December 28, 2004

The Great DIY Adventure 

It's a strange world when three days after Christmas you find yourself dressed like Bananarama, covered in plaster, eating a Pot Noodle. For most people the week between Christmas and New Year doesn't involve such ludicrous behaviour but if you're in my flat this week, the chances are you'll be wearing old cut-off jeans, a 1980s U2 T-shirt and you'll be Doing-It-Yourself with more gusto than Rick Waller in a pie shop!

You see this week is officially DIY Week and Dad and I are determined to get my place into a good enough state so that I can move back early January. This is no mean feat as it involves building a make-shift kitchen out of a few bits of wood, a sink, some copper piping and a camping stove, as well as completely gutting and re-decorating a crumbling old living room.

While Superdad donned his magical tool belt and busied himself with the kitchen I made a start on the living room. Virgin Radio was counting down the best all time 500 songs and I was stripping the wallpaper. I found it quite soothing after the stresses and strains of a family Christmas but it all went a bit pear shaped when I started the third wall. The wall literally crumbled all around me as chunks and chunks of plaster started coming away with the paper. By the time I'd finished, my living room looked like the surface of the moon and I seemed to be wearing most of the wall.

The upshot was that yesterday, instead of being Put Lining Paper Up day, it was Learn to Re-Plaster a Wall day. Lots and lots of fun, I asure you! By the afternoon Dad was still struggling with the kitchen and I was tearing my hair out trying to re-plaster a chimney breast. With no kitchen to cook in we had to make do with the offerings of the corner shop and so there I was, day two of our Great DIY Adventure: Ms Jones, Master Plasterer and Pot Noodle Connoisseur.

Like I said, it's a strange world!


December 23, 2004

Spread some tinsle 

I've just come back from doing the Christmas shopping at Sainsbury's and, well, it was Dawn of the Dead meets supermarket sweep... on acid!

There was no mercy, no yuletide spirit. Erstwhile passive grannies elbowed each other in the kidneys for the sake of a bag of parsnips. Exhausted mothers wrestled for the last sprouts and kids screamed and screamed and screamed until even the woman on the tannoy system told them to 'button it or you'll get a clip round the ear".

There were trolly jams everywhere. The grocery section was gridlocked. I had to park at least two aisles and do my fruit and veg shopping in relays, weaving and dodging.

Instead of joy, there was despair. Despair and shopping rage. I was in and out as quickly as possible but not before I'd lost a bit of my precious Christmas spirit. People were missing the point, were too caught up in the stress to enjoy the Christmassy moments all around them. The final straw was at the checkout where I queuing in front of an elderly man with nothing but dog food and whisky in his trolly. Tins and tins of dogfood. Bottles and bottles of whisky

"You know what?" he said. "I reckon that Scrooge was onto something, you know."

I smiled and nodded towards the Pedigree Chum. "At least your dog will have a good Christmas."

"I hope so," he replied, sadly. "It's just the two of us this year."

Ladies and gentlemen, when you're sat all snuglly round your lovely tree, when you're sharing gifts with family and friends and when you're tucking into a lovely dinner, spare a thought for those people whose Christmases won't be as tinsley as ours!


December 22, 2004

By Popular Request... 

A Ditty, by Ms Jones

They asked for a ditty
Who am I to decline?
They'll bay for my blood
If I step out of line

I'm not in control
The readers decide
They've asked me for something
I must therefore provide

Let's take a look back
At my recent ordeals
Life turned into a gremlin
And bit hard at my heals

First went the job
In a big puff of smoke
Not that it mattered
It was a bit of a joke

They say that the heavens
Have a lot to provide us
So why give my car
To those pesky joyriders?

And what about the money
I spent on my roofing
And all the bad news
About my damp-proofing?

Well it all worked out fine
The flat's water-tight
Apart from my bedroom
That still looks like shite!

Oh and I need a new kitchen
But that's all okay
Because my handy-man father
Is coming to stay

Professional Progress?
That's coming on fine
I'm starting a job
That's only part-time

The rest of the week
I can spend working on
Becoming all of those things
I dreamt I'd become

So that's about it
And now that Christmas is near
May your spirit be tinsley
And have a happy new year!


December 20, 2004

A Bridge Too Far? 

"A blob? What the hell is a blob?"

"Not a blob. A BLOG. I've got a blog."

"Really? What does it do?"

"It doesn't DO anything. It's like a website and I write stuff on it."

"Why's it called a blog? That's a stupid name. Blog. Sounds like something a plumber would need."

"It's short for 'web log', you see? WEB... LOG... Blog. You can publish stuff on it, like short stories, or pictures, you know...little ditties."

"'ITTLE DITTIES? Pffffffff! That phrase died with Moses, surely!"

"Look, it's like a website, and I write stuff on it and people read it and they leave comments and I read theirs and I leave comments too!"

"But, what's the point?"

"Argh, never mind! It's nearly kick off. Pass me a chip."

"So, are you going to give me the URL?"



"Whatever. It's your round."


December 13, 2004


Three of them, one of me and no, this wasn't Pimms O'Clock, this was an interview.

I was taken into a comfortable looking room where three people sat side by side. I took my place opposite them and smiled. They picked up their lists (please note the plural) of questions and the interview began.

I hadn't expected such a formal affair but looking back, it makes sense. The position is funded by the council and so for the sake of accountability they had to do everything by the book. There was no discussion, no conversation, no exchange of ideas. Instead they took it in turn to ask me a series of questions.


The problem with this interview style is that I can never judge when to stop replying. You see, I start talking and they nod and smile and cock their heads to one side but they don't say anything back. So I keep talking, answering the question six or seven times using different phrases and metaphors, plucking words out of the sky that I have never used before.

Eventually I realise I've been babbling and so my answer just kind of trickles out and I say something lame or innappropriate at the end to wrap things up.

Take the penultimate question:

"The job has a heavy workload but is only 17.5 hours a week. It will require high levels of organisation. How organised are you, Ms Jones?"

I began confidently, detailing how my previous role required project management skills, which in turn demanded good organisation. Then I went on to talk about multi-tasking in a public relations role. I quite possibly should have left it there, but my mind and mouth weren't connecting and so I carried on, babbling and babbling and babbling, words pouring out in no apparant order. I decided to sum up:

"...and so, as you can see, I have demonstrated the need for good organisation in my previous roles." And almost as an afterthought: "Oh, but I wouldn't call myself anally retentive, though!"

Anally retentive? FUCK SHIT FUCK!!! Did I just make reference to the back-passage in an interview? An interview for a charity? Did I? Did I?

I would appear so.

I got the job, though, so it can't have been all bad!


December 08, 2004

Indiana Jonesy and the Temple of Colon Point 

When you're up Shit Creek, you've just got to hope that your paddle is a good one. With any luck it will be made from high molecular polymers and have a large symmetrical blade with a dihedral front face. You're on to a winner if it has a composite shaft with an index grip on the control side and generous dip rings for that extra comfort of dry arms. Honestly, you are.

If I've not been around much, it's because I've been expending much of my energy battling up Shit Creek, the currents of which have been trying to pull me back over Faeces Falls into Lake Turd. Lake Turd, as you can imagine, is a place I'd rather not end up. My paddle cost so much that I couldn't afford one of those Personal Floating Devices and the idea of death by excrement doesn't hold much appeal.

It looks like I might have reached the half way point on my quest to find The Golden Temple of Job Satisfaction, which according to ancient myth lies just West of Colon Point, the legendary source of Shit Creek itself. According to the secret map given to me by local tribesmen, just around the next bend lies the Sacred Shrine of Part-Time Employment. Here I will be subject to two trials of endurance known as Interviews.

If I pass either of these trials, the Gods of Kayaking will bestow upon me an outboard motor. Hopefully this will have CD Ignition for quick starts and either Loop Charged or Cross Flow Induction for smooth trolling. However, they will only provide me with enough two-stroke for half of my journey. I will still need my paddle.

But like I said, I've got a good one. Let's just hope my arms hold out!


December 07, 2004

Working From Home 

I overhear the tail-end of a conversation my sister is having with someone or other:

"Great. That should be fine. Yes. I'm working from home this week so I'm pretty flexible. I'll be in."

My sister and I are both self-employed, she as an actress and me as a writer. Our days pass by as follows:

9am: My sister wakes up. I hear her move around the flat and hope she makes tea.

9.05am: My sister starts cleaning something.

9.15am: I get up and make tea. My sister goes online to check her emails for potential work and to make a few phonecalls

9.20am: I bring in the tea pot, two cups and sit down to look through the paper for part-time work. I ask her if she has had any luck with her emails and she replies that she hasn't.

9.40am: We swap seats. My sister makes tea. I go online, check my emails for any sign of work and sweep the jobsites for part-time jobs.

9.50am: My sister brings in the tea pot, two cups. She asks me if I've had any luck. I reply that I haven't.

10am: I talk about going for a run. My sister talks about doing some yoga. One of us makes tea.

Working from home, it's a bit of catch-all term, isn't it?


December 04, 2004

Sadistic Physio Therapy 

Now this I hadn't anticipated.

I was lying on the physio bench. She was massaging my bum.

"You see the problem is, Ms Jones, is that your legs are strong, and so is your upper back, but have no real core strength, so your lower back is bearing the brunt and your pelvis is being pulled all over the place when you run causing tenderness around your sacro-iliac joint."

"I... I see."

Clearly I didn't.

"Hurts, doesn't it?"

"Yep," I managed through gritted teeth, my eyes squeezed tightly shut.

"That's because the muscles from your back are attached to the muscles in your bottom, right about where the sciatic nerve sits".


"This causes the shooting pains in your buttock and up the right side of your back."

She jabbed at my arse with her knuckles to demonstrate.

"Ouch!!!!" I exclaimed

"Exactly. Just like that. Okay. Now, up on your hands and knees. That's it. Lift your right leg up. Higher, higher, bit more. Bend at the knee, back flat, stomach in, pelvis straight. Hold for ten and SQUEEZE your pelvic floor. One, Two, SQUEEZE IT!!!. That's it. Three, Four, Five. Good. Six. YOU'RE DROPPING YOUR PELVIS. KEEP SQUEEZING! Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. Not bad for the first time. Now, on your back, legs straight in front of you. Take your right leg, bend it and pull the knee over towards the floor next to your left side. Further, FURTHER. Come on! You're NOT trying!!! FURTHER!!! It won't get better if you DON'T PUSH YOURSELF! Okay. That's good. I think we can call it there. Now, you need to do those exercises twice a day and go for a ten minute run every other day, squeezing your pelvic floor ALL THE TIME. Meanwhile I'll book you in for another appointment. Same time next week?"

Not fucking likely, you crazy, psycho, bitch-whore!


December 02, 2004

There's one for you, nineteen for me 

I really didn’t feel like doing much this morning and so I took my pyjamas, my duvet and myself to the sofa and watched a DVD.

It was lovely to be snuggled up with a cup of tea watching a film about football knowing that all my friends were at work with hangovers and I wasn’t. Freedom – the upside to self-employment! I contemplated texting some of them to let them know what I was up to, but I thought that would be a little rude given that they'd paid for all my drinks last night. Poverty – the downside!

My comfortable reverie was suddenly broken by someone knocking at the front door. I dragged myself up with a bit of a grump and answered it.

“Morning,” said a middle-aged man with a white beard and a briefcase. “My name is Mr Taxman from the Inland Revenue. I'm here for your Introduction to Self-Employment meeting." He looked at my attire. "We arranged it last week, you know, to help you set up your records, explain self-assessment and talk you through the key taxation laws that apply to you. You were expecting me, weren’t you?”

"Of course!!!” I lied. “Come in, come in. I was just, you know, sorting, you know, er, some stuff out and well, erm... Oooooh, isn’t it chilly? You must want a nice hot drink.” I led him to the study. “Sit down. Let me just move those CDs out of the way. That’s better. Tea? Coffee?”

“Coffee please. White with none. But we haven’t got much time. We’ll need to get started as soon as we can.”

“SURE,” I overcompensated. “No problem. I’ll be RIGHT back.”

I shut the kitchen door behind me and put the kettle on.

“FUCK SHIT BOLLOCKS FUCK ARSE WANK BOLLOCKS FUCK FUCK FUCK,” I swore under my breath as I reached for the Instant from the cupboard. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU FUCKING FORGOT THE TAXMAN WAS COMING YOU COMPLETELY INCOMPETANT FUCKING BUFFOON. Don't panic! Stay calm! Your pyjamas, well they could easily pass for some kind of yoga-esque casual house wear. EASILY. He probably hasn’t even noticed. I mean, he’s about sixty. He’ll think it’s some sort of newfangled fashion. You’ll be fine!”

I composed myself, took him his drink and sat down opposite him.

“So, Ms Jones." He peered at me over his glasses. "It says here that you registered as self-employed last week and that you intend to be a... freelance writer.” He spat the words out with a patronising sneer.

“Yes, that’s right,” I replied, mustering as much confidence as I could.

“In that case," he sniffed, "perhaps you should consider getting dressed before you meet with any editors. Wearing pyjamas might well detract from your sales pitch! Shall we start?"



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