Friday, 26 February 2010

Moving.....again, and the Winter Rooftop BBQ

I'm moving....again.

Back in with the parentals again. This time comes in many a young persons life, having flown the nest for a couple of years, circumstance will almost always conspire to take you back to the bosom of your loving family for a while, sometimes on more than one occasion.

My circumstances involve 3 months travelling (incidentally, in answer to Jamies question in the comments some time ago, yes I will be blogging whilst I'm away, you can follow over on Fly Away With Me, my travel blog). Ma and pa are kindly taking me back in for a month before I go away and when I come back until I find my feet again. I'm moving in this coming weekend, so all may be quiet for a few days.

I should be packing as we speak, but I'm the kind of person who need 'the fear'. Dad is arriving at 9am on Saturday, I'll probably finish my packing at roughly, 8:45am Saturday morning.

In fact, I'll probably still be packing when he arrives......

Enough of that! Depending on how traumatic it is I'll give you the lowdown sometime next week.

On Friday I attended a winter rooftop BBQ. Is it still officially winter? Are we in Spring yet? I've lost all track of time and season. It certainly felt like winter that's for sure.

This is Kayleigh and Toms place may remember them, they're the gerbil people...a flicker of recognition, I knew you'd remember. Just to remind you, Kayles and Tom live in a lovely little studio. In the set of flats they're in, they're the only ones with their own bathroom, huge tub, lovely. It's a very cosy little place, and every time Kayles has a gathering she starts to fret about how she'll fit everyone in, but it always turns out fine.

It started off pretty quiet, but more people turned up and Rob even turned up with the second half of the BBQ eventually! Huzzah!! Just when people were starting to get hungry too, what timing eh?

Kayles mate from uni....also called Kayleigh, which was convenient because I'm RUBBISH with names...came along with her mate Dillon. Dillon turned out to be a hero BBQ master! At every BBQ there's always someone who emerges as the master and Dillon filled those shoes perfectly. I was in awe and spent most of my time standing outside staring into the embers in fascination, soaking up the testosterone.

The food was cooked to perfection, most BBQ's I've been to are of the typical British variety where you're served up offerings fitting one of two categories:

- Raw to the point where you may have just scraped it off the pig

- Charred to the point where the sausages, burgers and chicken become entirely indistinguishable from one another in both appearance and taste.

Despite Kayleigh being upset that many people had dropped out, I thought the company was great, and not many more people would have fitted comfortably into the room. I noted definite emperor penguin type behaviour, with people rotating between the roof terrace and the flat. All very altruistic! Toms mates John and Leon turned up, Toms brother Rob and his mate Rich, Kayles mates Sasha, Lorraine, Kayleigh and Dillon. Have I forgotten anyone? I apologise muchly if I have.

The entertainment was also excellent. Tom is a Dee-Jay...did I get that right? He and his mates spent much of the night mixing tracks. There were two MASSIVE speakers out on the roof terrace blaring music into the night....which led to what must have been the highlight of the evening.....

At one point in the evening most of us were out on the roof tucking into lovely burgers and hotdogs etc, when we noticed a guy down on the pavement who was dancing to the music like he was in a trance club. We pointed him out to each other..he seemed completely oblivious to us and totally into the music, we wondered whether he was on something.

Tom's mate Luke arrived in the middle of all this and we pointed the dancing man out to this point he'd been there at least ten minutes....Luke looked over and laughed, then said 'hang on a sec....that's my cousin!' We thought he was kidding until he called out the guys name and he looked up, waved and headed towards the pub (this place is above a pub by the way).

Luke ran downstairs to meet him, but, and this is the most surreal moment of the night, as I was chatting away to Kayleigh and some others, I suddenly saw him emerge onto the roof over a wall. He'd just climbed up the wall! Like some kind of SpiderPig.


He stayed a while, and for your enjoyment here's a little vid of Tom and Luke on the decks and the other Tom (I believe that was his name but as I said...bad memory for names) dancing away in the background.

Classic, great evening!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Try, FAIL, and A New Tattoo

I tried to do a lovely winter rooftop BBQ post for you, but the video I want to add WON'T UPLOAD ON YOUTUBE!!

Miserable fail :o(

In addition, my landlord Grant just told me that he has a problem.....a problem with my face!

Well, Grant! I've got a problem with you breathing! So there!

On the upside....I've been wanting a tattoo that represents my family for ages, and I finally got it :). Now, I know my father has recently taken to reading my blog quite regularly and I'm sure that the fact it's for the family still won't make him like it, but DADDEH, IT'S FOR YOU!!

Love you :o)

Ok, so before I put up the (really BAD) photo, I'll explain what it means.

The four big spirals are Maori koru. The symbol comes from the koru fern in New Zealand, the new fronds are formed as spirals and unfurl into fern leaves. As such, the koru is a symbol of new life and strength.

When you put two or more koru together, it represents a loving bond or relationship between that number of people. So my four koru represent my loving family.

Here it is.....taking pictures of your own forearm is nigh on impossible, so please forgive the very dodgy photography. I'll get someone to take a nicer one sometime soon :)

I love it, and most people that have seen it seem to too :o). It seems to be healing well *touch wood* and is pwiddy :)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Chinese New Year London Stylee

As promised, I headed into taaan for the Chinese New Year celebrations this weekend. I've never visited central London during the celebrations before and I wasn't sure what to many people?

I was a little shocked I must say. The main performances etc were being held in Trafalgar Square. Firecrackers, dotting the Dragons eyes in a ceremony that 'brings them to life', dragon dancing, lion dancing and all kinds of other displays. It all kicked off at 12pm and I thought I'd turn up around that time.


When I hit Trafalgar Square I was amazed at the sheer number of people who had come out for the day, especially given the rather nasty damp weather. There was no hope of getting anywhere close to the stage, it was a struggle to even get down into the square proper. Everywhere were red helium-filled balloons and people with mini dragons-on-sticks. Red chinese lanterns adorned just about every wall or railing. Kids (and some girlfriends) were lifted onto shoulders to enjoy the show.

I could hear stuff, but couldn't see anything for love nor after a short bimble around and a couple of photos I decided to make my way to China Town where there was bound to be some bits and bobs going on.

As I approached China Town I could hear the sound of drumming and followed my ears to a small side street where a large crowd had gathered. From within the crowd I could hear the drumming, and then over their heads I saw two chinese dragons cavorting around in the street outside the local shops.

From my dodgy vantage point, all of a sudden, I saw shredded cabbage leaves being thrown into the audience....WTF??

After becoming a sheep and following the crowd around for a little while I figured out what was going on. The dragons were stopping outside every shop that had hung a cabbage outside. Attached to the cabbage was a red envelope that contained money. The dragon did his dance outside the shop doorway and then 'reared up' to grab the cabbage and the envelope. He then proceeded to shred the cabbage to bits and 'spit' it out all over the audience and in front of the shop.

I later found out that this ritual is called 'the picking of the greens'. In chinese mythology, dragons are meant to scare away evil spirits, so to have a dragon visit your establishment is to ensure good fortune and prosperity for the coming year.

Unfortunately I couldn't get close enough to get a decent video of the whole ritual, but I was lucky enough to be in the line of fire when the dragons finished in one street and lolloped around to the next, they came straight past me. And later on I caught them with a man actually dangling a cabbage from the first floor of his restaurant, I got some pics of that.

Waiting for the dragon

Nom Nom Cabbage!

Cabbage eating dragons....why don't WE have fascinating festivals and rituals like this? No imagination!

I also fell prey to the mood of the day and found myself purchasing an absolutely beautiful white chinese-style tunic top with an embroidered peacock on the front. NOT to be worn whilst drinking red wine. Beautiful it is. When I have camera batteries again I'll take a pic!

It was great seeing so many people out celebrating. Chinese food stand lined the streets, and one couple had dressed their small son in traditional chinese dress. He looked like a little prince, utterly gorgeous and cute.

Ironically, I then went and had dinner in Bella Italia...for a sociable person I canny stand crowds!!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Still Time To Vote

Oh...and there's still time to vote on your choice of comedy British dance for the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony. Check out your options here, and vote in the little widget to the right there....just there, see it?

Maybe if I get enough votes I'll send it to the Olympic Commitee for fun. I think I'll send it anyway, they'll need some cheering up, what with having to deal with whatever overbearing designer convinced them to build that excuse for accomodation I see around the 02.....bless.

Fish Slapping is winning so far, Monty Python is timeless after all!!

Beast of Walthamstow?

I'm a bit of a window-gazer...I'll admit

I have no reason to be, I'm hardly a prisoner in my own home, I'm out there causing trouble more often than most people would like.

But just now, as I was gazing moronically through the double glazing, as is my way, I saw the shadow of what looked like a suspiciously large cat roaming over the rooftops of the houses across the way.

MAYBE this was merely a trick of the light, perhaps a friendly neighbourhood dog has taken up noctural freerunning, or those foxes I hear shagging in the garden have taken a step towards spicing up their lovemaking.

'How about gravity Hettie? I've heard that dangling your front-bottom in the breeze makes for wonderful orgasm'.


I'm not too proud to admit my windows will be firmly shut tonight, not the kind of beast I want in my bedroom thankee very muchly! Beggars...choosers :D

'yes, lovely dahling, just.....clip those claws next time, Kthxbai!'

Strangely I was being freaked out by (quite possibly) imagined feline, Mini Sprogs was being freaked out by (unimagined) loser across the railway shining a laser pen through her window (she'd just talen her top off). The sight of Nicki's bewbies would be enough to send anyone into a mad frenzy, but this is just silly!!

Dad went into the garden and shone a torch threateningly into the window of the laser-perve. Go Daddy!

Nightime nonsense :)

I'll be back soon with a decent post I promise, nighty night for now :)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Some Wise Words

A post by James over at The Buddhist Blog caught my attention today and directed me to an interview between Oprah and Thich Nhat Hanh, an 85 year old Zen Master from Vietnam.

James posts his own favourite quote from the interview which you can find in it's entirety here, but I'd like to post my own favourite, one that resonated quite strongly with me:

'I know that we do not know enough. We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality. When you climb a ladder and arrive on the sixth step and you think that is the highest, then you cannot come to the seventh. So the technique is to abandon the sixth in order for the seventh step to be possible. And this is our practice, to release our views. The practice of nonattachment to views is at the heart of the Buddhist practice of meditation. People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don't suffer anymore.'

I've always been a judgemental person with strongly held views, I've identified it in myself as I've grown up and I try VERY hard to recognise those times when I'm leaping to judge, and to stop. However, it'll take time because it's so ingrained, often you're not even conscious of it. I'll keep working at that.

I also love his illustration of the leap of faith it sometimes takes to push yourself past your comfort zone, past the boundaries that you've built up for yourself. You have to let go of what you know in order to discover what you don't.

So much in buddhism is common sense, if only we'd stop to think about it for a second.


Today I was caught outside the toilets in a restaurant, by a member of staff, performing a grotesque hip-thrusting dance.

I may also have been producing a noise comparable to a donkey in considerable pain.

I'm glad I was on my way out.

Allow me to explain.

I quite enjoy embarrassing my sister when we're out together...only a little bit. She's easily embarrassed so it usually doesn't take TOO much shameful behaviour on my part to illicit a satisfying reaction. If I'm ever going to do anything really embarrassing I tend to do it in a quiet place with only the slight risk of discovery by anyone alien.

Today Nicki and I went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, as Nicki's reward for bringing me my she's a bit poor, we need to keep her from withering away.

At the end of the meal we decided to visit the 'facilities' to perform our ablutions before we made our separate ways home. The toilets are a bit sad and there's one for both sexes, then one disabled one. I baggsied the men/women one, finished first and waited for Nicki in the little toilet foyer bit.

As she emerged, I realised I had a bit of an underwear issue going on. Butt-mining knickers, you know what I mean laydeez.

Under the circumstances, any normal person would have discretely removed said undergarments from said orifice and moved on.

Not I.

I grabbed said undergarments, and performed a series of simultaneous yanking/hip-thrusting movements, whilst honking like a donkey.

Nicki looked on in horror and said 'You DO know that staff sometimes come through he.........'

At which point the door behind us opened and I immediately ceased and started laughing in a strange mixture of amusement, embarrassment and defiance. I turned around to face my shame, to my relief the guy was just grinning and proceeded to hold the door open for us in a polite gesture of 'get the hell out of here'.

By the time Nicki and I got outside we were practically wetting ourselves...we could hear the guy laughing behind us as he FOLLOWED us to the door...presumably to make sure we left.

I succeeded in convincing myself that he was merely laughing at us laughing and that he hadn't actually seen anything....until Nicki informed me that there had been a window in the door.

Ho Hum

It's All Coming Together

Ahhh, the thing I've been most concerned about is sorted. The reason I know I've been concerned is because I've almost been ignoring it...the possibility of it not being sorted out on time was just too horrible to I ignored it.

My passport has finally arrived!

I haven't wasted £1200 on tickets to Asia that won't be used!

Thank F**k.

Now I can organise Visas and internal flights because I have once again been reduced to a number. Lovely.

*Real time - just had to go outside and check out a massive crash I just heard...crossing my fingers that it wouldn't be someone with 2 broken legs having tried to carry an airtable down the stairs single-handed. It was ok*

So ladies and gents. I can really get moving on this trip planning now! Things I need to sort out in the next couple of weeks (as well as packing to move home):

Vietnam Visa
Cambodia Visa (can get at the border..but apparently overcharging is rife)
Australia Visa
Flight from Luang Prabang to Hanoi
Flight from Siem Reap to Bali
Malaria Pills
Backup cashcard

I'm sure the list goes on and on, but I need to consult my mindmap!! I think I'm gonna be spending some serious money tonight...joyous joy.

Recently a few people have been asking me about my itinerary. I think if my dad could get away with it he'd actually inject me with some kind of nanoscopic GPS device. Here's a rough outline of my plans, they're not set in stone because to do so just invites stress when it all goes wrong! If I have enough time over the next few weeks I'll do one of my fabled google maps.

Apart from Thailand and Indonesia I'm planning on spending about 2 weeks in each SE Asian country, give or take. Thailand will be quick, and Indonesia will be 3-4 weeks:

5th April - Land in Bangkok and stay a coupla nights in the Shanti Lodge about 15 mins from Kho San Road. Stock up on bits and bobs.

7th April - Overnight train to Chiang Mai, stay a few nights in Chiang Mai Spicy Hostel

10th April stay over in Chiang Khong ready to cross into Laos and catch the 2 day slowboat to Luang Prabang at 8am.

12th April, land in Luang Prabang where I'll stay for about 12 days. Whilst I'm here I'll be doing some volunteering at Big Brother Mouse, some trekking near Luang Nam Tha, boat trips to waterfalls and caves. But best of all, I'll be there in time for Lao New Year, the biggest festival of the year. Waterfights, parades and alms giving will ensue, it's going to be fantastic!

24thish April - fly to Hanoi where I'll stay for maybe just under a week, taking a couple of days to visit Ha Long Bay and spend a night on a junk boat.

From here on in I have no specific dates!

Train Southbound through Vietnam and depending on the amount of time I have or don't have, I'd like to stop in Hoi An for a few days. It's a smaller city and would be a welcome change from Hanoi, and the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City which I'm about to hit.

I'll stay in Ho Chi Minh City long enough to visit a couple of museums that I'd like to see, but I think the madness might be a bit much for me, so I'll move swiftly onto Cambodia.

I'll enter Cambodia at the southernmost border crossing between Xa Xia and Prek Chek where I'll catch a moto to Kep on the coast. I'll recover from the madness of Vietnam on the beach eating crab and drinking beer....nom.

Bus from Kep, through Phnom Penh (again, if I have enough time I may stop for a night or two) and onto Siem Reap where I'll spend a weekish exploring Angkor Wat.

Fly to Bali! Bali Bali.....

Almost immediately I'll probably then fly to Lombok where I can embark upon a few days touring various islands and soak up the Hindu culture.

Back to Bali for a day or two before heading over to Java on the ferry.

I'll do the thing to do and visit Mount Bromo, getting there just in time to watch the sunrise over the incredible volcanic scenery, before I move onto Yogyakarta, the cultural and religious heart of Java. I intend on chilling out here for a while before I train/bus up to Jakarta in time for my flight to Sydney leaving on the 17th June. (Where did May go?)

Touch down in Sydney on the 18th June and spend a week getting drunk with Linda, Neil and possibly Wilf if he makes it out, chilling out, visiting superb places and generally having a good time.

Fly home on the 25th June.

I simply canny wait!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

2010, the Year of the Tiger!

The Chinese year is based upon the lunar month which means that it starts aroundabout late January to early February, and the festival itself lasts for 15 days.

Legend tells us that, back in the day when it all started, there was a monster called the Nien that terrorised villagers on the first day of the New Year, eating anything and everything, including villagers! They took to leaving food outside their doors in the hopes that that would sate the monsters appetite.

One day they saw that a small child dressed in red scared the Nien away, it was scared of the colour red. From then on they hung red decorations etc on their doors at New Year and let off firecrackers as an extra deterrent. It never bothered them again.

Today, red is still the symbolic colour of Chinese New Year. Red paper lanterns (amongst other colours) adorn houses and streets, and on New Years day children are given red paper envelopes containing money or other gifts.

On New Years Eve families get together for huge sumptuous meals and wish each other peace, happiness, luck and prosperity. It's traditionally a time for forgiveness and letting go of old grudges.

The tiger itself is a graceful, brave and fierce character who is supposed to protect households from the 3 main tragedies of fire, thieves and ghosts. Nowadays in this country that's probably fire, flood and repossession.

I think I'll head down to Chinatown on Sunday and check out the New Years celebrations, I went there for lunch with the Wiluf and Fabrice last week, and the lanterns completely took me in!

For my own personal little celebration today, I made some Chinese New Year cookies. I did concede slightly to Valentines day, check out the sexy heart shapes, but I tried to use some traditional new year symbols, check out el tigre:

The paper lantern:

My interwebs research indicated that this symbol means 'tiger'. It's probably a big joke and it really means 'ballbags' or something:

I believe this is a symbol conveying luck:

And the least Chinese of them all:

I know I have at least couple of Chinese/Asian readers, my apologies if I've just offended your families by etching rude slogans across my sugary treats!!

The recipe again for those who might have missed it the first time round:

225g Butter
125g Caster sugar
275g Plain flour
50g Semolina

Cream the butter first, then add the sugar, then the flour and semolina.

It looks really crumbly and unworkable at first, but grab it all together and knead it for a bit and it's all good. Don't try and manipulate it too much whilst you're rolling it all though, it's a bit temperamental and falls apart easily!

Mmmmmm, cookies!

I'll be off for a nice Lush bath soon, but for now please allow me to wish you peace, happiness and good health for 2010.

Sun nien fai lok!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Weekend Extravaganza

I can't believe I missed Darwins Birthday!

Happy 201st Old Dude, and well done on that little evolution thing.....

There's been a Science Cookie round-up over on Ms Humbles fantastic food blog Not So Humble Pie. The lovely locusts feature, along with some fantastic science-themed cookies sent in my Humble fans from around the globe. Go check it out!

So, this weekend is Chinese New Year, 2010 Year of the Tiger!

However! In London they're not celebrating it this weekend, they're celebrating it next weekend. I suspect that this is because of the fabled Valentines Day. We wouldn't want one of the main days in one of Britains main ethnic subcultures to overshadow money-making Valentines Day now would we?

Not that I'm a bitter singleton or anything....ahem.....*cough*

I'm striking out in rebellion, and should have a little Chinese New Year themed post for y'all tomorrow.

Don't fear for I have not forgotten my Lush plan, I hit up the Croydon branch today and although the massive shop didn't happen I did purchase a lovely bath ballistic called Tisty Tosty....uber cute:

And the Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar......lovely to take away on my travels with me. It'll be magic for all those leg, shoulder and back aches from lugging that backpack around :o)

Apart from that it'll be an Indian meal with ma and pa for Valentines....nom nom nom

Friday, 12 February 2010

Do NOT Want!!


Pfizer...or whoever you REALLY are, get it through your thick skull!

I've actually set up a filter to send these to junkmail, and ever since I did that I seem to be getting even more. I wish I'd never bothered.

I suspect they're trying the chinese water torture method, eventually the correct area of my brain will be eroded away and I'll buy all their Viagra....or rather, send my credit card details out into the ether for the enjoyment of the criminal underworld.

Won't they be upset when they discover my pathetic credit limit..of which there's nothing left to spend...*snort*

Have you ever had one of those days?

It's one of those days today, when I sit and contemplate what I've actually done.

I've spent most of the morning diluting 100% ethanol down into various alcoholic concentrations. Later on I'll spend most of the afternoon using this diluted alcohol to get a load of earthworms really pissed.

This is true.

I've spent the rest of the morning wandering around switching ten computers on and off, twiddling knobs and dials, and desperately hunting down stray glass beakers (because I took the key to the cupboard where the beakers live home by accident.....and I need beakers). Beakers are surprisingly difficult to herd.

The rest of the day I've spent mostly drinking tea, eating malteasers...and otherwise generally attempting to consume my own bodyweight in calories.

Looking forward to a Nando's (yip yippee) with the sibling and a few pints with the bessie mate later this evening. What a lovely start to the weekend!

Now.....where are those worms.......?

Monday, 8 February 2010

The 2012 Opening Ceremony Dance-Off

Well, living in London today you'd have to be blind, deaf and speech impaired (PC) to be unaware of the fact that we're holding the 2012 Olympics.

When we won the bid in July 2005 it was to tearful, joyous celebration! Sure enough, it will enhance British tourism no end, boost the economy and raise our international profile. There are plenty of reasons to be excited....but did they REALLY think this through?

Did they?

If you're a dedicated Olympic enthusiast (on telly of course, from the comfort and safety of your own sofa) then you'll know that the Olympic events themselves don't really matter. Who cares who wins gold in the relay, the 1500 metres, or whether Usain Bolt manages to run the 100m in 5.4 seconds this year?

The fact is that all this is secondary, what we're REALLY judging is that Opening Ceremony, that's what it all boils down to, what we as Britons will be being measured against.

We don't stand a chance!

Sure, we can pull all the fireworks out of the hat, the lightshows, incredible artistic displays etc etc etc.

But what on earth are we going to do for a national dance?

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics there were what seemed like thousands of martial arts dancers, lighted dancers and gorgeous lady-dancers in flowing imperialesque (word?) robes, performing during a seemingly endless 4 hour opening ceremony. Do we even HAVE that many people? I think they had an unfair advantage there.

in 2004 the Olympics went home, to Athens. They didn't have a dance as such, but they did have ladies with their boobies out ( they were covered in body paint.....but STILL). I very much doubt we could do something like that without it looking like we were attempting to resort to our Page 3 model selection. Sheer class and elegance not being our strong point, I think it's best avoided.

The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona was seen in in traditional flamenco style.

So....what do we have?

The consensus in October 2005 seemed to be that most peculiar of British institutions....the Morris Dance. Given the increasing competition that seems to have been developing over the years in regards to opening ceremonies, (comparable only to the nuclear arms race) can you imagine how perplexed our international visitors might be when faced with a thousand strangely clad men waving hankies and sticks, bells a-jingling as they jig up and down?

This would likely follow a procession of Page 3 models headed up by Boris Johnson poised proudly under a giant helium-filled Toad in the Hole.

For those of you who may not have witnessed morris dancing in it's full glory, let me educate you.

Fear not Britain....London, for I think I may have come to the rescue. I've come up with four alternatives for your perusal and I'd like to perform a poll! Please, feast your eyes upon the glut of talent I have provided:

First off, the obvious: David Brents Charity Dance from The Office

The next option: Mr Beans Dance

Number 3: Monty Pythons Fish-Slapping Dance

And finally: Possibly my favourite, Webbs Banana Dance

I say that was my favourite, but picture a stadia filled to the brim with prancing Englishmen brandishing a mackerel in each hand. I'd pay.

In case you think I'm being unnecessarily cruel in mocking our Olympic capabilities, may I remind you of the 2012 logo:

Don't pretend like you don't remember how it's been described!

Vote away ladies and gents!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Kitty want Fishy Flake?

I always thought that owning cats and fish at the same time would be a recipe for disaster, and for a long time ICanHazCheezburger always seemed to back up my suspicions.

But over the past few years, knowing a few people with cats has cured me of this kitty discrimination. Jo's (or Ogs as you may know her from numerous other posts) cats, Mornington and Lucy, in particular seem to do quite well in getting along with their fishy neighbours Roger, Didger and Co. This is quite impressive really, given that they are prone to dragging in the odd mouse, sparrow, and even pigeons.

This may be partly due to Jo's strategic positioning of the fish tank....right on the edge of a ledge where the cats can't easily reach round to flip up the lid without suffering a decidedly ego-bruising plummet onto the sofa. However, we all know that cats are pretty stubborn, and if they really wanted to they could get into that fishtank. A relatively easy alliance seems to exist betwixt them.

Quite remarkable given that just yesterday Jo and I were treated to this spectacle:

That would be Lucy, attempting with all her might to squeeze her entire head into the fishfood container, lapping up the morsels at the bottom. So desperate was her struggle that she almost suffocated herself (a couple of times she quite clearly had to come up for air, given enough time she'd have evolved a blowhole I'm sure) and pierced Jo's hand in the process.

Jo eventually retreated, for fear of losing her fingers, whereupon Lucy resorted to dipping her paw in to get to the rest. This was after she'd tried snuffling the pot along the shelf and only succeeded in almost tipping it off the edge.

I've always known the cats were partial to a few fishy flakes. We always take the mick out of Mornington for being a bit stupid, bless her heart, but that cat knows the sound of the fishfood container lid coming off. She can hear it from a hundred yards, she can hear it from the end of the shared garden with all the windows closed. Despite being slightly overweight that cat can move like greased lightning when she wants to, with a brief pause to squeeze her shapely behind through the catflap she's there in 3 seconds flat.

Fishy flakes...second only to catnip.

When Jo's away and I'm looking after the flat, it's gotten to the point where I deliberately feed the cats first so they're distracted, turn up the telly and then very carefully and quietly open the fishfood. It's the only way I can perform the feat in safety.

The only thing I can say is....Jo, you'd better hope those cat's don't realise that Roger tastes like a large, moist fishy flake. You'll have all out war on your hands!

Friday, 5 February 2010

UCL Goes Green....or at least it's trying

The wonderful thing about working at UCL, and probably any university, is that there's always something going on. The front quad in recent years and months has been home to countless goings on.

In July of last year you'd have found a psychedelic kangaroo gracing the quad, a clever ploy by an Aussie travel company to promote Kangaroo Island in Southern Australia.

In October last year a Routemaster bus took up residence in the quad, containing a precious relic from the UCL museum archives. Anyone and everyone was invited to come and see it at it's unveiling, no matter their professional or academic background, the idea being that a unique network of knowledge and information would build up around the object with everyone viewing it from their own perspectives.

March 2008 saw Girls Aloud draping themselves across the UCL Portico in filming a Kit Kat advert...oh the glamour.

Not to mention the hundreds of student graduation receptions that have been held on the infamous UCL Portico.

This week I returned from a sneaky pub lunch to find a student campaign in full swing in the front quad. This was a week-long Go Green Campaign being held by the UCLU Environmental and Ethics Forum. The microphone they were using was being powered by a bicycle hooked up to a generator, so some of the poor people were having to cycle whist delivering their green messages.

Amongst stalls from the likes of Friends of the Earth and Camp for Climate Change, UCL Estates and Facilities Division lurked, with their lovely electric vans! That was my boss Bruce, then Tony and Shane from EFD.

UCL has relatively recently embarked upon an energy saving mission. I've mentioned in a previous post that we have signed up to 10:10, an initiative to cut the UK's carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. UCL personally has a more modest target of cutting its own emissions by 10% by 2013.

Unfortunately, saving energy at UCL is going to involve a serious change in culture, but I believe this is indicative of many large organisations, and indeed the UK in general. People don't bother because they consider that their individual efforts will be useless in the grand scheme of things....

....well....of course they will if EVERYONE thinks like that. It needs to be hammered in so that we can all work towards the same goal. Turn the lights off behind you, don't leave your computer on overnight, don't leave your aircon on you DON'T need 3 electric heaters, it's the height of summer!!....

UCL have employed some of their green tools already, check out these babies!!

Believe it or not, this little widget actually charges from a normal 13amp socket. You just plug it in like a mobile phone. I think I want one, EFD will have to watch their fleet carefully when I'm around.

This one needs a bit more, but is still electric. Apparently it achieves a max of about 50mph, but it accelerates like it's got a rocket up its bum. Handy cup holders too.

And look at theeeese....

I've heard a few people comment that noone will know what landfill is, but I (perhaps naiively) like to think that the student body is clever enough to realise what that means. I initially wondered why EFD chose to use the term landfill,I've come to the conclusion that 'landfill' has negative connotations. We all know that landfill = bad, and so hopefully it will act as a deterrent to too much recyclable waste being thrown in that bin.

Only time will tell if they work. I have my fingers crossed.

We've also joined EcoCampus, an environmental management system that allows universities to be recognised for addressing environmenal sustainability issues.....woo. UCL is currently in the initial bronze phase.

All good stuff I think, steps in the right direction.

I have to leave you with some greatness. As I wandered up to the Go Green Campaign marquee, I was just in time to hear a young chap named Danny Chivers delivering some 'slam poetry' (what IS that? Gawd...I feel old). I believe he specialises in politics and sarcasm, this particular gem is entitled 'Risk Assessment' and deals with the problems of bumblebees, sex, and the UK anti-terrorism laws that have been bastardised and exploited to excuse the breach of quite a few human rights:

I used to like bees
I'd watch them bumbling through the leaves
And hum along with their good vibrations
Until I learned that they killed more people last year than THE TERRORISTS did.
Now I write letters to the Daily Mail
Demanding strict border controls on the entrances to hives
And random police raids on patches of lavender.

Which makes about as much sense
As our attempts
At a notional national defence
Against a terrorist threat
About as dangerous as stepping outside in the wet
(Pneumonia is Britain's fifth biggest killer)

I almost feel a kind of pride
In our innocence and trust as we're all taken for a ride
On the paranoia bus with the
Bullet-proof windows firmly closed and every steel door secure
Glancing at the dark-skinned people outside.

Mount Snowden kills as many people as terrorism
So let's drag it down to Belmarsh
Hold it without trial for 42 days
Til it confesses to conspiring to undermine our British way
Of life.
Whatever that is.

More people are killed by taking the wrong pills than by terrorist attacks
Which means the money that's planned for ID cards, armed guards, putting people behind bars without charge
Would save more lives if spent instead on
Better-labelled jars.

You're more likely to be killed by a rare disease
Or win the national lottery
You're more likely to be killed by a hernia
You're more likely to be killed by your furniture

You're more likely to be done over by your lover
To meet your end at the hands of a friend
You're more likely to commit suicide yourself
Than be killed by the suicide of somebody else.

And stress kills thousands every year
So – an ironic twist –
You're more likely to be killed by the fear of terrorism
Than by a terrorist.

So how to explain this?
Our government's obsessed
An endless war against a risk
Not properly assessed

For which they need broader state powers to watch you at all hours, CCTV, ID – they don't mean to intrude, but could you include an ample selection of bodily samples? – longer detention, not to mention the need to obtain evidence mysteriously from overseas but let them explain: it doesn't count as torture if somebody elsewhere is doing it for ya, same as having your phone tapped by some information vandal isn't really a scandal because civil liberties must be balanced against the need for greater security, surely you don't really need that jury, with so many new offences in store there's bound to be one or more made just for you, even if you only meant to create peaceful dissent against society's ills, you'll still find yourself on the line out front in a new witch hunt during open season…

But it's definitely all about terror and you'd be making a grave error bordering on treason to suggest that they might want these powers for any other reason.


I won't be gagged, or tagged and numbered
Won't have my genes and eyeballs plundered
At my own expense for a defence that won't work against a threat that couldn't get much smaller,
They won't get my photograph, my details, my age
(So long as they don't log onto my Facebook page)
And when they show up for me
I won't go quietly
I'll tell them to go out and fight the real enemy
Because sex kills more people than terrorism
And so does pregnancy
So let's drop the terror cops
And swap
The thought police for the sex police.

I bet they'll have much better uniforms.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Valentines! The Ultimate Marmite!!

In my experience, when it comes to Valentines Day there are two camps.

The Sweet Camp - These are the guys who revel in the romantic spirit of February the 14th. It's a day of hearts and roses and chocolates, teddies, cards, ribbons, kissing, dinner, wine, cuddles....and everything else you might like to get up to ;)

It tends to be mostly (but not exclusively) comprised of ladies (and gents) in relationships.

The Sour Camp - These are the guys who revel in the seething vitriol of February the 14th. It's a day of poking fun at the doe-eyed couples wandering around too wrapped up in each other to realise that they're the sheep-like victims of consumerism at it's worst!!

Almost entirely comprised of people who aren't getting any sex.

What's interesting is the capacity of some to swing manically back and forth between the two camps like a psychotic shuttlecock......serial monogamists.

I simplify things somewhat I'll admit. There are the inbetweenies, but they tend to be less vocal. I think I fit in this inbetweeny group.

Since I've gotten old enough to appreciate what Valentines Day is, I've had my fair share of couply Valentines Days, and single ones too.

Amongst the coupled up ones there have been some stinkers and some lovely ones. Ones that almost broke up the relationship, and ones that were unexpectedly fabulous. For my shame, when I'm in a relationship, I'm definitely consumerist livestock.


However, I do manage to refrain from public displays of affection....if only to escape the judgemental gaze of passing singletons!

When I'm single I still retain enough fondness of the day to secretly hope I might get a card, and yet manage to keep the expectation at a low enough level so that when the day rolls around and I don't get a card....I don't try and cut my throat with a sharpened tablespoon. I do quite like to go out and do something though, avoiding the couples haunts, I quite like to go to the pub with some single friends.

I have a problem this year though, most of my mates are in relationships!

When did this happen?

Those who ARE single are busy already, avoiding the situation in their own ways.

So what am I to do?

Part of me was tempted to advertise myself on Facebook:

'Single person seeks Valentines companion for non-romantic company'

But this could be mis-translated as:

'Desperately lonely spinster seeks no strings attached sexytimes....SEX ME!!'

But you always have those people on Facebook who you'd really rather you'd not added who will blatantly be the first to respond!!

Then an email dropped into my inbox this afternoon, from Lush. I love Lush, I love it very much. And so it was decided. I'm gonna get a gift box from Lush, for ME!!

And I'll spend the day loving myself....

....that sounded wrong, but you know what I mean.

Mmmmmmm, bubbles!!