expecting him to have a level of happiness may make me more likely to believe that he is that happy.

I had planned to buy birthday presents for Anne on Saturday, but had to cut my shopping trip short because I wasn't feeling well. Every time I tensed my abdominal muscles (which happens more often than I realised) it hurt. Walking fast uses abdominal muscles, so I slouched around for a while, trying to find the umbrella shop (defunct) or a pretty umbrella (was unsuccessful), before being escorted back to the car by Serena. I then went to sleep on the back seat while she went shopping. I must say, the Jazz is far more comfortable for this type of activity than the Seicento (my previous car) would have been. In fact, should I find myself homeless at any point, let's just say that there are worse cars I could have (i.e. most other cars which are not camper vans).

After my sleep I felt far more human, and we returned to Serena's house for dinner. After dinner, much to my surprise, I felt well enough to go to a party to which we had been invited.

I had not exactly been looking forward to this party; I was a little worried that it would be awkward, and that there would be no crisps that I could eat. Having already eaten dinner, the latter was not likely to be too much of a problem, but the former could make it a waste of an evening. However, I had promised to bring some fire lighting supplies for the back yard, and thought that I should at least make the effort.

Upon arrival, we made our way to the back yard, to be presented with a choice of a barbecue or a dustbin as a vessel for the fire. I expressed my doubts as to the suitability of the dustbin for lighting fires, as I was worried a fire was likely to suffocate itself without holes in the side, but I was overruled. I lined the dustbin with cardboard, put kindling (kindly donated by my next door neighbour) on top, then poured a small bottle of old cooking oil and salad dressing (with a little old garlic and vinegar - for that lovely sharp flavour, rather than because I failed to decant accurately, of course) over the lot, before putting some of the damp branches which made up the majority of the fuel over the top so that they would dry out then hopefully catch light. This was finished off with some alcohol offered to my by one of the hosts.

My first attempt at lighting it did not go well, and extinguished itself after a short while. The second time I tried, I must have approached it from a more advantageous angle, because a small inferno quickly ensued. I get the impression that I started a chip pan fire in this dustbin, and can heartily recommend this method to future pyromaniacs. We could hear the water in the damp wood boiling off, and it all dried out a treat, and burned as though it was created for such an event.

When this had been achieved, I went and got a drink, and was delighted to note that one of the hosts had made gluten-free pizza and brownies. Naturally, I couldn't let this go to waste, and forced some down, despite already having eaten.*

Alas, the evening was over** all too soon. I did not sleep well; I woke up two hours earlier than necessary, which did not please me.

Funnily enough, I was a little tired on Sunday. Church went well from the point of view of everyone who did not particularly want to use a data projector. Alas, I had promised to visit the Parents and Anne for a few hours in the evening, for Anne's birthday celebration. This entails three hours of driving (1 1/2 hours in each direction); not a good idea when overtired and feeling slightly ill. I also needed to go shopping in Liverpool on the way, in order to pick up some actual presents for Anne.

The journey was good, as was Liverpool. It really has improved of late; there are a couple of new, rather upmarket, malls*** containing many wonderful shops. I was able to buy a mug, some socks and an umbrella for Anne, to go with her Death Kitty hoodie. When I gave these to her, she seemed to appreciate the lot of them. It makes me a little sad to be writing this on the Internet, but my twelve-year-old sister is a freak who likes socks and household items, and deems them to be suitable, even exciting, birthday presents. I dread to think what she will appreciate when she is forty. I also hope that her friends do not pick up on this to the extent that she gets a lovely set of designer jars for her 21st birthday from them. Not that I would know about that. Anyway, I have never been particularly interested in socks.

Unfortunately, my parents decided that I was not well enough to drive myself home that evening, and there was nobody else who was going to do it. Fortunately, Louise is still away at University, so I got her bed. I lay across it diagonally, which is my favourite sleeping position, and was most disappointed to be awoken by the alarm clock. I made my way downstairs, said happy birthday to Anne (who was just preparing to go to Alton Towers for the day, with Robert), and had breakfast. Nana then came into the kitchen, so I chatted to her for a little bit. She pretends to understand more than she actually understands (I think it's partly a hearing issue, combined with not wanting to make people repeat things), and is getting more forgetful and vague, but it was great to see her.

Then I went to work, and stayed particularly late. Then I failed do some organ practice. Next, Postgrad group, then home, perhaps washing up, washing and bed.

Still not feeling right, but at least the headache's gone.

Happy birthday, Anne!

*Yes, forced. I am not a greedy, hungry person who can eat dinner and still have room for the same again. Honest. Stop looking at me like that!

**i.e. I was told it was time to return home

***What are these in English, rather than American? I feel a little stupid now.

Friday, 17 October 2008

I love it when a plan comes together

So. This letter. Well, it would appear that it has inched its way closer to completion today, after a massive session with my friend Roxy, who is good at That Sort Of Thing. At least, I assume it was a massive session - it went there on Monday and returned today bearing signs of having been mauled. I took the suggestions on board, tidied it up and printed it out.

I was just about to send it off when I stopped to think: it's Friday today. If I put it in the post now, it will be just the same as if I put it in the post on Monday. In the meantime, everyone will let me know what I have missed out, but I won't be able to do anything about it.

With this in mind, I shall take it to Serena to have a last poke at it tomorrow, and it can go off first thing Monday morning, only a week after I promised I would send it. That makes me look reasonably reliable, doesn't it?

I am feeling a lot happier with life in general. Heather assured me that if I took some B vitamins my life would improve, and that does indeed seem to be the case. Does this suggest that there may be some merit in eating a well-balanced diet?

The thing that worried me most about feeling better was the potential for me to lose momentum to escape from this rut in which I have become well and truly stuck. With this letter about to be sent off, I think that I will have enough momentum to cause some change or other to happen.

If my Cunning Plan of Escapefulness does not work out, I know that I must quickly write up my new, shorter research proposal and look for research assistant funding. I have a person with a record for publishing behind me, so my odds aren't zero.

If that falls through, I can try again for Departmental funding for my PhD next time round.

If that falls though, I can throw it all in and go to be a nun in France.* I like France.

Will keep you updated on Plan 1 - The One With The Letter. If it fails, I can certainly let on what I'm not going to do, and if it succeeds I should say nothing at all for fear of having my sacred anonymity well and truly blown (yes, I am going to be a spy. Bugger. I said too much).

*I may not yet have thought through all of the implications of this. I reserve the right to change this plan without prior notice.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


I have just been reminded of one of my favourite childhood toys: Quadro. Take a look at it. Have a quick explore of the site. Isn't that the most exciting construction toy you could imagine if you were in primary school? It was for me.

I had years of fun making the structures in the booklet, and designing and making my own. Two I remember particularly were a fort (I think) on two levels, which stayed in my bedroom for ages, and a horse (with wheels, so that it could be ridden on). That also stayed made for a very long time. He wasn't exactly a comfortable ride (although I made him a saddle and bridle), nor was he self-propelled (I needed a cooperative friend to make him move), but he was better than no horse at all.

I made him a tail, too - that was wool. It was a bit stringy, but I didn't get the impression that he minded. I drew his eyes and nostrils on with water-soluble crayons. Can you imagine what he looked like? I imagine that you can not - I can't imagine what I would imagine a Quadro horse to look like had I not owned one in the past. Let me enlighten you - he was rather cube-like, with plenty of squareness thrown in for good measure. Enlightened?

One day my friend Anna and I went out with him for a walk. We took him down a particularly bumpy road (not good - he had casters for wheels; they did not like the uneven surface), then down a pavement (not good - he had casters for wheels; they did not like the edges of the paving stones), then to the grassy park (not good - he had casters for wheels; they sank in the mud, then got lots of mud and grass caught in them). All in all, he was declared to be a somewhat disobedient horse. I did get the chance to use my hoof pick on his wheels when the mud dried, though.

I wasn't going to tell you his name; I was profoundly bad at picking names. However, he brought me so much pleasure (I really wanted a horse) that it seems disloyal not to do so.* He was called Souvenir (Souvie for short). At least I spelled it right - more than can be said for Dillan the hobby horse and Messanger the rocking horse. And Texbook the dog.


Today is Louise's 21st birthday. It seems a little pointless to say "Happy Birthday" to her here, as she does not read this blog, but she may do one day - I should make sure this is futureproof. So happy birthday, Louise. Wishing you many years of happiness and a suitable, lucrative career and the opporunity to live with the man of your dreams in a lovely house in London. Oh, and a good degree in the meantime.

*It could be argued that dismantling him was also disloyal. Alas, he was old and in pain. It would have been cruel to make him carry on like that, and I had to make the difficult decision to let him go to a better place.