Thursday, October 30, 2008

We carved the pumpkin out tonight

I'd love to tell you this was it, but that would be a lie. Have a good one, whatever way you choose to celebrate (or not) the festival.

And if you're nearby, please feel free to call in on Saturday morning for a cup of coffee in aid of Tear Fund.

If you're not nearby, I'm still happy to accept your money!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Impulse buying

I took the mini convertible in for a routine service last week ...

... and came home with a brand new one!
Here they are, old mini mouse(black) and new mini sidewalk (white)

I should say, that I have subsequently been confined to barracks

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gilbert who?

I am just home from a Gilbert O'Sullivan concert. It was a slightly disconcerting experience, as I actually thought I was going to see Gilbert & Sullivan, which, granted, might only have been marginally better, but whose music I am probably relatively infinitely more familiar with.

Mr O'Sullivan was appearing as part of the Belfast Festival at Queens, and as an old (old, old) boy of the University, my other half received an alumni email this week offering him free tickets to the show. Big, big warning sign there folks. Free tickets; not a competition to win tickets, or a draw for tickets, but free tickets - as many as he wanted!

We had to collect our free tickets at the door, so I joined the queue of other people collecting their free tickets and very quickly established that everybody at the concert seemed to be there on the free ticket scheme, with no one actually arriving at the venue with a £25 ticket and walking straight into the main hall.

Once I got the tickets, I noticed with absolute horror that we had seats in row A. However, the nice lady on the door told us we could sit anywhere we wanted, so we chose the back row. Or at least the back row that was in use, which was actually the sixth row!

I didn't recognise one song the whole way through the first hour, and at the end of the hour, when O'Sullivan took his bow, I got up to leave. Unfortunately, this was only the interval, and although they locked the doors so that no one could vacate the building, I do think old Gilbert took opportunity to write a few more songs during the tea break, as the second half of the concert was slightly longer.

I should say that most of the audience looked like they were on a day pass to be there, (my own companion fell asleep during song three) and can anyone tell me why the ones with the weakest bladders always sit in the front row?

Finally, two songs before the end, I was raised from my stupor by the familiar sound of this little ditty I remembered from many moons ago. I got momentarily so excited I nearly had to make a dash for the toilets myself. And then it was over.

To be fair, Mr O'Sullivan gave a good concert. And he was delighted with the crowd because, when he last performed in Belfast, it appears that there were only about 10 people turned up!

Obviously nobody told him Queens had emailed everyone who had ever attended, worked at or even walked past the University in the past 25 years and offered them free tickets to be there and still could only fill a third of the venue. But hey, who am I ...????

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Roll up, sign in!

In the not-too-distant future, my little blog will have it's 10,000th hit! Did you ever believe there were that many idiots with nothing better to do of a day in the world??

To celebrate this stupendously momentous event, I feel another little giveaway coming on. There will be a 'little something' for whoever is the 10,000th visitor (according to the Sitemeter statistics for this site) to these ramblings.

So come all you anonymous regular readers, I know you're there - now's the time to sign in and identify yourselves!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why ..

.. does my mum think that, when asked the question 'who is your favourite celebrity chef?' I shouldn't have answered Colonel Saunders?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heathrow Airport

First of all, can I say this airport is to be avoided at all costs. It only takes you 50 minutes to fly there from Belfast, but then you spend 35 minutes flying round and round and round in the skies above it waiting to land.

Oh, and when you do land (ahead of schedule, because the schedules are all super inflated to allow for the 35 minutes holding time), they will congratulate themselves on being 10 minutes ahead of schedule, but then inform you that you can't actually get off the plane for another 15 minutes because they need to find steps and a coach to take you to the terminal.


I was over in London for a rugby match. Pause for a moment and picture the scene. 500 Ulster rugby supporters marching through the leafy streets of Twickenham led by those brandishing 'flegs' (flags), only, because you can no longer take your flegpole on your flight, these flegs were attached to bamboo canes, broom handles and mops (yes, mops!) purchased from the local hardware store. Or maybe the bamboo canes were purloined from local gardens, who knows.

Even more amusing than this sight was the look on the opponents supporters faces when, at the end of the match, they were offered gifts of bamboo sticks, broom handles and mops to take home with them!

Anyway, I digress. So I was in London and I flew into and out of Heathrow airport. But because I'm getting there in the most cost and time efficient way, I flew in with one airline (BMI) ... and home with another (Aer Lingus). Makes perfect sense to me.

But not, unfortunately, to the man who recognised me from the BMI flight into Heathrow and subsequently decided it was a good plan to follow me through the airport on the way home to the departure gate. Even the sight of the big green plane at the gate instead of the big blue plane we'd had on the way over didn't seem to warn him of impending doom.

By the time he realised, and had asked me were we in the right place, his flight had more than likely departed. Last seen charging out the no exit doors at gate 78, pursued by a hefty looking security man and probably soon to be seen on an episode of 'Airport'.

I feel a bit guilty! I hope he got home. Eventually.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Titter titter

A doctor walks into a bank totally exhausted after a 20 hour shift.

Preparing to write a cheque, she pulls a rectal thermometer out of her handbag and tries to write with it. She looks at the flabbergasted cashier and without missing a beat says

"Well that's great, that's just great! Some arsehole's got my pen!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

(You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy)

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary')

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.'

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776)

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Excusez-moi, une photo s'il vous plait?

I had the digital SLR with the super dooper telescopic lens with me yesterday at the match and spent the afternoon studying art :-)

After the game the the father of a young friend saw me loitering with the camera and asked could I take a picture of his son with his hero Bergamasco when he appeared. Of course I was happy to oblige.

Eventually he comes out of the changing room and chats to my friend and his dad and I'm standing waiting to take the photo, but he starts to move away. I frantically make eye contact with dad, who is mouthing 'NO!' and I'm thinking 'didn't he ask if he would have his picture taken? Did he ask and did Bergamasco say no!'

And still dad is mouthing 'NO!' and making slashing signs with his hand across his neck and I'm thinking I'm not letting him away with a no, so I tottle over, grab Bergamasco (gently - he's a big lad!) by the elbow, indicate towards my young friend and in my best French ask him can I have a photograph.

'Certainement' came the enthusiastic reply which has me thinking what was all the fuss about dad?!

So I take a few shots of them all, but as I have run out of French and am too in awe to speak anyway, give him my best smile and a thumbs up to indicate I am done and off he goes.

At which point dad appears at my side laughing. It was the wrong Bergamasco. I had accosted Mirco, when in actual fact my friends hero was his brother, Mauro . So ... I got to do it all again :-)

As a sad Post Script to this post, I know some of you have been logging in looking for my photos from the game. It appears that the memory card I used was damaged and I cannot access the photos. What an absolute travesty it will be if an entire afternoons efforts have been lost. I have not given up hope of retrieving them yet though

I had some absolute corkers, especially of David Attoub, who posed for me for 5 minutes when the camera jammed (honest, it did!) and who is my new all time favourite prop forward.

Take it from me ... Pink IS beautiful!

Friday, October 10, 2008

How was it for you?

Goodness, I've had one of the most stressful World Mental Health days ever!

First of all, work was manic. Suffice to say there'll be a full moon tonight, and anyone who teaches knows exactly what I mean by that!

Second of all, my beloved motor mini mouse conked out not 2 minutes away from work ... on the way home. So I did what all sensible, mature, grown woman do in that situation and sent for my dad.

Third of all, while I was sitting in the car, in the rain, hazard lights flashing, waiting for Dad to arrive I was approached by a policeman. Now, maybe I'm a product of my Belfast upbringing, but I still get a tad nervous everytime I am approached by the police.

It's not so much a fear that they will caution or even section me, but more that someone taking a pot-shot at them will miss and get me instead! Anyway, I was reduced to a quivering wreck and was actually heard to utter the word 'ossifer' during our brief exchange of words.

To cap it all, tonight I took the Dolly shopping for clothes. And I have noone to blame but myself for that one.

Mais, je suis heureuse parce que les hommes du Stade Francais a Paris sont ici demain. Ohhhh la la!

In the meantime, I'm off to bed with a good book and a mug of tea. Bon soir!

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

A little advice from someone who found herself standing in the shower one morning, fully dressed, but who has gradually (over two and a half years) been clawing her way back to relative normality and sanity - don't ever take your mental health for granted.

Now, have a great day!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Feel your Boobies!

Better still, get someone else to feel them for you :-)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wishing my life away

  • 4 days until my next 'work-free' day
  • 5 days until the men from Stade appear in Belfast
  • 8 days until my next pay cheque
  • 12 days until my trip to London
  • 17 days until the Halloween holidays
  • 29 days until the next book club meeting
... and only 61 days until Sing Swing! Now that's scary!!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I've sent my husband to Poland

Some years ago I went to Poland for a summer to teach English. It was during the time of Lech Wałęsa and Solidarność, a very eventful time in a very beautiful country.

It was a summer of many superb experiences, excitement and fantastic sights, but the one unforgettable experience was a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps.

I thought I understood the horrors of what happened during the war, but I very quickly learnt on a sunny day in August in a quiet corner of Poland that I knew nothing.

Several memories from Auschwitz are as clear today as if I had been there yesterday. Like watching in sadness the film that was shown of the Russian army 'liberating' the Poles at the end of the war. How particularly poignant that was in those early days of political change.
Like the smell of the hair cut from the Jews that was housed behind a glass wall in a display that stretched the length of one of the huts. Or the tiniest of little white baby dresses, simply pinned out in a glass-topped wooden display case.

The mountain of dumped suitcases, most with labels still attached, hand written by those who thought they were going to work, not to death. The sound of an old Jewish man sitting playing a violin outside one of the many, many huts.

And the rows and rows and rows of photographs of people who had passed through the camps. From ceiling to floor along both walls in every hut. Black and white images of men, women and children, shaved and robed in striped overalls. It all started to look the same, until the third or fourth hut we went into, where in the distance something red caught the eye.

As we got closer we saw it was a single red rose, tucked behind a photograph of an old man. And that's when you realise, this was someones father, brother, son, grandfather, uncle, cousin, husband. A real person, not just a photograph on a wall.

If the sights, sounds and smells of Auschwitz stunned us into silence, nothing prepared us for the trip across to Birkenau.

Here we saw the true extent of the deception that was carried out as Jews got off the train. Work camp to the left, death to the right.

I will never forget the size, scale and number of gas chambers, the mass communal graves and more than anything else, the eerie silence all around. I remember standing at the end of the train track, looking to my right and seeing row after row of huts. And beyond the rows of decrepit huts, where the worse buildings had been demolished, the chimney stacks remained, as far as the eye could physically see.

I know from hearing other peoples accounts from recent visits that Auschwitz-Birkenau has changed quite a bit since I was there. You can no longer wander round freely as we did, for example, and at Birkenau they have cordoned off the original huts and built replicas housing displays instead.

However, the impact that a visit to this place has on you will never change.

I recommend The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Silver Sword and The Book Thief as three pieces of fiction which cover the events of the holocaust and the plight of the Jews in three very different ways; read all three - it's worth taking the time to do that.

But I strongly believe everyone should see Auschwitz-Birkenau firsthand, that's why I've sent my other half to Krakow this weekend, and urge you if at all possible to go too.