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Thursday, 28 February 2013

One cranky little writer

There are a number of things that annoy me. 

People who are rude, and stampede over me at tube stations annoy me, especially when they're females with stilettos, mincing along with a barbie-pink suitcase on wheels behind them, which usually hits me a micro-second after afore-mentioned stiletto. (Why pink? Why, for the love of sanity, does anyone want to gallop around the bloody London underground looking like they're waiting for Ken? Answers on a post-card.)

The couple that having sucking face every time I step outside the office building annoy me. It's not so much the kissy, but the kissy noises, which do nothing for anyone's appetite. If you insist on PDA's to the point of looking like you're auditioning for a low-budget porn, please keep the noise level down. It's like listening to an octopus being flung violently against a washing machine window. It's really, really annoying. (Also, I keep wondering how the hell they breathe. There are professional free-divers who can't hold their breath for that long.)

Having a variation of the spawn of satan trundling around my bedroom annoys and terrifies me in equal measure. The last thing any arachnaphobe needs is to see part of the floor moving gently towards her bed, her wardrobe, or her giant bunny slippers. It's cruel and incites violence.

Over and above all of these, what really gets my goat, dear reader, is being sick. I've been migraine-free for weeks now (pause for happy dance), and I've loved it. And today, I've got a lovely dose of the latest flu bug. (End happy music.)

I hate feeling weak and shaky. I hate feeling like my bones have been hollowed out and filled with broken glass, and that every part of my body feels like it's been systematically pounded on by a crazed goblin with a nail-studded club.  I detest the coughing, the head-ache, and looking like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer's second removed cousin.
I sulk over the cost of medication that I know damn well won't do a thing to cure me, and at most will hopefully move the bugs out of my system faster, and I loathe being house-bound for illness. I've quite happy to curl up at home of my own accord. Take away the free-will aspect of that, and I feel like rolling on the floor and biting the carpet.

So I'm stuck in bed, feeling miserable, and entertaining the ultimate revenge fantasy: one day, I will find a way to enlarge a flu virus large enough to infect the evil thing with a human. Let's see how it likes the feeling.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Moment of Oops, multiple.

Well, let's see. There was the thing on Tuesday morning where I somehow got liquid hand-soap on my retainer.
Soap may smell great, but the novelty of having tiny bubbles escape your mouth every time you speak or breath wears off pretty fast, not to mention the taste is vile. I got onto the platform with my mouth screwed up so hard I would have scared a cabbage patch doll, and  grabbed a cup of coffee to try and get rid of the taste.
This was a mistake, since I spent the first fifteen minutes of the train commute foaming gently at the mouth while other commuters discreetly moved to a different area of the train car.

I need to remember the Cujo Janet look for next time I have to squeeze onto a packed train. It totally works.

The rest of the week was pretty mild. Then Friday happened.

My kindle died. I am technically in mourning; but at the same time I'm impressed - this little slab of plastic and tech has survived my care since 2010. They don't even make the ones with the little keyboard anymore. It's been getting slower and slower, with frequent hiccups, and at sometime in the early hours of the morning it said Fare-Thee-Well to this world. It's now a piece of plastic & tech with strange lines and marks on the screen, like an abused etch-a-sketch.
(Thankfully, Friday was also payday, so I've ordered another one. The cheap version is £69 pounds, and I'm typing this with one ear open so that I can charge the front door when the delivery guy gets here, because I'm having withdrawal symptoms.)

Then I ended up with Shake 'n Vac in my Uggs. Why? Because I thought I'd lucked out in the cheap store and found a giant bottle of talcum powder. Read. The. Label. Always, always read the label. In my case, this applies to read the label at the shelf, then again on the way to pay for it, because it's not the first time I've bought something that was actually next to the item I've wanted to buy.

So I shook the bottle into each Ugg, realised that a ton of powder had come out, and checked the label. Then I spent 20 minutes with a small puff of white powder dispersing itself upwards each time I took a step, and spent the day smelling faintly of orange blossom. (Side-note - my socks smelt fantastic at the end of the day, so I'm chalking that up in the win column.)

Apart from nearly face-planting into the toilet at work, the rest of the day was remarkably smooth.

Then I went out to dinner with Stacey and her brother, who really, really wanted to know how I fell over a car (so would I, but hey - this is me), and I promptly set fire to the menu. I didn't realise there was a tea-light candle on the table that had been lit, and I managed to rest the menu on top of it. *Sigh*
We got the flames out, and I sat and blushed while my cousins, the wait-staff, and the restaurant owner gazed at me in disbelief.

It was a very small fire, I promise.

The very nice waitress smiled sweetly, moved the candle to the end of the table far, far away from me, and build a little ceramic barricade around it with the salt and pepper pots. Then she thought about it a bit, and put the ceramic table-number holder in front of the pots, and was very... cautious around me for the rest of the evening. Sweet, but careful, the way you treat new dogs and strangers who probably should be on medication.

My cousins took photographic evidence and posted it on face-book, and no, I don't think I'm ever going to live it down.

Mad skills, people. Mad skills.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Murder Porn & Trial by Media - This should disturb everyone.

Reeva Steenkamp died in the early hours of February 14th. Her killer is a national hero in South Africa, the blade-runner Oscar Pistorius.
So far, so horrible. One life taken, many more shattered - her family, and his, the friends, the colleagues, and because both led high-profile lives, they inevitably touched a lot of people. All of these must be affected.

What must be doubly horrifying for Reeva Steenkamp's family, not mention Pistorius's, is the trial by media. The whole bloody, gory mess is being dissected and trumpeted across the globe, and by the way, SAP - exactly who is leaking the details?
If true, a nasty tragic incident is fast becoming a brutal, cold-blooded murder. But some of these details - the shooting through a closed door, the bloodied cricket bat - should be coming up in court, not via he tabloids howling so gleefully as they paw through the remnants of two lives looking for dirt.

If not true - and having seeing what the tabloids in the UK have achieved with speculation, bias, and outright falsehood in other cases - that's also possible, then we have a man who's just been tossed to the wolves.

Whether true or not, the implications of the media details are frightening. The jury trial system in South Africa was abolished in 1969, according to Wikipedia. While this means that you cannot taint a jury, it also means that the judge on the case needs to be almost super-human not to be affected by media coverage to this degree, and the tone implied in the vast majority of them. The burden of proof in South Africa rests on the prosecution to prove it's case without doubt. Those two little words are probably behind the details we're hearing.

A cynic would wonder if the information being fed to the media is deliberate, rather than a leak. That cynic might also wonder if this is a way of ensuring public outrage; rather than a trial by jury, we have a man now undergoing trial by tabloid. Trial by television reports, by outraged sound-bites and speculation from "friends and neighbours."

The problem I have with this is that speculation is not proof. Stories of Pistorius getting drunk and doing stupid things/aggressive things are not proof. Speculation that Reeva was shot by accident, that she was deliberately hunted and killed, are not proof.

Proof is what should be presented in a court. Proof is forensic evidence and time-lines. Everything else is shadows and smoke, and sharks moving through bloody water. It's always easy to find people willing to kick someone when they've fallen from the pedestal, and right now everyone with an axe to grind against Pistorius is lining up for their 15 seconds in the media spotlight.

Trial by media is nothing new. But it taints. It takes the concept of a trial based on proof and actions, rolls it in mud, and kicks it in the teeth. The justice system is inherently flawed - I can't think of a single one currently operating that is not - but what is being done to it, not just in this case, but others before it, takes a flawed system, and twists it. It turns it into a self-feeding machine, a trash-collector, a monster that feeds off of public perception. And it forgets the victims, 9 times out of 10, or twists them just as much as the guy on trial.

One notorious red top in the UK didn't even mention Reeva Steenkamp by name, the day the story broke. They put her picture on the front page, the golden girl in a bikini - and they never mentioned her name. Not once. In all the paragraphs of lip-smacking, delicious, oh-my horror, they couldn't be bothered to put her name into it.

Murder porn sells papers. The rich and famous fallen, that sells papers. Murder in the early hours of the morning - sells. Combine all of the above - oh, baby! Have a source feeding you details that would sway the court of public opinion - more! More! Justice and fair trial? Boring as hell.

But tell me, folks - what happens when it's one of us in this situation? What happens when one of the little people get fed into the media mill? Because that, too, has happened before, and will probably happen again.

Trial by media is scary as hell. I can't think of many things worse.

But next week, we get to play feed the monster again, with a man's life and a woman's death, and the play, I guess goes on.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Special Valentine's Moment of Oops, with added Ouch

Valentine's Day is supposed to be the day you get red roses and heart-warming moments of mushiness.

Since I wasn't expecting that, I managed to treat myself to a bright red car and several pain-killers and assorted bandages.

I left the flat and headed to the station. Although there's only one main road that gets you there, as a pedestrian you cross a number of side roads. None of them have traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, but they aren't normally crazy-busy either, so although you get the odd moron who thinks stop-signs are for other people, it's not a huge issue.

I checked the road I was about to cross (I always do this, because I know how fast things go pear-shaped around me) and stepped into it. Halfway across I walked into a bright red shiny thing, and found myself cart-wheeling over a car bumper.

I looked up to see a balding gentleman in glasses, face white, mouth opened in a horrified "O", staring down at me.

I apologised for falling over his car, and went home to change my trousers and boots. (Puddles and work wear do not combine well.)

I have no idea where the bloody thing came from. I didn't hear it, but most modern cars are pretty quiet, and I definitely didn't see it. There's a chance he pulled out of a parking space after I stepped into the road, saw me, and stopped, but I honestly couldn't say.

I was wearing gloves, so I didn't even really graze myself - had itchy palms for most of the day from where I landed, but that was it.

I could feel the bruises starting, and I had a good case of the shakes, but got into work only 30 minutes late, which I put in the win column.

Unfortunately, my body disagreed.

By the end of the day I had a strapped up wrist (bruises, swelling), a strapped up ankle (more swelling!) and a hand that looked like it belonged to a cartoon, and I was limping like that guy from The Usual Suspects. Tres, tres svelte.

To ensure I damaged every joint on the same day, I managed to knock my knee on my desk drawer, and taught my team-mates how to swear in Afrikaans.

There's no breakage involved (been there, done that). There is a hell of a lot of swelling, despite making friends with ice-packs and lots of anti-inflammatories, and going by the fact that I couldn't get out of bed without whimpering this morning I'd say I've pulled a few muscles. My calf muscles have also gone on strike.
I look like I've been punched by a pissed-off rainbow in a few selected places, and right now I'm pretty grateful for the additional hip padding, since it's a pretty awkward place to hurt. Sitting down currently requires advance planning worthy of a military operation. I'm not even going to talk about getting into and out of the bath last night, but there's a good chance I traumatised two bars of soap and a washcloth in the process.

The annoying thing is that I managed something similar years ago (although technically the car was parked outside an office building, and it was a black porsche. I seem to have lowered my standards as I've grown older.) and back then I brushed myself off, and apart from a couple of bruises I had no issues afterwards.

Once again, definitive proof that ageing messes with the ability to bounce. On the bright side, however, I now know I can do an assisted cart-wheel. Just don't ask me to land well.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Soap! & a minor moment of oops

No blog post over the weekend, for the simple reason that we just lost the internet. No clue why, or how, but every time I went to log on the modem hiccuped sadly and started flashing wildly, like the strange kid wandering around the school disco with Christmas lights. (You never want to see that doing the Macarena either. Just saying. There is not enough mind-bleach.)

Eventually I gave up and spent the weekend making soap, and body scrub, bath fizzies, and bath tea. So the flat smells pretty cool, and I've been lugging my stuff into the day job and flogging it for Valentine's Day.

It occurred to me this week that I've never not done additional work, except for brief periods of time - six months here and there, throughout my working life.

In my first reception job in a factory (back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I once pitched up wearing my slippers by accident), I made a few spare pennies by hand-drawing cards and flogging them to the floor staff.

In my last bar-tending job, I made more money selling lighters and loose cigarettes most nights than I made in tips. (Drunk folks like to light up, even the ones that normally view smoking as akin to offering the pope a lap dance.) I sold paintings, hand-made coasters, painted back-drop cloths for photographers.

Since I've been in London, I've been more focused on the writing side in my spare time, but I love making the soaps & body stuff. It lets the creative side out in a practical way, it's nicely regulated, which keeps my inner compliance manager happy (although certification hurt. Staying legal is pricey, sometimes.) , and it makes people happy. And I must admit, it's the best form of pocket money I've found ever. What I don't sell I can put in my stock cupboard, and if that doesn't work, I get to use it and smell good. What's not to love?

I got annoyed at the amount of time I have to wait for affordable labels to come in, so decided to try printing my own. I haven't used the printer since I moved two years ago, because (a) it's a temperamental wee beastie and not me-proof, and we both have the scars to prove it, and (b) I couldn't find ink cartridges that fit. I gave up after three different purchases that didn't work. So last week I whimpered and ordered the labels, and the last attempt at cartridges, because if these don't work the printer is going to find itself in the charity shop. Everything came in, which was great - until I realised my cable had gone walk-about. No clue where it is. It's entirely possible the Chingford spiders took it to use as a skipping rope.
Got the printer cable to today, so after posting this I'll give it a bash, hopefully without putting a hole in the ceiling, wall, or myself.


Dinner tonight was curry. It started flaking - powdery, fine snow that melts almost before it lands - and it's bloody freezing, so it's perfect weather for it.

After dinner I picked up the bowls to take them downstairs, and promptly lost my grip. I ended up juggling two bowls, two forks, me, and the carpet. All in front of a very amused flat-mate. Nothing broken, but I'm going to have a very impressive bruise on my wrist where both of the bowls attempted the Great Escape by clambering over my arm. I swear the little buggers grew legs and danced onto the carpet.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Special, special snowflake moment of Aargh

Every now and then I manage something so spectacularly crazy that it goes past a moment of oops, and into the Special Snowflake category.

Going through the wrong door in a hotel bedroom wearing nothing but a towel was one of them. Getting whiplash from a boiled egg was another. (It's complicated. Let's just say I now have an aversion to microwave egg boilers, and leave it at that, shall we?)

Everybody has their ritual for getting ready for work. Mine involves lurching down to stick the coffee on, often passing Stacey in the passage doing her own Morning Zombie Shuffle.

Then I lurch back to my room, coffee in hand, to start the underwear-deodorant-clothing process. Then I have half my coffee as a reward for not putting anything on backwards and still being upright.

My deodorant sits on top of a little plastic chest of drawers. At the moment, there are two bottles of the stuff on there, as well as eyedrops, face serum, a really cool little oriental pot that I toss my spare change into, and a bottle of liquid black shoe polish, which is pretty handy when I grab my boots and realise they need a touch-up on the way out of the door.

Until yesterday morning, this was never an issue.

I realised I was running a bit short of time, and started rushing. I grabbed a bottle from the dresser, whipped the top off, and started frantically dabbing under my arms. Then I noticed that there were two little bottles of spray deodorant still lying on the chest of drawers, and that they were spray versions. I haven't used the roll-on stuff in months, since the last one I got felt like it was gluing my armpit shut. Also, there was a strange smell coming from ... me.

I peered down at the bottle I was holding, and said a very rude word. (Actually, I said several of them, some of which haven't been used since my last spider trauma.) About twenty seconds later I was frantically lathering up my armpits in the bathroom, trying to remove the black shoe polish I'd liberally applied.

Just so you know, that stuff is a mother to clean off when it dries, and it dries pretty damn fast when it's on skin.

Eventually I gave up, used quite  bit of perfume (this was not a good idea) and left the house.

For the rest of the day, every time I moved I caught a slight whiff of shoe polish. Combine this with perfume, and the results are pretty bad.

I've rarely been so grateful to get into a bath at the end of a day.