Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Post in pink in honour of the blog from which this orginated.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night.

M. It certainly wasn't either of the so called Carr comedians whose joint show at Hammersmith I somehow managed to catch the beginning of last night.

2. What were you doing at 0800?


3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?


4. What happened to you in 2006?

Not much of note. 2006 was, personally, a rather staid year.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?

I asked my boss if I could leave on time tomorrow. (5.30pm) He laughed.

6. How many beverages did you have today?

several cups of tea, one cup of coffee, hopefully some wine when I get home

7. What color is your hairbrush?

Hairbrush? Do I look like I use a hairbrush? (Ok. I do have a pale brown wooden handled one left over from my school days, and I think a round one for blowdrying my fringe)

8. What was the last thing you paid for?

Satsumas and biscuits from Sainsbury's at lunchtime.

9. Where were you last night?

At work and then at home, having supper and watching Panorama whilst I ate a beautiful supper which M cooked for me.

10. What color is your front door?


11. Where do you keep your change?

In my purse or handbag if I can't be bothered to open my purse

12. What’s the weather like today?

raining. just like it has been for days

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?

mint choc chip I suppose, but I'm not a big ice-cream fan

14. What excites you?

many things which I am not going to list here. holidays and celebrations

15. Do you want to cut your hair?

what, right now. No, I am at work. Ever, yes.

16. Are you over the age of 25?


17. Do you talk a lot?


18. Do you watch the O.C.?

I have been known to borrow the box sets from a friend

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?


20. Do you make up your own words?


21. Are you a jealous person?

I think we all are, it is how we deal with the jealousy that divides us

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.

Alexandra, Annie

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’.


24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?

The bank (calling to refund all my bank charges)

25. What does the last text message you received say?

It was from my sister reporting on the snow that she was stuck in

26. Do you chew on your straw?


27. Do you have curly hair?


28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?

Marks & Spencers and then a Ball committee meeting

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?

myself I expect

30. What was the last thing you ate?

2 satsumas

31. Will you get married in the future?

yes, if someone asks me

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?

I am ashamed to say that I don't think I have watched a film in the past 2 weeks

33. Is there anyone you like right now?

yes. no, I'm not telling you, even if I'm sure you can guess the answer

34. When was the last time you did the dishes?


35. Are you currently depressed?


36. Did you cry today?


37. Why did you answer and post this?

For no apparent rhyme or reason

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey.

No. But people can do it if they want to.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clear out

On Sunday afternoon I went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. The sun was clear and still warm and the light was beautifully autumnal. Some of the trees had begun to lose their leaves and as I walked I scuffed them out of the way. Looking at my feet I did not see my own 25 year old feet in their Ugg boots, rather my 9 year old feet in their blue start-rite T-barred school shoes, scuffing through the leaves on the way to school.

My 25 year old self still has much in common with that 9 year old school girl. I am still always late, bad tempered when hungry and a terrible horder of possessions. That 9 year old lived in a small bedroom where her father had built her a ‘ships bunk’ in the wall with cupboards underneath and a ladder to reach the bunk. This gap quickly became full of possessions and then the room followed suit.

That 9 year old did eventually learn to keep things relatively tidy but she never perfected the art of de-cluttering. Take for example, the art of shoe purchasing. Most people would buy the shoes, take them out of the box and throw away or recycle the box and the carrier bag. Not me. I keep shoes in their boxes and if the bag is plastic it joins its sisters and brothers in the kitchen, if it is paper it is folded up and allowed to join the vast collection of other paper bags.

When I arrived home on Sunday afternoon having watched the Grand Prix, I realised that I could no longer function in the state I was in. We moved into the house in May yet many possessions were still in their boxes, I had not unpacked any of our pictures, ornaments, photographs or even some of our clothes. I had unpacked as I needed things rather than trying to create a new home.

I unpacked the winter clothes from their suitcase and then packed up all my summer ones. As I sorted through the clothes, despite having sorted them when I moved, I made more piles – clothes which I actually wear, clothes which I know M hates, clothes for washing, clothes that were clean and so on and filled two bags to be taken to the charity shop. I cleaned and dried all my summer shoes and packed them back into their boxes and managed to throw away a large number of boxes and bags. When I put the recycling out last night it appeared that not only had we had a massive party but that we had been on an enormous shopping trip.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday musings

It's been rather a quiet week in terms of going out although tonight I shall be attending
The Islington Contemporary Art & Design Ethical Fashion Show 2007. I am attending in the dual capacity of wanting to go myself and being asked to go on behalf of the new ethical fashion magazine for which I am doing some writing. Further details on the magazine when it is up and running, and I shall let you know when you can read my first piece.

Sadly, not all of the week has been as much fun as I hope tonight will be. London Underground are refusing to refund my ticket for the days when I couldn't use it due to the RMT strikes as it doesn't come under their 'customer charter'. It has annoyed me no end but I really can't see any way of making them pay up.

The house saga continues further into disarray - we've had boiler troubles, trouble with the boiler people, electricity issues and then just when I thought it couldn't get much worse, I saw a mouse. We have identified some potential holes underneath and behind a unit in the kitchen but are now locked in negotiation with the landlord as to how it should be sorted out. The (adopted) cat shows interest but when I try to persuade him to find the mouse he looks at me disdainfully.

Very little funds at present so I was pleased to receive a package of perfume and shower gel (with pearl extract) from Roxy last week. The perfume smells nice if a little young for me but I am sure that I will wear it come the summer as it smells of holidays and sunshine. The shower gel has cheered up a morning shower and has even been used by M. It's certainly far better than the Biotherm one which should be much nicer than I have found it to be.

And as for the weekend - some more chutney making, rugby watching and perhaps an autumnal work on Hampstead Heath.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Feed your friends Supper

I have been reading a lot recently about the return of the dinner party. Perhaps not the dinner parties of the past of which I have never been but heard all too much about but instead simple supper parties amongst friends at the weekend. These articles all seem to express surprise at the 'return' of the meal enjoyed between friends, as if they somehow think that all 20 somethings are out wining and dining every evening.

Today, in the Times there was an article about Joanna Weinberg's latest book How to Feed your Friends With Relish. This is actually a book that I had considered buying (or asking for on my Christmas List) but now I'm not so sure.

Weinberg divides people into the following types of hosts:

Hostess with the mostest

You have time to take a bath and do your make-up
You keep a store of scented candles
You make playlists for all occasions
You have an account at the florist's
You label and stack everything neatly in the freezer
You hire extra help for the next day

Chaotic bachelor

You always have one chair too few
You overshop for food, not clear what will go with what
You often find yourself eating burnt or cold food
You feel pathetic gratitude for the invention of ready meals
You believe that most things are solved by crisps and ice-cream
You spend three times more on wine than on food

Hassled parent

You hide toys in the washing machine in a bid to tidy up
You serve puréed vegetables more often than you mean to
You find that Annabel Carmel's recipes are fine for grown-ups, too
You put candles out of harm's way
You gratefully down three glasses of wine without coming up for air
You wish that you'd had time to wash your hair

Natural host

You have an instinctive sense of when pasta is al dente
You know where to find unpasteurised cream
You don't give a fig for matching dinnerware
You remember when the farmer's market is on
You have dimmer switches on all your lights
You serve wine in huge glasses

I know that this is not something to be taken seriously but it did rather irritate me. Who fits into those sort of categories and where are the categories for 'normal' people? Why does everything have to be sanded down to such a level that we fit into boxes even in relation to our supper habits.

We have friends round all the time for supper. We occasionally prepare something in advance and we usually manage the shopping in advance but mostly M or I will cook with friends standing in the kitchen or outside with a cold beer or glass of wine and we will chat until the meal is cooked. The evening is not all about the food nor is the food the least important part. We cook fairly simple but healthy dishes (including portion size) all from scratch and usually sourced from the local shops – butchers, greengrocer, bakers etc- roasts, chilli, pasta and so on and usually followed by some kind of homemade pudding – crumble, pie, rice-pudding, chocolate mousse, profiteroles or cake. We drink lots of wine and sit around the table and chat. Sometimes there are only 4 of us, usually more like 6 or 8 but last weekend there were 14 (well, it was the rugby – and I didn't make any pudding). We always have enough chairs, we have beautiful matching but old turquoise dinnerware which we inherited from M's grandmother, the glass situation is occasionally hit and miss and we always spend far more on wine than food because good wine is expensive. Someone usually produces an i-pod and we have adequate speakers. Last weekend when the rugby was on was the first time that our television has been switched on when friends have been over. People pile in and out of the garden for occasional cigarettes and the gathering usually disperses in the early hours in taxis bound for various parts of London.

I do not consider myself a 'Shef' (Stay at Home and Entertain Friends according to the Times). It is simply what we have always done on the nights when we do not go out. And have done since the very start of university. I also found it irritating that Weinburg implies that being organised is the same thing as competitive or the same thing as striving for domestic perfection. She suggests a little less of this and it will seem more like a real home. She also suggests that few but the very organised have time to bake. That's the biggest load of rubbish I've heard – it hardly takes long to whip up a quick pudding and put it in the oven whilst people are eating the main course.

I think what I find so frustrating about this kind of 'lecturing' is that it is off putting. People don't fall into such obvious categories in reality. And if people are told that only the very organised bake then to someone who has never tried it before will think it is a lot of hard work. Yes, some puddings are time consuming but there are plenty are that are really easy. Scones take less than 30 minutes from start to finish which includes the cooking and the washing up. Perhaps not a traditional pudding but there are others which can be done just as easily.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back soon

My apologies for the break in blogging. My time has been taken up with other things recently including scouts, ball organising, hen party planning, working, being ill, making chutney and entertaining friends.

Regular blogging to resume soon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Book Meme

I read about this on Bub&Pie but since she didn't actually tag me I suppose that it should orginate from the open invitation on Mom-NOS's page.

Total Number of Books Owned:

This figure is rather high although I am not sure the exact number. I have collected books since I was a little girl and then went onto to read English at university followed by 2 years of law school. I have sold one of them. That leaves a lot of books.

They're not all at my present flat though. That would be silly. My long suffering parents allowed me to leave the majority of my childhood books at their house. I brought a few of them with me to London for those dark nights or winter afternoons which are only satisfied by an Arthur Ransome tale or something by Noel Streatfield. Occasionally I will crave a book from the Jinny series by Patricia Leitch and I have been known to re-read Drina Ballerina in bed having sneaked the book into my handbag on a visit home.

The majority of my books from my degree are also at home. I've found my need for Beginning Theory or Seven types of Ambiguity rather more limited now I am working. Although as I write that I do remember that Beginning Theory was another book carried off in my handbag to fill a railway journey back into London. I would estimate that there are two 4 shelf bookcases full of books from my degree, one bookcase of childhood books (including an entire shelf of Sweet Valley High - all bought from jumblesales and second hand shops when 11&12) and another bookshelf of miscellaneous books from which I read when 'at home' and smuggle back to my London flat.

The books which are at my flat in London are in three main categories: law books which take up a bookcase all on their own, a bookcase comprised of 10 wooden wine crates which are arranged by colour and contain a mixture of novels and reference books and a large box under the dining room table which contains poetry and novels which did not fit into the wine crates. One day I may count them and if I do I will update this post.

Last book read:

There are three different interpretations of this question:

1. Book currently reading: At present I am reading Angela Huth's Land Girls and have read 67 pages on the tube on the way to work this morning. When work is particularly busy I crave satisfying but relatively easy reads. Sometimes I will re-read favoured novels to fill this. I am unsure as to whether I have read this book before as I removed it from my sister's bookcase two weekends ago and I have also seen the film.

Before long a link will become apparent - one of my favourite genres is stories about women (in various capacities) on the home front in the Second World War.

2. Book last read (including re-reads): The last book which I read was Nevil Shute's Pastoral. I was unsure as to whether this counted as I have read this book many times and never fail to love the story. It charts the story of a WAAF Signals Officer and a RAF pilot stationed together on an RAF base in Oxfordshire during, yes, the Second World War.

3. Book last read (for the first time): This comes down to three answers - a frivilous chick-lit book which a friend lent me last weekend and which I read in bed on the Sunday night. So meaningful was the storyline that I can only just remember the plotline and I cannot remember either the title or the author. The other two were JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Rachel North's Out of the Tunnel but I cannot remember in which order I read them. I think HP is probably the most recent book which I have read for the first time (and I have also re-read it too!)

Last Book Bought:

This would be either JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Rachel North's Out of the Tunnel as I already own or have 'borrowed' in various forms the other books I have read recently. I don't tend to buy a huge number of books and even less of those books are new as I own so many and am so short on funds. If I could have unlimited funds to buy books however I would have bought Esther Freud's Hideous Kinky and all the remaining Libby Purves books last time I was browsing in a book shop.

Five Meaningful Books:

Arthur Ransome's Pigeon Post is probably my favourite book of all time. It is not particularly meaningful in some ways but will always mean a huge amount to me.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje was a book which I first read when I was 15 and captivated my imagination. I had never really read about love affairs outside of marriage in such a way before nor experienced the kind of love which Count Almaasy has for Katherine. I could really see in my mind's eye (and later the film) Katherine lying in the cave writing in Almaasy's copy of Herodotus that the light was becoming dimmer and soon it would be out, knowing that she was going to die there in that cave. I didn't want to die like that but I did want to know what that kind of love felt like.

Ok. That is two but lunchtime is over so I will return later to finish my list and tag some people!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

To tip or not to tip?

Damien Whitworth writes in the Times today about the etiquette of tipping.

My personal view is that I detest the very idea of tipping. Left by myself I will rarely offer a tip. I have been known to occasionally round up the fare in a taxi to the nearest pound and sometimes, if offered exceptional service in a café, will leave 10-15% of the bill if I have some spare change. Usually however, I don’t. If I am out for a meal with several people who do tip then I will do but only so as not to cause a scene or embarrass my friends, although if the service poor I will refuse.

My rationale for my behaviour is thus: why should I have to pay extra for something which should come as standard. And moreover, why should I be made to feel guilty for refusing to tip substandard service.

When one eats in a restaurant one pays for far more than the food. The bill covers the costs of employing the staff including the waitresses whose job is to serve the food. If the job is done adequately then I am satisfied but I am not going to tip someone for simply doing their job. If their performance was exceptional and it was not a restaurant where you would expect that level of service then I might tip, but they are already being paid to do their job. If their boss isn’t paying them enough and is making up the wages with their tips then I feel for them but that is their issue with their boss. I am not going to pay someone’s wages.

Similarly, at the hairdressers I am already paying for the stylist’s skill and expertise. I see no reason why I should have to pay extra. So I don’t. In the loo of a bar or nightclub I rarely leave any money either. I am grateful for them handing me a towel and I always thank them but I am capable of doing this myself and would generally rather do this myself. A night can get very expensive if expected to leave £1 on each visit to the loo. This actually annoys me greatly as a job has been created where there is really no need. And why should I have to pay for it when I have already paid an entrance fee? Should I also be giving a £1 to the bouncer each time he removes someone with a bottle from the dance floor? I am far more grateful to him than the lady manning the towel dispenser in the loo for he is actually helping me to have a safer night.

There is also disparity between who expects a tip and who doesn’t. Waitresses, taxi drivers, delivery boys all seem to expect tips. I don’t get a tip by a client for doing my job. No-one when leaving court when I have spent months working on their case says “thanks Rachel, here, have this £x for helping me win my case” or whatever. It doesn’t happen.

So, it is with some dread that I ponder a trip to Washington DC to visit my little sister. I am against tipping on principle but I am also pro fitting in with local behaviour and customs when in a foreign country and trying to respect their culture. Yet I just do not see how I can bring myself to tip someone who is just doing their job. This is a conundrum which may take some time to work out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

WI & Country Life Magazine

Some rather unreliable journalism here courtesy of Country Life Magazine and Melanie Cable-Alexandra (an editor of the magazine and, according to Wikipedia and other sources, the mother of Antony Armstrong-Jones's illigitimate son Jasper).

This article is about the 'new' face of the WI and mentions Fulham WI despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge the group had not been approached by the magazine and much of the content seems rather similiar to the article which followed an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

I feel it also rather unfairly misrepresents the ladies of the Fulham WI as dismissive of the older and more established WI groups and portrays us as a bunch of career women shunning the traditional skills and hobbies enjoyed by women of an older generation. I hardly think this could be further from the truth; at Fulham WI we celebrate the traditional within the modern - how we can apply traditional skills, crafts and hobbies into our own busy lives and within the spectrum of living as a modern woman. We may meet in a pub and hear talks about nuclear power but there was also a queue for places on the chutney making day next week.