Wednesday, 31 October 2007

clouds and silver linings

"I'm depressed."
"What's up?"
"Liverpool lost/ interest rates have gone up/ my party dress doesn't fit any more/ I've got grey hair/ SNP can't afford their promises/ it's nearly Christmas/ Scotland are playing international football soon/ the Spice Girls are reuniting/ Ulrika's up the duff again. Never mind, let's have another gin."
It happens quite often - we all say we're depressed when really we're fed up, disappointed, hungover, cheesed off, hormonal, jealous or just a bit grumpy.
But I have a friend who was properly, clinically depressed and that's a million miles from the transient flashes of frown we feel dozens of times every day.
It's really scary to see your friend in the grip of something which is causing them huge agonies they are powerless to prevent.
It's like hooking your favourite jumper on a nail and, while you want to stop the unravelling, all you can do is pull.
Sure, something inside me wanted to scream: "Pull yourself together and be happy - you're lovely and clever and talented and kind."
But that urge was not about my poor friend it was all about making me feel better: I just wanted to do something to force it to stop.
Thankfully the treatment is slowly beginning to work and my friend is returning to a familiar shape.
There's still a long, long way to go but my friend will get better.
And I have learned not to take my mundane contentment for granted.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Stuff and nonsense

Hands up anyone who actually has space to keep their car in the garage.
OK, I know there some, but you probably have a really really big garage and all the space where the cars aren't is packed to the rafters.
So, where does it all come from?
In the past few months of all the hundreds of items of Stuff in there, we've used the ladders, the lawn mower (although I know it doesn't look like it), the strimmer and a screwdriver. Oh, and my friend's husband used the ice axe to unjam a bike seat (which means I'm out of excuses for not using the borrowed bike now).
The Panther and I have just had a go at clearing up the Stuff. We moved several bikes of various sizes, ditto water pistols and car seats. There were items from camping shops, lots of dressing up outfits, a toy kitchen, many pairs of manky discarded curtains. Some fold-up chairs and tables with their legs unscrewed but carefully attached with tape. There was a large and heavy nylon holdall which I can only assume contained the tent so hideous to assemble that I thought I'd burnt it. We also found a punctured inflatable bed and three cot mattresses, two sledges, plenty of things in crusty tins and jars and a stubbornly kinky hosepipe.
The reason we were addressing this treasure trove is that the architect is finally coming tomorrow and as things stood, lay, fell, collapsed and piled he couldn't have seen the walls let alone measured them.
I have started to wonder though... if Ellen's fabulous news and copy agency moves to a salubrious new home in the garage, what's going to happen to the Stuff?

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Baby doesn't mind the corner as long as she's got her new MP3 player

I'm extremely pleased with myself today.
I went to Comet and bought the wire dodah that I need to plug my MP3 player into my car.
I know that in itself it's not such a huge revelation but bear with me it represents much more:
I know what an MP3 player is and furthermore I now own one.
I was able to go to an electrical shop and not feel like a Mrs Van Winkle who snoozed through a technical revolution.
My new car has gone to another level of fabulousness.
I don't have to have a clutter of CDs lying about in the car.
The Archers podcast means that I'm freed from the tyranny of 2pm, 7pm or Sunday mornings.
The Panther and I have survived one year of marriage and are still talking (the MP3 player was an anniversary gift).
I can listen to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack as loud as I like whenever I like.

Good Gord

Before I start, I'd like to state the the Panther of News is the only man for me and he is without doubt very attractive, clever and funny. And he shares a certain weary sexiness with that chap in the new Rebus.
Now I'll begin...
How much of the ubiquitous Mr Ramsay is showbiz-y artifice and how much is real knife-quivering-in-the-chopping board chef?
I ask this because Gordon came up in conversation on Friday while two girlfriends and I dined at Bridge of Weir's newest restaurant.
Amaretto, on Main Street, opened a couple of months ago giving our Renfrewshire town a much needed alternative to curry or pub ordinare in a basket.
So far it's proved itself to be tasty, fresh and efficient. In fact the only minor complaint relates to the last. Too many staff - all too keen. We were asked half a dozen times in five minutes if we were ready to order.
Anyhow, over very competent black bream, lasagne and risotto respectively, our chat came round to the charms of Big G.
"No, not even slightly attractive. How could he be with those creases on his face?"
"Ooh. Don't care about the creases. Can't you see how sexy all that machismo is? Just look at his confidence - he's a man who knows what he wants."
"Me too. He's aggressive and masculine - the lines on his face probably add to that."
So - strictly theoretically - two against one that the Renfrewshire-born chef has what it takes to 'bend me backwards over the hostess trolley' if he wants, to coin a Victoria Wood phrase.
That settles that and we know he gives good telly and knows how to sell books... but can he cook?
I'll let you know - Gord and I have a hot date on Friday morning, at the BBC Good Food Glasgow show.
I'll let you know...

Monday, 22 October 2007

supersize tea

Everything's getting bigger - burgers, crisp packets, plates, chairs, cornflake packets.
Soon we're all going to be so fat toilets will be reflective because it'll be the only chance we have to see our own genitals.
Why, then, do hotel rooms - even quite fancy ones with flat screen tellies and four kinds of tea - still only provide teacups in one, minute size?
After a long, hard day of sightseeing and shopping around London, what do I crave as soon as I bung the plastic thing in the slot? (It still doesn't sound as good at 'turning the key') Is it a free impregnated sponge to make my shoes shine, is it an iron wired into the ironing board, is it a hairdryer wired into the drawer? What about a speakerphone I can use in the bath or free plug-and-go broadish band (although that was actually quite nifty)?
No. What I want is a bloody good cup of tea. Call me a sad Northerner if you must, but nothing satisfies like a proper drink of tea.. in a mug. Or even a big cup, but not a daft wee cup so small you can't even dunk a chocolate finger in one piece.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Rat in the kitchen

Bravo to Nintendo for Cooking Mama. My sons can now make virtual pizza.
Although I couldn't work out why CM wanted to serve it with rice.
I'm all for anyone grasping the Big Cook Little Cook baton and running with it.
The more kids know about cuisine which doesn't come in a little paper bag with a rubbish toy the better.
So my hopes were high when we went to see Ratatouille - the latest from Disney Pixar.
Armed with vast armfuls of popcorn (£3.50 for a small bag which was still big enough for Son Two to use as a sleeping bag) off we headed.
The kitchen stuff was great - very Gordon Ramsay with lots of funny detail. And I just couldn't place who Ego the critic reminded me of.
But, in the end, the heavy handed addition of too many messages left a bad taste:
kitchens are sexist
microwave food is bad
family is good
washing your hands is good
the good guy will get the girl
loyalty is good
slapstick is funny
any one can cook, even girls.
I suppose some might call it comforting, but Son Two and I agreed - there weren't enough laughs or car chases to keep us entertained for nearly two hours.
Son One? Still chortling about the baddie falling in the seine and swearing that the kissing was "gross".
I guess it's all a question of taste.

boys will be boys

If you were anything like me as an idealistic new parent, you will have looked into your darling child's deep limpid eyes and promised you would be the best you could.
That would have included opening your infant to as broad a range of - safe - experiences as you could to teach and widen horizens. It would also have meant refusing to pander to stereotypes - gender, race or anything else.
Your little boy angel wouldn't get nasty guns or get lumbered with nothing to play with but things with wheels.
And your baby girl won't get stuck with duff caring, women-role nonesense like dollies, kitchens and dressing up in shoes.
My resolution lasted until the first child made a gun out of Lego and his brother went rally driving with the doll's pram.
However while some of it is clearly in the genes, do we have to get quite so into the "sugar and spice", "slugs and snails" thing?
Have you looked at the kids' department of your local bookshop lately? Boys - it's got to be ill-mannered, malodourous and squidy; Girls - pink, emotional and needy.
We are giving our children a one way ticket to Mars and Venus respectively. They'll get there of their own accord in time, what's the rush?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Reaching out

A tricky place, this interweb.
The gravelly voice of the Times of London was forced to say it was sorry after falling for a wikiprank.
Ronnie Hazlehurst - composer of lots of irritatingly memorable tunes - died this week at a fine old age after a successful career.
The Times - along with every other news organ in the land - diligently rushed to the usual sources to cobble together some knowledgeable prose on the old chap's life.
Thing is, it seems, the usual sources now include Wikipedia.
The Times included in its version the fact that Mr H had helped compose S Club 7's 2000 hit Reach.
Although, to be fair, it is irritatingly memorable.
However, this was, in fact, rubbish. Some joker had added that detail into Ronnie's Wikipedia entry as a jape. Little did they know that one day the joke would be on a hapless Times reporter.
The moral of the story is - don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia, the web, or come to think of it, anywhere else.

Yule be sorry

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close-bosom friend of the maturing sun...
Even in Johnstone, the foliage around Ludovic Square is still on the branch and busy with the business of brightening to orange and gold.
A few brave souls resist the season, defiant in open-toed sandals and t-shirts.
There are even a few remaining burgers and things-on-sticks on special next to the barbecues. Summer bouquets are still blooming outside the supermarket. And I haven't had to scrape the car yet.
Yet nearby something awful is going on.
Men from the cooncil are putting up the Christmas lights. Today. 6 October. That's 12 weeks until the big day and a full three months before they'll be taken down again.
That means that Renfrewshire Council have their decorations up for a quarter of the year.
I know they probably won't switch them on for, at least, another fortnight. It doesn't matter - just because they aren't lit, doesn't mean they're invisible.
I'm appalled. It's the most shocking thing to happen to me today which is saying something on a day that England beat Australia at the rugby.

The Panther butts in...

The Panther complained it had been a while since I blogged and seeing as how I wasn't saying anything, could he?

SO the wild Orchid I married is doing a blog. That's fine apart from one thing - I have to read it regularly otherwise I am not being supportive.

If I ask of an evening for her views on something, I am shot with a vicious leer of judgement as she points out that her views are in or on her blog.

Are views somehow more important or valid simply because they are written down on the biggest of public forums?

I married her and that though and therefore I am legally bound apparently to listen to her all night, even if the football is on, and sometimes during the day while I am work too.

But now, in some kind of twisted control freakery, I also have to read all about what's baking her noodle.

To make matters worse, lots of others are now logging on, affording the Orchid a level of celebrity. Great.

She is a beautiful and wise woman. She married me so I owe her and will keep reading, she said so. It's my job, she said so. Don't worry, you'll almost certainly read about it soon.

Anyway this is what I was going to ask the people who read this: What annoys you?

Don't tell me. I only ask because someone asked me the other day if I knew what annoyed him.

He actually said: "Do you know what really annoys me?" Then he looked quizzically at me for a few seconds as though I might know. I know that I am supposed to say "no" or "what" but we never got to that because I pointed out that it's that very question that really annoys me.

No I don't know what annoys you, how could I? You're not wearing a T-shirt with the slogan 'corn beef really annoys me' on it. There is no clue in your features.

Why not just say what really annoys you? Why waste time? We only have a short time on this earth, get to the point fella.

The Orchid back home tells me it's just a language tool, word furniture or something, What the f**k is word furniture? It's the sort of phrase a modern art fan might come up with. I don't want to sneer but I am. Word furniture indeed.

Next time someone says to me 'you know what really annoys me', I am going to punch them in the face and say 'is it that?'.

Or I will just keep asking them, is it dolphins, is it Wakefield, is it cheap carpets, lite instead of light, is it when people say aks instead of ask, cardinals, Weetabix, the new Scottish Widows woman, Dave Lee Travis, chairs, products like "No one could believe it's anything but margarine". Then when their face stops squinting, I will say "no sorry I don't know, you better tell me".

I pity the person who approaches me and says 'you'll never guess what happened to me today'.

And you know when someone says "don't look back just now", I don't and I don't feel an overriding compulsion to do so. Weird eh?
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