Wednesday, 27 June 2007

When food bites back

I just injured myself with the same Pringle in 3 (yes, Three) Different Ways.

Injury number 1: I choked on the first bite and hurt my throat.

Injury number 2: As I bit into the remainder of the Pringle, a little bit flew off and went into my eye; this hurt my eyelid.

Injury number 3: I stuck my finger in my eye to get the little bit of Pringle out, thus filling my eye with the salt that the Pringle had left on my hand. This hurt my eye A LOT.

If this had not happened, though, I wouldn't have had anything to tell you today, so it's not all bad.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

A dilemma, and a new project

Around this time every year, my mother and I have the following conversation:

Mum: Have you thought of anything you want for your birthday yet?

Me: Ummmm.... no... haven't really thought about it....

Mum: But your birthday was a fortnight ago! There must be something you want...

Me: Ummmm... can't think of anything... maybe something for the garden?

Mum: What about clothes? You could do with clothes.

Me: Ummmmmmmm....... yeah, I'll have a look some day when I'm in town.

This goes on for most of the summer.

So I was delighted when, flicking through a magazine in the doctor's surgery a couple of weeks ago, I saw an advert for Next, showing a girl wearing jeans which I just thought were lovely. AH HA! I thought... I have my birthday present from my parents sorted! At last! She was also wearing sandals, which I thought my sister could buy for me. Double score! (I hate shopping; about twice a year I decide that I need new clothes, so I look at magazines and catalogues until I decide what I want, then go and buy it - this saves me from browsing, which is pure tedium in anywhere but a bookshop).

These jeans were a nice colour, kinda baggy, and with funky turn-up bits at the bottom. I even checked them on the internet to get a bigger picture, and see them from different angles and things, such was my liking for the jeans. You can see a picture of them here if you like (note: I think I will not get the hat or the bikini top; the hat would look ridiculous in Belfast, and bikini tops and me - not friends).

So at the weekend, I went to the local shopping centre, to Next, to buy the jeans. But they didn't have them. So I thought, never mind, I'll go into the city centre some evening. Today came my evening of choice, so I duly walked (walked, mind) to town, went to Next, and they still didn't have them!!!!

I ask you: what is the point of advertising something and then not having it in your shops?! Tsk. So now what to do about my birthday present? I'm in two minds as to whether or not I should order them online, but then they might not fit, and they might not be as nice in real life plus I'd have to pay postage and packing; on the other hand, though, I do really like them and I do need new jeans quite urgently.

So I'm a bit miffed that the birthday present problem carries on.

Anyway, this was more than made up for by the discovery that Australian police (or government or someone - doesn't matter) have launched a new advert to try to stop motorists from speeding. The advert shows a guy speeding past a couple of girls who then turn to each other and exchange 'knowing glances' while holding up a little finger, bent over limply.... the implication being that the guy in the car know... errrr... not so... well... manly...

Needless to say, I have decided that we (meaning me and my loyal viewers, that's you) are going to adopt this gesture in Belfast. We shall extend it to include those who drive 4x4s (I really dislike 4x4s, you may have noticed).

Right, my tea's ready (I wish I'd put more than a third of a quiche in the oven).

Monday, 25 June 2007

This post is a bit of a disappointment

Well, it's been 5 days since I posted here, so I thought I should say hello, but other than that, I don't really have much to say for myself.

The Soapbox has me all in a frenzy about the church's attitude to single people, but I haven't got my thoughts into a coherent state yet, so if I did post them they'd look like this:

asugyasdhgow h t'asdngasryh[anfga !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! rgoOUSADFBETOUHAOERNHA;OUHNRsuhnwaoeuhnanh grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

and not make much sense.

So we'll wait for that one.

I also almost, but not quite, have some thoughts on Rob Bell's DVD on Rhythm, which we watched in church last night, but again these thoughts are not coherent, and so far look like this:

. - - . % && £ & "$^% ;':@ @~~~~

which is a little more graceful, but still not likely to be the most profound thing you come across today.

Let's face it; you have better things to do.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The WhyNotSmile Guide To Driving

Today's day at work can be summed up in the following conversation, had with the boss at 3 o'clock:
Boss: Are you ok?
Me: Er... yes... fine now.
Boss: Ah good. Just wanted to check... I heard your screams from the car park.

Meanwhile, it has come to my attention that The Vatican has issued a set of Ten Commandments for driving. I thought I'd have a go at this myself, since if I ever decide to start my own religion, it is best to have this kind of thing thought through beforehand.

So, here goes; my Ten Commandments for driving:

1. Thou shalt have no other purpose on thy mind before driving. Do not drive while trying to complete other tasks, including (but not limited to) applying make up, practicing yoga moves, and operating heavy machinery.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any attempt to purchase or drive an SUV, Jeep, Landrover or other 4-wheel drive vehicle, unless thou dost live on a farm. If thou dost not own an SUV, thou shalt make life as difficult as possible for those who do, by never letting them out at junctions, so that they shalt realise the error of their ways and get a Ford Fiesta instead.

3. Do not take the speed limit signs in vain; one day, there will be a policeman with a camera there.

4. Remember the bus timetable, and keep it handy; in it thou shalt find one of the best works of fiction ever created by man, and this will keep you entertained while you are parked on the Westlink.

5. Honour the Highway Code, that thy driving days may be long. Please pay particular reference to the section explaining how to use roundabouts, the paragraph that says undertaking is illegal, the bit about how indicators and fog lights are supposed to work and the part about stopping at red lights (Soapbox).

6. Thou shalt not kill anything, except thy speed.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery, especially while driving.

8. Thou shalt not steal my car. To help you to not steal it, I have superglued it to the road, fastened it with 7 chains, and coated it with invisibility paint.

9. Thou shalt not bear large objects in thy car without securing them properly - I do not want your new 3-piece suite to squish my car when you take a corner too fast.

10. Though shalt not covet thy neighbour's parking space; especially if I am your neighbour. It's my space, in front of my house, and I want to park there.

I should of course add further laws relating to the proper circumstances for driving in the first place:

* Do not drive anywhere that is less than 2 miles away. You have legs, you can walk. I don't care if it's raining: you're not made of sugar and you won't melt. It will probably be character building. Exceptions can be made only in the following cases: if you are unable to walk; if you have small children; if you have to transport heavy things (in the latter case, however, please refer to Commandment 9 above).

* Do not drive without a licence. If you do, make sure you do it at high speeds, through built-up areas where small children live, while playing loud music - this way the police (who are sitting at red lights stopping the really dangerous drivers like The Soapbox) will not catch you. Of course, you will probably kill someone, and this is a Bad Thing.

* Do not drive if it is possible to use a mode of transport which does not destroy the environment. Examples of such transport include: walking, cycling, teleporting and skateboarding. If none of these is possible, get the bus. If you really must drive, put as many people in the car as possible. The amount of pollution is approximately inversely proportional to the number of people in the car; in fact, once you have 15 people the environmental impact is negligable and above this number you actually improve things because no one can breathe and therefore they are not emitting carbon dioxide, which is a poisonous gas which harms the ozone layer. So you should try to get at least 15 environmentally-aware friends to sit in the back of your car when you drive anywhere.

Drive safely, viewers.


Some of you will be familiar with the 'Celebrity lookalikes' widget on Bebo, whereby you submit a photo of yourself and it scans your face and tells you who you look like. I submitted a photo of my friend Barbara, and it said she looked like Nigel Mansell, Rob Lowe, Oliver Stone and Paul McCartney. Since Barbara is both female and a rubber band ball, this somewhat diminished my respect for computers.

Disclaimer: I should explain that in the above post, I used the word 'friend' to lull you into a false sense of security so that I could later reveal, with perfect comedy timing, that Barbara was a rubber band ball. It wouldn't have worked if I'd told you from the start that she was a rubber band ball, so I put 'friend' instead. Be assured that my life is not so bad that I have started making friends from office stationery.

Anyway, Zoomtard has found this, which is a very funny rip-off of a Lidl catalogue.


Monday, 18 June 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

So Everyone's Favourite SmileTM is officially a year older. Thanks to everyone who sent text messages, Bebo comments and Facebook... thingies. I had a lovely day; went to mum and dad's for a birthday/Father's Day barbecue, and enjoyed one of the warmest, sunniest days we've had so far this year.

Dozavtra claims she had an even better day than Smile, due to getting a boat trip round the bay (I declined this time round).

A 'guess Sharon's age' competition was narrowly avoided in church last night.

Then today I had a birthday picnic, courtesy of Alex, who made fine sandwiches and brought lots of chocolate and sweets. I have overdosed slightly on Flying Saucers (those little sugary/cardboardy things with sherbert inside).

So all in all, a very nice birthday. Photos will be on Bebo soon.

For those who are wondering, we're still waiting for the kitchen man to phone back - you will, of course, be the first to know.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Life's Great Tapestry

So, in the absence of Dozavtra I have been doing a lot of DVD watching lately (this being the only form of moving pictures available to you when you have neither a t.v. nor much of an inclination to look in mirrors). And since I only own 4 DVDs, of which one is Shrek 2 and 3 are The Lord of the Rings, I've been re-watching The Lord of the Rings. That last sentence had a lot of numbers. I apologise. They were all small though.

Whether it be the film or the book, the epic tale of Frodo and the Fellowship carries me away every time - to the great myths and legends of primary school 'history' lessons, the wonder of longed-for and still-to-come adventure as I grew into teenage years and the pain of trying to discover my place in the great 'tapestry of life' as an adult.

It seems to me that we all want to be part of that great tapestry; more than that, we all see that we have no choice. We all have stories, be they grand or unimpressive, which weave together with the lives of those we meet on the journey and slowly, surely, form a bigger picture - a main character here, an irrelevant detail there, or a thread almost unnoticed and yet essential in the background.

So often I long to be a character in the big picture, to be seen, to be significant - even to be that for one other person, who will look back and say that I mattered. And yet, we live life unable to see what the picture will be. We cannot tell from this side of eternity where we will fit. When we see the full work of art, my little thread of life may be the spear in the hand of a great warrior, or the stalk of an apple in a basket lying half-hidden behind a tree. But whatever my part in this skilfully woven picture, it is there precisely because it is part of the picture; precisely because the artist wanted to put it there; precisely because the picture would not have been complete without it.

For the record, I hope that I turn out to be that little thread which you don't really see, but which puts a little twinkle into someone's eye, or the turn of a smile to someone's mouth, or the hint of mischief in the face of the child who's eyeing up the basket of apples...

Friday, 15 June 2007

A turn for the worse

So I haven't so far mentioned my kitchen to you all. I will now rectify this. In November 2005 I went to a well-known DIY store (we'll call it Q&B), and chose my kitchen. I even paid a deposit. In January 2006 the bits of kitchen duly arrived and were installed by a team of friendly, if not entirely tidy, chaps. Which was nice. And I looked and saw that it was good.

So for a few months I enjoyed my new kitchen, which is very lovely. After a few months, however, I observed that the stuff that covers the doors (the plastic stuff that makes it look like wood - I didn't say this this was a high-quality kitchen) started to peel. So I phoned Q&B and asked for new doors. They said this was fine, and they ordered them, and I waited for them to arrive. And waited, and waited.... Several phone calls were made; each time the lovely friendly person on the other end denied all knowledge but ordered me new doors. And still I waited.

There follow several months of me making intermittent phone calls to the warranty department who tell me to phone the warehouse who tell me to phone the warranty department who tell me they'll sort it out and call me back.

One day, out of the blue, the doors arrived at my house, in several huge boxes. And again, I looked and saw that it was good. So I phoned Q&B to arrange for someone to install them.

There follow 6 months of me making intermittent phone calls to the warranty department who tell me to phone the warehouse who tell me to phone the warranty department who tell me they'll sort it out and call me back. Occassionally someone from the warranty team calls me, to make sure that the kitchen has been sorted out. I say 'no'. They promise to sort it.

So finally, just before Christmas, a very pleasant sort of chap phones me and says he'll be there the next day. So the next day, he arrives, and begins installing the new doors. Unfortunately, one of the new ones has been damaged, so he can't install it. So he says he'll arrange for a new one to come, and he leaves.

I come home to find a mountain of empty cardboard boxes, and the entire set of old doors sitting in my living room.

I wait a few days for Q&B to phone. I wait a few weeks. I phone them. I explain the situation and they say that they will order the one remaining replacement door and let me know when it arrives. I wait, and Christmas is approaching. Strongly suspecting that workmen and Christmas are not two things that are liable to lead to my kitchen being finished, I phone and tell them to hurry up. I put on my angry voice. The lady who answers the phone calls me 'dear'. I know I have lost.

There follow several months of me making intermittent phone calls to the warranty department who tell me to phone the warehouse who tell me to phone the warranty department who tell me they'll sort it out and call me back. Occassionally someone from the warranty team calls me, to make sure that the kitchen has been sorted out. I say 'no'. They promise to sort it.

So eventually they say that they will deliver the door to my work on 2nd Jan. This is not hard, since their warehouse is less than a mile from my desk. I can even see it out the window. They don't turn up. So we're now into January 2007, and it is a full year since the kitchen was installed.

I give up in despair for a while. Then I decide to call in and see if I can just get the door from the warehouse myself. This works quite well; I get as far as holding a replacement door in my hands. I speak to a girl called Kerri. She knows nothing and can't give me the door without confirming it with the warranty department, who have all gone home for the evening (at 4.30). So she emails them and tells me that she'll let me know.

Easter comes and goes.

One evening I get a message on my answering machine, saying 'This is Greg from Q&B warranty dept. Please give me a ring'. He doesn't leave a number, so I call the only number I have and they have no idea, but they say they'll sort it out.

Then on Tuesday past, Steve calls. Steve is a cheerful sort of chap. He asks whether the kitchen is finished yet. I explain the whole tale. Steve is very sorry about it and says he will order the new door straight away and it will be delivered soon. Then I have to ring him and he'll arrange someone to come and fit it.

Last night, I get home and there is a huge box in the hallway with a Q&B sticker on it. Pausing only briefy to wonder why the box is quite so big, I rejoice that it has arrived, and go straight back out. I get home later, and open it, thinking I'd better check that my nice new door is undamaged. Except, when I open it, it's a cupboard. With a little message on the box saying 'to complete this cupboard, you need a door, hinges and a handle'. Thanks.

So this morning, I try to phone Steve, in the Warranty department. I get Aaron. Aaron listens to the whole story and says he'll put me through to head office. I tell the whole story again to the man in Head Office. He tells me I need to speak to the warranty depatment. I tell him I just spoke to them and they put me through to him. He says 'oh'. He tells me to wait, and I get put on hold. After a few minutes, another man answers. I don't know who he is, he clearly doesn't know who I am. I explain the whole story again. We agree that Steve (who, incidentally, seems to have disappeared) sent me the wrong thing. We agree that Steve should have sent a door, not a cupboard. He says he'll arrange for the door to be sent to the warehouse and for the fitter to pick it up and fit it.

I ask about the mountain of old doors, and the cupboard, to be sent back. He says he'll look into it.

We agree again that Steve should have sent a door, not a cupboard.

So I wait, in anticipation of this man phoning me back.

Monday, 11 June 2007

CS Lewis on Worship

The more observant among you will have noted the disappearance of the 'Books lined up to read' section in the left-hand margin (and possibly the unchanging nature of the 'Currently Reading' list, despite the fact that I read at least a book a week). This is not because I have no books lined up to read (in fact, I have several piles, some of which are growing so large that I have now hidden them so as not to become disheartened at the task of reading them all). No, this is simply because I'm not organised enough to know which ones I'm going to read next (I say 'ones' because there are usually at least 3 on the go), and if I list them all, then the list would be really... sorry, I'm bored of this paragraph. Let's move on.

Anyway, this weekend I picked up 'The Four Loves' by CS Lewis, which I started about 3 years ago and never got round to finishing. I've been astonished again at the power and clarity of the observations and sentiments he expresses, page after page.

I haven't quite finished it yet, so I may mention it again, but I thought I'd share a little bit of it with you here. It's a paragraph at which I gasped out loud when I finished reading it. In the first chapter, Lewis introduces the concepts of Need-love and Gift-love - the first being the love we feel for someone who can meet a need in us, and the second being that which we feel when we do something for someone we care about; the ultimate example of Gift-love being, of course, God's divine Love for us in giving Himself for us. Naturally, neither of these loves can exist in isolation; virtually always we find them weaving together in the love we feel for the people around us.

In Chapter 2, however, Lewis examines what we feel when we appreciate something which we call 'good' (the smell of a flower, the sound of birds, a great work of art) - the feeling that that thing in itself should continue to exist, even if I were the last person on earth and were about to die, leaving no one to appreciate it. It is something for which we have no need (although we may take pleasure in it), and in whose formation and being we have had no part. Lewis says this:
There is a third element in love, no less important than these [Gift-love and Need-love], which is foreshadowed by our appreciative pleasures. This judgement that the object is very good, this attention (almost homage) offered to it as a kind of debt, this wish that it should be and should continue being what it is even if we were never to enjoy it, can go out not only to things but to persons. When it is offered to a woman we call it admiration; when to a man, hero-worship; when to God, worship simply.

Is this what we think of when we think of worship? So often our modern 'worship' songs have so much about 'what God has done for me' and 'how much I want to do for God' that we simply miss this third strand, so quiet and still and yet so loud and vital... when we worship, we should be expressing as best we can, albeit falteringly and crudely, that God Himself is very good, that He does not exist for us nor we for Him, but that He is and must be forever God.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Do as I say...

Last week I was driving through the Harbour Estate, when I saw a fence to which was attached the following sign:

'Please do not attach signs to this fence.'

And I laughed.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Materialism and the demise of all we have known

On Friday my iPod arrived (the one I won). On Saturday I figured out how to put songs on it. On Sunday I realised I was addicted. On Monday I discovered that the same has happened to The Soapbox.

What is the world coming to?

I own a gadget. And what's more, it's a gadget that no one else has owned before me; it is possibly the first actually brand-new thing I have owned since my roly-poly chime ball when I was 6 months old. I didn't pay for it, of course, so that's one point in my favour, and nor did I actually ask for it - I won it and can therefore be said to have had next to no choice in the matter. I'm still a few steps away from being sucked into a consumerist pit and seeing my soul sacrificed on the altar of materialism.

But I always thought The Soapbox knew better. I thought he was stronger. When all else fails, I thought, old Soapy will still be standing strong. But no.

Hope is fading fast.

Friday, 1 June 2007

New Responsibilities

So my favourite manager has left work and I have been assigned all kinds of Important Tasks TM until we get a new person. Two days ago I got to chair my first ever work meeting. Now, in our office, meetings don't get 'chaired' so much as 'refereed'. The success of a meeting is measured not by what is achieved (since this is usually not a lot, especially if previously-mentioned now-resigned manager is not involved and the boss is) but by amount of blood (the less the better, we're not sado-masochists or anything), entertainment value (who shouted at who, how loudly, for how long, and about what - this can add to or detract from the overall score) and quality of tea.

By all these standards, it was a reasonably good meeting.
No blood was spilled (10 out of 10).
Arguments were of the 'snappy' variety rather than the long drawn-out variety. I should explain here that the boss and her 'boyfriend' (hideous term since they are both in their forties, but 'live-in lover' makes me want to vomit and I can't think of anything else) are 'in charge', and frequently spend meetings shouting at each other while anyone else in attendance takes immense interest in the table top, their shoes, an important doodle etc. Anyway, the shouting was enough to be mildly entertaining, but not enough to be too embarrassing. So we'll give it a 6 out of 10.
I had chamomile tea, which is a mild sedative, which is a good thing when in work meetings, and we shall award it 8 out of 10.

So overall, my first meeting scored 24 out of 30, or 80%. I am quite pleased with this score and shall award myself a prize. I think I may make myself Employee of the Week, an award which I started last week and have so far failed to win.