Friday, October 24, 2008

Driving, the French, and kids TV

I had a refresher driving lesson last week with a man called Desmond. Desmond was in his late sixties and from Jamaica, and had been teaching driving for 30 years. He was a laid back but no-nonsense sort of person, frequently placing his hand on my steering wheel so we avoided colliding with the curb, while simultaneously talking about a craving for chicken soup.

He had a passionate hatred of the police and told me it was commonly known that should any of the three or so policemen that lived in his neighbourhood find themselves in peril with only Desmond to save them, they would certainly die. The idea of being the only person that could help them but instead letting them suffer a slow horrible death appeared to be something he relished.

Desmond's son died at the age of 36. A strange case of the young man being found dead in his flat with no obvious cause of death. According to Desmond, despite the doctor that declared his son dead instructing them to do so, the police failed to classify the circumstances as suspicious and conduct an investigation. He said in his opinion the case was written off as just another black man involved with drugs, even though the autopsy revealed no traces of drugs or alcohol.

Clutching the steering wheel I prayed to god that we didn't have an accident. I worried for the attending officer's safety.

I had a tough day today. Julia is teething which means she's not sleeping very well. This in turn means she woke up a lot last night, didn't have a morning nap, and only slept for half an hour at midday. Happy to play the one minute, crying her little heart out the next. After a (very) long day of dealing with such manic depressive behaviour, I wondered how single parents do it alone. At least when Roberto gets home I can hand her over, and in a very calm controlled voice say to him, "Hello darling, here is your daughter. Please take over while I walk downstairs, open the front door, step outside, and scream. Thank you."

Having children is interesting it terms of what you learn about yourself. I consider myself a fairly calm and even tempered person, and make a concerted effort not to have Julia bear the brunt of my moods. But when you are dealing with someone that is so consistently irrational, it can be trying. It's one of the reasons I cancelled my account with Vodafone.

I bought Julia a couple of vests for a hefty sum from Petit Bateau the other day. The French sales person who had the waistline of an 8-year-old boy said to me, "You need to buy beeg, French sizes ah small." I looked at her and then down at Julia, who is in the 25th percentile in terms of weight, and, as our paediatrician is fond of saying, 'Not going to win any heavyweight divisions.' Bloody French, I thought, always superior with their small sizes and 8-year-old boy waistlines. Anyway, I took her advice and got 12 months (Julia is 10 months), and dammit if she wasn't right, it's a snug fit.

Compare and contrast to the stuff I bought from Sainsburys today. I thought I'd do my bit for the credit crunch and got her some sleep suits from there. I got the 9-12 months size thinking I might be taking a risk with them being on the small side. Well, no risk there. They are big enough to fit a hefty three-year-old. Seriously, wtf? I have never seen such big sleep suits, certainly children that are that size are old enough to get out of bed and put on socks if they get cold at night.

I've been watching some children's television lately. Having worked at the BBC as a temp I can swear some of the scenes are shot in and around the BBC building. Once programme is all about problem-solving numbers (yes, yes I know), and there's always a man mopping (cue BBC corridor) and someone in a cafeteria (cue BBC cafeteria). Those guys are clearly doing their bit for the credit crunch by saving on location costs.

Yes, kids TV. I look at those 20 to 30-something-year-old presenters and wonder how they switch over from doing all that fake cheerful crap all day to their personal lives in the evening. I kind of have this Crusty the Clown fantasy about them. Like the minute they get out of there they light up a fag, take a swig from a bottle of Jack Daniells, and say stuff like, "I was so much better at stage school than that bitch Keira."

And as a parting gift, here is a picture of Jodie Marsh and her girlfriend Nina. Nina's face says it all.

Update: I forgot to add, god, I can't believe I forgot this: Julia took her very first steps last night at 10 months and 1 week old. Well done Julia! And I'm looking forward to the weight loss on my part. God knows I need it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another day, another Vodafone f**k up

So Vodafone eventually stopped calling me in the hopes that I'd change my mind and not leave them. Although I did get a call, once I had closed the account, from a young guy asking me if I was aware of their latest deals. I asked him if he was aware that I had closed my account. It was an embarrassing exchange. And I eventually got a very nice leaving letter from them with my PAC code in it. I'm now an O2 customer, and can I just say, the 3G iPhone they do rocks. But that's another story.

Anyway, so I got my final bill from Vodafone yesterday, and guess what? A total of £366.93 pounds. Yep, and those of you that know me, and know how much I hate using the phone when there's the passive aggressive medium of email available, will know there's no way in hell that was me jabbering. Nope, those were 'data' costs. You know, the costs they were supposed to have deducted from my second to last bill because they sold me a data package which they didn't implement because it turned out my existing package was incompatible with it?

I opened that bill at 11pm last night on my way up to bed and went from being dead on my feet tired, to dead on my feet tired and irate. Filled with rage, because I knew that this morning I would have to call someone up at Vodafone and explain a very long and complex story that featured their company's incompetence as the lead protagonist.

Fortunately, and there really is a lesson to be learnt here about getting stuff in writing, I had an email from the chap I spoke to last month confirming that they would credit my account with that massive data charge. And fortunately still, the woman I spoke to today, a lovely woman called Rachel (a beacon in a sea of stupidity), 'got it' without me having to waffle on for too long, and subsequently sent me another email stating that they are going to credit me a whopping £278.85, which means my final bill will now only be £88,08 as opposed to £366.93.

I'm going to call today and pay my final bill by credit card, but have a nagging feeling this shit is going to come back and bite me in the arse in the form of another outstanding bill for the data costs. I mean, if the sales people don't even know what their colleagues are doing, how can we expect there to be communication between sales and accounts? Certainly that is far too much to ask. Watch this space.

It won't surprise you to know that Rachel told me there were no notes on my account referencing the previous credit note or anything about the wrong data package being sold to me.

Matthew from Vodafone, if you are reading this, GET YOUR COMPANY TO INSTALL A NOTES FACILITY IN THEIR SYSTEM AND MAKE THEM USE IT!

On a separate, much more positive note, I saw the woman I'd met in Starbucks that was in a wheelchair after being hit by a car in Hampstead. The good news is that she's in hydrotherapy (which she says is fantastic) and is walking with the help of a walker. She reckons that in a month or so she will be walking unaided. Fantastic news.

And on a random note, if you use
Lancôme's Eau de Bienfait Clarté (their fantastic cleanser and toner in one), and are as confused as I was as to why you can't find it anywhere, that's because they've re-branded it. It's now called Eau Micellaire Douceur Express cleansing Water Face, Eyes, Lips, or so I was told my the overly made-up Lancôme person at the Boots in Brent Cross. Mystery solved. Although someone should probably tell the Lancôme UK website, because they still feature it, though when you try and buy it it doesn't get put in your basket.

Over and out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McDonalds, Lesbians, and Love Affirmation Ceremonies


There are some role play toys that inspire future greatness in children. A doctor's kit for example, a fire fighter's outfit, a Lightsaber. Then there's the McDonalds Drive-Thru play center I encountered on a recent visit to Toys R Us. Wtf? If this is as high as the kids of today are aiming, it worries me. There is no way in hell Julia is going to work at a McDonalds! It's Gourmet Burger or nothing, she's been warned.

In this week's issue of OK! magazine, the perma-tanned Jordan aka Katie Price, and her husband Peter share their photo-op intimate 'Love Affirmation Ceremony' pictures with, well, everyone. Very intimate indeed. Katie also tells readers that they are NOT GETTING DIVORCED, no matter what you may see in the magazines. Sorry guys!

The copy reads, 'In keeping with the natural surroundings they decided to forgo the extravagance of their wedding day, exchanging a fuchsia-pink, rose-oil infused, Swarovski crystal-encrusted marquee for the wild expanses of Africa, and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of wedding ring diamonds for simple leather bands which they plaited themselves.' (OK Magazine October 21 Issue 645)

That single sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the couple.

Yes, and they really did forgo any extravagance this time round and beautifully blended in with the understated yet breathtaking African bush. But forget simple white cotton kaftan's or whatever it is people think white folks wear in Africa, Katie went one further by sporting something between a strippers outfit and a ball gown. The sequenced bodice open to the belly with an enormous amount of cleavage on display, and a ten ton tiara fit for a drag-queen. Peter is wearing an all white suit (with white tie), but fortunately for him, the shoes are at least tan.

What I wonder, seriously, is whether or not they are having a laugh (all the way to the bank), or if this kind of chintzy camp crap is really what they're about. And what's worse, the fact that this stuff appears in OK all the time and sells a shit-load of copies makes me think that perhaps it must be, in some way, aspirational to or representative of at least a segment of the English population. Worrying.

I've found a babysitter for Julia. Yep, praise the lord. I thought I would be a lot more relaxed about it, especially after our wonderful initial experience with our maternity nurse Elizabeth. But unfortunately I succumbed to parental paranoia and found the idea of entrusting our daughter to someone else, even to watch her sleep, quite simply frightening.

I suppose this is a good thing in some ways, but it also doesn't bode well for one's marriage. You need time together as a couple outside of the house at least once a week, minus clothes that have Petit Filous on them. Roberto is over the moon, and we've set up a standing one night a week with our sitter. That, along with going out once a week each (while the other stays in), means we're pretty much back to pre-baby socialising.

Well, pretty much, except of course for the hangovers. I don't know why, but it's just not kosher to be a mum that goes out on the lash and drinks her own body weight in vodka. Also, there's only so long you can get away with, 'Mummy has a migraine' before your toddler starts cottoning on. Kids of today are far too smart for their own good.

And finally, for those of you that got excited about the fact that Jodie Marsh's 5 minute wedding is no longer, I'm afraid I have bad news, she's still off the market. Jodie is now very happily in a lesbian relationship with her hairdresser, Nina. Same sex couples everywhere that have long struggled to have their lifestyle's and choices accepted and respected will be overjoyed to hear Jodie's own proud and heartfelt testament, 'If I'm going to watch porn, I'll only watch girl on girl - 2 girls together turn me on,' according to Now Magazine. If that's not gay pride, then I don't know what is.

Of course it's not enough for Jodie to just get on with the business of eschewing men and have a relationship in private, she has to snog the poor woman in front of the paps to ensure we all get the point loud and clear. I could be completely wrong here, but I'm getting a very strong shock factor vibe from all of this and have a feeling Nina is going to get chucked on the pile with the rest of Jodie's exes, accompanied by a venomous blog tirade of course.

Thank god for date night, from the subject matter of this entry it's evident I need to get out more.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Just another morning in suburbia

Yesterday morning my doorbell rang. No big deal, except that I was just stepping out of the shower, and as I'm expecting Julia's birthday present (we ordered early), I ran downstairs and snuck my face round the opening, while clutching the towel. I came face to face with a rather portly man in a T-shirt and jeans, his large open-back truck parked behind him in the street.

Him: Alo, I'm here with your mulch
Me: What the crap is mulch, I mean, sorry, what? What is mulch?
Him: The stuff you put on your flowerbeds, back and front. You can pay via cash or credit card
Me: What? I mean, I didn't order anything? Are you sure you have the right house (stating the house number)
Him: Yes, (stating the house number). Don't you remember I was here last year?
Me: I only moved in two months ago
Him: (Faltering) OK, well, it was ordered
Me: By whom? Paul, our gardener? The managing agent?
Him: Um, yes
(Julia begins to cry on the monitor - I've just put her down for her morning sleep)
Me: Let me just get dressed and see to my daughter and I'll be back
Him: (Hopefully) OK

I go upstairs, irritated that the managing agent or gardener has ordered something without telling me, settle Julia, and get dressed. I call both the managing agent (who doesn't answer and has still not returned my call) and the gardener, Paul, who tells me this bloke is a regular swiz artist that relies on the maids and housekeepers in our street not knowing what's going on, and then dumping his crap on their flowerbeds and presenting the house owners with a bill.

All this time I'm talking to Paul, I'm stuck on the fact that this guy might have thought I was the maid or housekeeper, and strangely, it bothers me. But what maid or housekeeper is running around a house in a towel at 9am? What kind of street am I living on?

Me: (Expecting some kind of confrontation after seeing he has indeed already dumped this crap on our front flowerbed) I just spoke to the managing agent and the gardener (half true, I spoke to the managing agent's voicemail), and no one ordered anything. This isn't for us. Not this house.

Him: OK.

OK. OK? That's it? Evidently he was expecting me to get pissed at having caught him out at his game, and he looked relieved that I didn't. So off he drove, rather quickly, and I now have something that resembles soil with some hay pieces and other rubbish sticking out of it on our front flowerbed.

And on the subject of trash, I just want to comment very briefly on the Jade V Jordan spat. For those of you fortunate enough not to know what's going on, just skip this bit. For those of you bored enough to care, Jordan (Katie Price) has been saying that Jade Goody has a case of bad taste for selling her cancer story to the magazines and newspapers.

WTF? Sorry, but this is Jordan that not only publicizes her every waking moment, but prostitutes her children to the pages of OK magazine, talking about bad taste. She poses provocatively in her underwear, or is it a bathing suit (who can tell?) in nausea-inducing photo-shoots with her kids. Bloody hell, talk about pot and kettle.

I don't much care for either of them, but in all fairness to Jade, she is effectively a single mother (financially speaking at least), and she is very ill indeed. The prognosis is not good, and she is doing whatever she can to make money to ensure her boys have a future, and freely admits to it. If I was her I'd milk it too.

Also, going through cancer and indeed something as frightening as the kind she has, and being so willing to candidly talk about it, is admirable in its own way. There are a lot of people suffering from this illness and it's good that it's brought into public awareness in such a personal way. It may even go towards raising more money for cancer research, which is never a bad thing.

What I did think was in very bad taste however, was this week's OK interview with Jade. The interview questions were beyond stupid and insensitive. These included:

'Do you believe in reincarnation - if so, what would you like to come back as?'
(Jade makes some weird comment about her mother believing her grandfather came back as a bumble bee and that she wouldn't want to come back as one)
And the interviewer then asks,
'If you did, who would you sting?'
Followed closely by
'Would you come back as a ghost?'

These are questions being posed to a woman who has stage three cancer and is planning her funeral.

And your question would be 'And why do you read this shitty magazine?'

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Holy Cow!

I'm not in the habit of plugging restaurants. Or rather, I'm not in the habit of plugging restaurants that do not send me vouchers for free meals to do so. Last night, however, I had the best Indian food I have eaten since coming to the UK eleven years ago, and I am compelled to sing its praises.

Let me just say, I am not a huge fan of Indian food to begin with. Mainly, I suppose, because I can't really partake in particularly spicy food, which tends to leave me with a very narrow margin of choices, chicken korma being my preferred among these dishes. And I often get the feeling chicken korma is considered such a Westernised wus dish that it's never really prepared with much enthusiasm by any self-respecting Indian chef. The korma's I've had over the years tend to range from being artery clogging creamy and coconutty sweet, to somewhat bland and fairly tasteless. Oh yes, and once the cream used was sour.

This week we got a door drop from Holy Cow, a restaurant promising 'fine Indian food'. Roberto starts getting withdrawal symptoms if he doesn't have Indian food once every two months or so, and I thought, what the hell, I could do with something other than deep friend Chinese food for a change. Holy Cow also have a very cool graphically designed takeout menu, and I'm a sucker for good typography.

We ordered their chicken korma (they call it Murg Korma), lamb rogan, and aloo palak (aka sag aloo aka potato with spinach), pilau rice, and a plain naan bread.

My god, it was bloody good. That chicken korma, I mean, murg korma, was out of this world delicious. Even Roberto, who prefers the spicier stuff, had half of mine - grrr! It was 'using the naan to mop up the remainder of the sauce and fighting over who gets to do that' good. In fact, all of the food was just superb, and Roberto, a bit of a curry aficionado said, 'And not oily!' This morning I woke up not only smelling of curry, but wanting more! A first.

Yes, it was that good. They have kitchens in Kilburn, Battersea and Balham, but evidently deliver further afield than that. That's Holy Cow - Check them out here.

And on the subject of door drops, we got another one, advertising in bright red and black capitals, 'ANY JUNK CLEARANCES, 7 DAYS A WEEK. RELIABLE AND FRIENDLY SERVICE. SUPPORTING CHARITIES. RECYCLING.' Plus a telephone number. And if you could capitalise numbers, I imagine those would be too - for the purposes of keeping with the overall design look of course.

This looks good no? I mean, we have a bunch of stuff leftover from our move that needs taking to the recycling center, one thing being a rather heavy and large electrical item that Roberto and I cannot lift on our own. Turn the card over however and the guy's prices are three times more expensive per hour than a New York based Freudian psychoanalyst. 70 quid for ten minutes of work, I kid you not. The service may well be friendly, but those prices aren't. I wonder if this guy actually gets any business.

Roberto's creatively named 'Eyeclops' night vision goggles arrived. The box has pictures of people in a greenish light playing pranks on each other, another of a badger (wtf?), and one of a man leaning over another who is asleep on a sofa. A gay reference perhaps? Some person evidently thought these things were so alluring that they should feature them on the box making someone, like my dear husband, think to him/herself, 'My god, I just must have them!'

I put them on and I have this much to say: Peripheral vision is zero, ditto re. depth perception. Also, the night vision thingy only works out of one eye, so I don't know how much reading in bed Roberto is going to do before developing advanced single-eyed myopia or a rare form of epilepsy. Either way, I'm hoping fear of these will be a deterrent for him doing so.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The rod and rat

According to a recent survey, one in five teachers in the UK said they would like corporal punishment to be brought back to deal with extreme cases, i.e.spawns of the devil.

I think teaching the kids, some of whom are of a violent inclination already, that violence is a solution to a problem, is a mistake. I reckon they are better off getting Harvey, from Celebrity Fit Club, to make them drop and give 50. I'd go one further and say instead of detention they should train them up to be a lethal fighting machine. Channel those anti-social tendencies and have them do work experience shadowing prison wardens. It's a win win situation, on the one hand they see what the fruits of their criminal labours will lead to if they don't curb their ways, and on the other they get to see the very rewarding side of dealing with violent unruly types on a day to day basis.

For less violent more intellectual types. i.e aspiring criminal masterminds, there's the computer science department. Expert hackers are always in great demand. And for the less ambitious and merely aspiring thugs, there's work in the school fruit and veg allotment.

Bring back the rod indeed.

I visited my stylist yesterday for my regular six week appointment to maintain my natural blondness, as you do. I asked him if the salon was feeling the effects of the credit crunch. I ask everyone this as I'm really interested to know how people are being effected down the line from the big banks. And just a quick aside, people who view the downfall of the big American banks with the attitude of 'They were fat cats and they deserved what they got' are shortsighted. It starts with these guys and then it effects business that are associated with them, which eventually effects the man in the street. So big business losses like this are never a good thing, regardless of your feelings for the people that work in them.

Anyway, I digress, my stylist told me that business has in fact been better than ever (it's a new salon) and last month was one of their best ones.

Winter is creeping up on us, and I hate waking up when it's still dark. It feels like the middle of the night to me, and as though I am the only person alive that is walking around fixing bottles and changing nappies at that ungodly hour.

Our rat situation hangs in the balance. Rentokil have to come round and do their third and final visit. This should have happened ages ago but we went on holiday, and then I procrastinated for a couple of weeks, and now Adam, the Rentokil technician, is on vacation. I can still smell a faint odour of ammonia (i.e. rat urine) coming up from the drain in the kitchen, accompanied by another sweeter perfume (Adam's smelly sachets used to mask the stench).

I am reading a fantastic book right know, called 'Holidays in Hell' by P.J O' Rourke. Featuring chapters such as 'A Ramble through Lebanon' and 'Christmas in El Salvador'. I love this kind of gonzo-journalistic travel writing, and done with a such a brilliant sardonic touch. I'm thinking of writing and pointing him in the direction of Centre Parcs - there may be an interesting chapter in that should he ever do a follow-up book.