Animals strike curious poses

1. I was going through my GIF collection the other day (yeah I have a GIF collection. Do you not??) and found that it it includes
– 2 Carey Grant GIFs;
– 2 X-Files GIFs;
– 3 Stephen Fry GIFs;
– 3 Big Lebowski GIFs;
– 4 Star Trek GIFs;
– 8 GIFs of people rolling their eyes and/or giving the finger (for future use);
– and this masterpiece:

It gets funner the longer you look at it.

2. I’ve stopped going to Lidl and started shopping at Sainsbury’s again. Lidl is much cheaper, and it’s directly on my route home from work, whereas Sainsbury’s is a few minutes out of my way. Lidl, however, doesn’t have automated checkouts. Turns out I will gladly pay for the luxury of not having to interact with other humans. (At Sainsbury’s, if there is a queue at the automated checkouts and a human cashier standing there doing nothing, I’ll still go for the automated checkouts.)

3. As part of my Personal Improvement Project to learn the fuck out of French, I signed up for a French pen pal (keyboard pal?), and connected with a lady in Strasbourg called Sylvie. Writing in French really is improving my skills by forcing me to apply all the grammatical rules I learned in school way back when, but Sylvie…is terrible. She’s condescending, didactic and has no discernable sense of humour. She sent me a list of more than a dozen songs (unprompted) and instructed me to “listen carefully to the lyrics – these songs are very beautiful”. They were all unbearably schmaltzy. I made it through about four. Don’t believe me?

BLARRRGHH. (If you want to learn French by listening to music, start with Jacques Brel.)

She gave me an overview of France (again, unprompted) that included such gems as the following:

“Au niveau gastronomique la France est très riche. Les vins, les fromages et les plats raffinés et régionaux sont très développés.” (On a culinary level, France is very rich. The wines, cheeses, refined dishes and regional specialties are highly developed.)

YOU DON’T SAY.

All this is just me being a jerk, of course, but the clincher came when I asked her who her favourite authors were and she said she didn’t have any. Sorry, Sylvie – somehow I don’t think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

4. Best thing to say in a Scottish accent: murder
Best thing to say in a Geordie accent: Kawasaki
Best thing to say in an Australian accent: 1999

Italian mobster shoots a lobster

1. I’m back to sleeping in my bedroom. It’s amazing how luxurious it feels sleeping in a bed again after a couple of months of having to haul myself up off the floor every time I needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My upstairs neighbour is still conducting rehearsals for Stomp every night between 10 and midnight, and then again bright and early at 6 AM (the man is dedicated to his craft), but I’ve discovered that if I play white noise very loudly and wear earplugs at the same time, I can actually sleep through the noise. Hallelujah.

I bought myself this white noise machine, which gets surprisingly loud, and I use these earplugs, which are surprisingly comfortable. Of course the past few years of neighbour-noise have very effectively trained my brain not to sleep, so I have to make sure a that whole host of other variables are carefully balanced in order to make it though the night without waking up ten times. I’ve cut out caffeine entirely during the week (man, life without tea is barely worth living), I don’t watch any TV or use my phone after 9.30, and I try to stay up a bit later than I’m naturally inclined to so that I’m properly tired. If I screw up any one of these elements, NO SLEEP FOR ME. I got a new laptop yesterday* and spent a little too much time in the evening faffing around setting it up, and hey presto! One shitty night’s sleep.

*It’s a PC laptop, which I bought solely for the purposes of downloading/streaming movies and TV. I’ve had it one day and already Windows is getting on my tits. What’s with the ‘app’ view that replaces the start menu in Windows 8? I hate this so much. If I want to go to Netflix, I will open my browser and go to Netflix. I don’t need to click a bunch of extra times to use the ‘app’ version, which is next to a bunch of useless crap like ‘finance’ and ‘health and fitness’ that I am never going to use. I’ve uninstalled about a hundred of these stupid things so far.

2. Sample spotting! (There should be a name for sample spotting, like ‘twitching’ for birdwatching.)

First, 14:40 by Olafur Arnalds (skip to the five minute mark):

…and now listen to Ray by Daughn Gibson:

Incidentally, I love how Ólafur Arnalds’s music sounds like the soundtrack to an art film where the characters spend a lot of time gazing mournfully out of windows.

3. Some delightful sadist at Channel 5 decided to show Watership Down on Easter Sunday. I love this so much. I wonder how many parents were like, “Oh look! An animated film about bunny rabbits. This’ll shut them up for a few hours” and will now be paying therapy bills for the next twenty years.

4. The 99p shop in Huntingdon is closing down and being replaced by a Poundland. Bloody inflation. This means that there will now be two Poundlands in Huntingdon within five minutes’ walk of each other. I would mock this, but if there’s any place in the world that has the demographics to support two Poundlands in close proximity, it’s Huntingdon.

5. In French, the game hide and seek is called ‘cache-cache’ (‘hide-hide’). This sounds much less fun.

6. I have a new colleague who is Spanish. He’s an absolute sweetheart and great to work with, but there’s a bit of a language barrier. I often can’t understand what he’s saying, and he has trouble understanding me too, and I spend a lot of time speaking slowly and clearly (and trying very hard not to speak loudly) and I keep inadvertently thinking about Fawlty Towers, and I’m worried that one day I’m going to call him Manuel.

Like battlefields where no one fights

1. So here is a thing that I have done several times. I have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast during the week. I buy frozen blueberries, because they’re cheaper. I put some frozen blueberries in my breakfast bowl (I own three bowls, and only one of them is the right size for breakfast. Yes, I am approaching forty and this is how I live) and put the bowl in in the microwave to defrost the berries. While the blueberries are defrosting, I chop up a banana. I then start searching around for my breakfast bowl to put the banana in, and search for an embarrassingly long time, getting more and more annoyed, before I realise that IT IS IN THE MICROWAVE, where I just put it less than a minute ago. Again: more than once, I have done this.

2. Dating is hell. I went on a date with a guy from Tinder recently. He seemed slightly pushy and odd in his messages, but I agreed to meet him because he was cute (will I never learn?). He was fairly charming in person, actually, and I kept in touch with him for a couple of days afterwards, during which he repeatedly asked me for naughty selfies and referred to his penis as “him”, so I gave him the brushoff. I told him that I was giving things another chance with someone I’d been seeing previously (possibly a slight exaggeration – I thought it would be nicer than saying “Your text messages make me want to bathe in bleach”). And WOO, BUTTHURT. It was a whole thing. He demanded to know if I’d contacted the guy first, and at one point he said he was “curious how a girl’s mind works”. I love having to point out that I am one female person and not necessarily representative of half the human race. When I reminded him of the fact that we had met ONE SINGLE TIME, he claimed he’d been “being ironic”. Hilarious! I said “Maybe you should work on your delivery,” and he said “Maybe you should work on your interpretation.” Will do! Bye-bye now!

3. Working on yearbooks is giving me retroactive school trip envy. Kids in England get to do things like go on educational visits to the Parthenon or go skiing in the French Alps. I did not get to do stuff like this. I did once go on a school trip to see the world’s largest Ukrainian Easter egg, though, and obviously that was pretty cool.

4. When Trump first announced that he was going to run for president, how I laughed! Ha ha ha! The man is a ludicrous windbag. I didn’t think there’d be a snowball’s chance in hell he’d get past the primaries. And now I have to face the fact that a huge chunk of America’s population wants this…creature to become one of the most powerful people on the planet.

trump-a-dump

Seriously, America: get your fucking shit together.

5. Here’s something I made: a vintage take on the Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Blank greeting card available now on Zazzle.

I’m a reasonable man, get off my case

1. Robert Plant’s lyrics are so bad they actually affect my enjoyment of Led Zeppelin. I love the music very very much but can’t stop rolling my eyes whenever Robert opens his mouth (and that endless hair-flipping thing he does on stage drives me insane). The ‘baby baby baby’ stuff is bad enough but when he starts in about Vikings, dear God. PLEASE STOP. My favourite Zeppelin songs tend to be the ones with less Robert and more Jimmy.

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you
Mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me

Watch out, Lord Byron.

T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair
But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her

Let me just clarify here – you’re picking up girls in Mordor? And getting cock-blocked by Gollum? That is…unfortunate.

I’d give the yellow section a bigger share of the pie, but this is otherwise 100% scientifically accurate.

2. I’ve been dating up a storm recently. I’ve met some lovely people (and a few oddballs – one guy suggested meeting at Wetherspoons – !!! – and right after arriving at the pub, excused himself to go wash his hands. No explanation was offered) but so far no one that I’ve desperately wanted to see with their top off. I’m getting pretty bored of dating, to tell the truth. I’m sick to death of hearing my own anecdotes. It does give me plenty of fodder for my Twitter feed, though.

3. Another major plus point of my new job is the position of my desk. I’m still in a big open-plan office (for an introvert, working an open-plan office is basically like being waterboarded all day), but instead of sitting in the centre of the room with people constantly walking right past me and talking to me and around me, I’m now tucked away in a quiet corner. My new boss tends to keep to herself, and on average, I probably spend only about five minutes a day actually speaking to anyone. It’s not as nice as working from home, but I can’t complain. I’ve got my back to the window, so there is some glare on my computer screen when the sun is shining; fortunately for me, however, I live in England.

4. I designed this gig poster for fun. It is a real gig that you can go to, if you want to. Not to brag, but I posted it on the band’s Facebook page, and they said it was, AND I QUOTE, “rad”.

gig poster

5. Tunes for you!

When you rock and roll with me

1. I don’t remember ever crying over a celebrity death before, but I had a proper ugly-cry about David Bowie. Musically he was my north, my south (Robyn Hitchcock is my east and west – I nearly sent him a message through Twitter this morning to make sure he was safe and well. I couldn’t handle losing them both in close proximity). I’ve been listening to Bowie since primary school. He was the first artist I officially considered myself to be a ‘fan’ of, and the first record I ever bought, age twelve, was Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, which I found in a charity shop for $2. I used to lie on my living room floor with my eyes closed and play it over and over again as loud as I could get away with (sorry, Mom and Dad). I bought all his albums (even Never Let Me Down, which nobody likes but me), and tracked down stuff like Philip Glass’s ‘Low’ Symphony and the soundtracks to Christiane F and The Buddha of Suburbia. I saw him play live back when I lived in Ottawa, and I’m so glad I did. More than any other artist, he’s been the soundtrack to my life. Man. It seems surreal that he was even mortal. Surely DAVID FUCKING BOWIE can’t just DIE, can he?


One of my favourites from the criminally underappreciated Lodger.

2. A Lidl has opened in Huntingdon, right on my route home. This is big news. The second the doors opened the entire population of Huntingdon was in there like a shot, myself included. The prices are worryingly low. Surely in order to produce a 39p tin of soup you must be doing something terrible to the environment or Malaysian child labourers or both. Morals are expensive, though. I will eat my surprisingly tasty 39p soup and try not to think about it.

I’d never shopped at a Lidl before. It’s a strange experience. The store itself is very no-frills. There are no automated checkouts (which means I have to speak to other humans, AAAUUUGHH) – not even an express checkout queue. In some areas, instead of shelves they’ve stacked crates on top of each other, and in addition to selling food, there’s a central aisle which is just a row of big tubs full of the Deal of the Week, which so far has included thermal blankets, bird feeders, storage heaters, air beds, neck massage cushions, karaoke sets, ceiling lights with built-in Bluetooth speakers, and electric planers. I appreciate the Soviet randomness of it all.

3. I enjoyed the BBC’s new production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It was sort of a gritty reboot, because by law everything has to be a gritty reboot these days (it’s strange to see characters in an Agatha Christie story shagging and swearing), and starred Aidan Turner, who is so ridiculously hot that it hurts to look directly at him. I nearly fainted when this happened:

Aidan Turner

There was no real reason for this, plot-wise. All the other characters were wearing dressing gowns, but he just stood there all HELLO TORSO for like ten minutes, burning holes in my retinas. Clearly the BBC knows which side its bread is buttered.

4. I just finished reading What She Left by TR Robinson. I hated it. The story was fine, but the writing annoyed me so much I started dog-earing the worst bits so I could make fun of them for you. You’re welcome. One of the characters was meant to be a pompous professor, but the prose came off like a first-year creative writing student was trying to make a character sound pompous by having him refer to himself as ‘one’ all the time and swapping ordinary words for longer ones:

It wasn’t exactly ‘research’ I embarked upon, not in the traditional sense. That’s too grandiose a description and alludes to a more methodical approach than I was able – or inclined – to apply. ‘Obsession’ is a word others were quick to use and perhaps there was some verisimilitude in that.

‘Verisimilitude’ means ‘the quality of seeming real’. It is a not a synonym for ‘truth’. Just say ‘truth’. And then this, from another character:

Dr Edwards, my tutor, … reckons I’ve got – and I quote – an extremely mature appreciation of Austen’s work. ‘You’re a sensitive reader, Alice,’ he told me. ‘You’ve also self-evidently got a soft spot for doomed heroines.’

First of all, something that is ‘self-evident’ can be understood to be true without explanation or proof. You mean ‘evidently’ or ‘obviously’. Also, there are no ‘doomed heroines’ in Jane Austen’s novels. Every single one of her protagonists ends up happily married (what else could a woman possibly want??).

Richmond uses the word ‘scuttled’ about six times, and ‘transmogrified’ twice within three pages (again, you mean ‘transformed’. Or better yet, try ‘changed’).

This is all stuff the editor should have caught, but it gets on my nerves, especially since the book was plastered in rave reviews. Book reviewers get paid to notice these things! Why won’t anyone pay me to notice these things? I’m a natural born nitpicker.

She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake

1. Because I will watch anything with a murder in it, I’ve been working my way through Forensic Files. It has all the true-crime goodness you could wish for: gruesome crime scene photos, brilliantly awkward re-enactments (you really couldn’t find anyone who could cross the street convincingly?) and narration aimed at an audience with kindergarten-level education. The narrator speaks in a slow, overly exaggerated tone, like he’s reading a bedtime story. (“Once upon a time, there was a dissatisfied wife…”) In one episode he explained what DNA is. In another he explained what pollen is.

In general the show reminds me why I prefer fictional murderers to real ones (besides the fact that they are less dangerous): namely, real-life criminals are dumb as hell. If you’re going to fulfil all the clichés in the world and kill your husband for insurance money, maybe wait a little longer than a month after taking out the shiny new life insurance policy to poison him? And maybe also don’t sign books about poison out of the library under your own name and leave fingerprints all over the section on cyanide?

2. When I came back to work after my week off, my voice was literally husky from lack of use. Which means I had a proper holiday. Apart from an internet date the first Saturday (he was nice enough but had weirdly small hands) (I am going to be single forever), I pretty much only spoke to cashiers in shops. I watched a lot of Law & Order and Deep Space Nine. I did not do my hair or wear proper trousers. It was great. And now I have another week off between Christmas and New Year! I’ll just go put my hairbrush in storage, because I will not be needing it.

The most exciting thing that happened during my holiday was when I rescued a sheep. I was walking through Portholme Meadow (the largest meadow in England, meadow enthusiasts!) and I spotted a sheep that had managed to get itself stranded between a fence and some trees on the far side of a creek. God knows how it got over there – something must have frightened it. And whatever it was must have been more frightening than me, because me wading across the creek (IN DECEMBER) did not frighten it enough to bolt back across. I had to pick it up and carry it across the creek, LIKE JESUS, only much less dignified. I ended up soaked and muddy and smelling of sheep, and sheep do not smell good. But the sheep seemed fine, if ungrateful.

3. The new job is great. A lot of it is batch-processing photos and preparing files for print, but I’ve been doing some practice custom design jobs as well. It is awesome, awesome, awesome to get paid to do what I enjoy most in the world (besides reading in the bath. Are there any bathtub-reading jobs going? I am the world’s best bathtub reader).

4. I watched all of the first season of Jessica Jones in two days. I liked it so much that I actually bought a leather jacket off eBay in the hopes that it would make me look like a hard-drinking PI who can punch people through walls. I’m not sure if it has the desired effect, but it’s a cool jacket.

5. Yesterday I got a Christmas card from my new landlord. I’m not sure if he’s even the same species as my old landlord. Speaking of, I just heard back about the dispute over my damage deposit. The bastard has been ordered to pay back every damn cent. God bless us every one!

Happy fucking Christmas, y’all.

He is whiter than white and cleaner than clean

1. I’ve been rewatching Star Trek Voyager over the past few months. I’m coming to the end of the final season, and I’m really going to miss it. I love the Star Trek universe. It’s so comforting. Humanity has overcome greed, pollution, discrimination and conflict, and is peacefully exploring space, rocking their unisex jumpsuits and showing the rest of the galaxy how to get shit done.

Here is the plot to every single episode of every Star Trek show, pretty much: a Starfleet starship answers a distress call (they never learn with these things). An initially friendly encounter with a new alien race (English-speaking humans with Silly Putty on their foreheads) turns hostile when the aliens exhibit unpleasant behaviour (usually a reductio ad absurdum of some characteristic of a historical or non-Western human culture), leading to some sort of crisis. The Starfleet crew are aghast but behave diplomatically, ultimately saving the day with their pluck and determination and teaching the aliens a lesson about cooperation or compassion or table manners or whatever.

(The other plot is when someone goes into the holodeck and either falls in love with one of the holo-characters or one of the holo-characters becomes sentient and turns off the safety parameters and goes on a rampage, or both. Why is it even possible to turn off the safety parameters in the holodeck? The thing is a death trap.)

I love it unreservedly. I’ve watched so much Star Trek: TNG, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise (but not the first Star Trek series. Too camp) that I’m sort of half convinced that holodecks and photon torpedoes and Jefferies tubes and phasers and transporters and replicators are real, and I have this semi-serious longing to be a Starfleet officer. I can speak fluent Trek tech-speak, too:

Captain, we’re venting plasma from the starboard nacelle! If we modulate the phase variance of a gravimetric torpedo to emit a sustained tachyon burst, we may be able to disable their weapons array!

See? I’m qualified.

I’m beside myself with excitement about this, naturally.

2. My new landlord is the diametric opposite of my old landlord (I raised a dispute over my damage deposit more than a month ago, and still not a peep). I recently had some minor repairs that needed doing in my flat, but I put off reporting them to the landlord for ages because he tends to come straight round and do the repairs himself, providing a detailed running commentary the entire time. I really shouldn’t complain – it’s lovely that he’s so responsive – but I now know way more about toilet flushing mechanisms than I ever hoped to.

3. The new flat has a bathtub. My last flat did not have a bathtub. I have been making up for lost time, bath-wise. After 9.30 every evening I basically live in the tub. Since moving in I’ve gone through nearly two large bottles of bubblebath, and probably a hundred tea light candles (it’s not a proper bath without candles). My skin is getting really dry and itchy but I DON’T CARE. IT’S BATH TIME.

4. A thing that I hate is when some chat apps (Facebook, Whatsapp) change my text emoticons into graphic smileys. It took me ages to come round to using smileys at all. I’ve resigned myself because sometimes you need a smiley, especially if you are being nearly continuously sarcastic (I inadvertently insult people like all the time). I already feel undignified using them, but at least a text smiley has a modicum of minimalist dignity. When I type in a semicolon-bracket and it turns into a giant gurning yellow smiley face it makes me cringe.

5. As of now I’m off work for a week. I’ve treated myself to a bottle of wine, and I will now commence binge-watching season 3 of The Bridge. Every day in every way, I wish I was Saga Noren.