Tuesday, 24 July 2007

I'm back

I do apologise, it has been far too long. Not that I have much to tell you, even now.

The big event this week is that I am OFF WORK - woo hoo way hey!!!! Score!!!!!!!!! So happy. No need to drag myself out of bed at 7am (who am I kidding?), fight back that sick and tense feeling, crawl to the bathroom, gulp down breakfast, drive through traffic and be at my desk for 8. No phone calls for me to screw up (answering phones is not one of my greater talents), no emails, no chaos, no clock-watching, no stress, no rising sense of panic as the boss approaches....

So I wonder whether I am really in the right job, and to this end, have been updating my CV and reading books entitled things like 'how to get a job that doesn't make you feel sick every time you think about it'. I'm at that stage of life where I wonder where the last 10 years went and what on earth I'm going to do next. You see, I never really had a career plan that went beyond 'get job for several years, get married, have kids, leave work for 20 years, get job for several years, retire'. Now, this is all well and good, and is still Plan A, but since we are missing one vital component, I'm thinking maybe I should try out Plan B for a while.

So I need to make a Plan B, and this is where we're at right now. So I'm trying to find the perfect job for me. It needs to have the following components:

  • Be interesting with lots of fun things to do every day. These may include things which are considered to be actual 'work' as well as things which are not.

  • Involve nice, sane people. Nice more important than sane.

  • Pay enough money for me to have a mortgage. The necessary amount is rapidly increasing, but last time I checked I think I need to earn about £300000 per year.

  • Provide opportunities to meet nice guy. One who is single and lovely.

  • Be near my house, or within cycling distance. Or even better, not involve me getting out of bed at all (in a 'working from home using my laptop' sense, not in the sense of any other type of job which can earn you money for staying in bed).

  • Involve at most 37.5 hours per week, and at least 23 days off per year. Preferably less hours and more days off though.

So if you hear of anything, please let me know.

Onto Facebook. It used to be all Friends Reunited, but not any more. For today's cool kids, it's a well-established battle between Facebook and Bebo. Now, I am on both. Bebo I like, it is simple and you can draw pictures for other people and I like that. And you can see what celebrities you look like. But, you know, it's for kids. So I should really be investing my time with Facebook - the choice of the grown up, sophisticated technophile. But I'm afraid I just don't understand it, and that scares me. People keep sending me pandas and flowers and ice creams and things, and just the other day, I think Voxo threw a sheep at me. I have no idea how they're doing it. Is this a sign that I'm getting old?

One final thing and then I'll go. The final Harry Potter book. I had a marathon Harry Potter session last week, reading the entire series in one week, leading up to the grand finale on Sunday. I loved it. I cried.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

The WhyNotSmile Guide To Orangefest

So now I am being mocked by an anonymous commenter ON MY OWN BLOG. How did it ever come to this? But this person is leaving clues and I will track them down. Ha! I am not resting on my laurels, oh no. I'm re-reading all my Famous Five books to pick up tips on solving such things, and I will find this anonymous person even (or perhaps especially, or only) if they are keeping secrets locked in a high tower which is accessible only by the circus acrobats who I am sure will happen by soon.

But enough of this. Let's talk about something else. So today is the Twelfth. For those not from Northern Ireland, millions of years ago there was a battle and the people called Protestants beat the people called Catholics at a river called the Boyne. This battle happened on 12th July, so every year, people called Orangemen dress up in bowler hats and suits and white gloves and march around Belfast singing songs about sashes so that nobody forgets that they won. It also has something to do with a man called Billy who had a white horse and spectacularly wavy hair, but fortunately it is not a sectarian day so we now call it 'Orangefest' and invite tourists along.

Of course, since today is the Twelfth, even the slowest among you will have figured out that yesterday was the Eleventh (although I admit you may not have thought to work this out consciously, but you'll hardly have come to a different conclusion, now that you've thought about it). The Eleventh is also a special day in the Northern Irish Protestant calendar, when we all light bonfires and put Irish flags on top and get very drunk and use millions of pounds of taxpayers' money by creating a mess. It is fortunate, of course, that the Eleventh and Twelfth happen to be on consecutive days, because the local off licences have special deals and it is best to take as much advantage of these as possible; if you buy a 48-pack of blue WKD and don't quite get it polished off on the Eleventh, well, there's always the Twelfth.

Now normally I avoid such things much as one would avoid falling out of planes or having one's intestines ripped out by tweezers (apart from last year, when we decided that Dozavtra needed the cultural experience of seeing the bands - but as Dozavtra has a degree in music, I'm not sure that The Rising Star of East Belfast Flute Band was really her 'thing'), but my parents (who happened to be staying with me last night, for horticultural reasons) decided that they'd like to see what happens on the Eleventh night in Belfast. I think they wished to compare it with what happens in Ballywalter, which is, surprisingly, quite a lot. I was initially reluctant, but they regaled me with tales of the olden days (that should have been a warning in itself) when they had big street parties and people brought gramaphones into the street and they all danced (yes, yes, I know, but I'd had a glass of wine and somehow it all sounded much more sensible and convincing when they said it). So I agreed that we could go down the Cregagh Road and see if there was a bonfire to watch.

Half way down the road I remembered that I have something of a phobia of fire, which surely wasn't going to add to my enjoyment of the evening, but by this point the parents were enjoying themselves and mum had revealed that she'd brought money for chips and really I didn't feel I could spoil the evening.

Anyway, it was hideous. All tracksuit bottoms and WKD and broken glass and small scary looking children. And palm trees, for reasons which didn't make themselves apparent. So we got chips and went home.

As my great granny used to say, 'Well, that's the Twelfth of July over for another year... I wonder who'll still be alive next Twelfth of July?'.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Why? WHY?

So what are blogs all about then? This is a question which has troubled me of late. Should my blog really be merely an opportunity for you all to gasp in awe at the sheer depth and profundity of my thoughts, producing both insight and humour woven seamlessly into a warm and fuzzy blanket?

I dunno.

My blog was, in its conceptual phase, a vehicle with which I was going to share my insights into the depths of the universe around us, interspersed with humour to keep your spirits up. It has, however, turned into a riotous comedic account of the profundities of my weary life, used to pad out the fact that I don't do a lot and I don't have insightful things to share very often. But when I do have profound notions, you have to admit that you read them here first. Unless I stole them from somewhere else, which is always a possibility.

So I did a quick survey of other blogs I read a lot. JayberCrow is the highest form of human intelligence and wisdom, but this week he's been shovelling sh*t. The Soapbox got all ironic and then disappeared. Zoomtard has decided less is more and Dozavtra hasn't been seen since boarding a bus bound for London on Wednesday. Knowing Translink, she could be anywhere, but it is guaranteed she'll not have got there quickly. Alex has a blog but won't tell me the address, so I have made myself believe she writes nasty things about me in it and now I feel all wounded and lacking in self-esteem. Voxo and lilytodd are holidaying in France, so we'll not hear from them for a while.

And then there's blog etiquette. Another blog I read a lot is that of Zoomtard's wife, Neuro. But I've never met her so do I put a link to her blog from mine? Is that considered polite? Or an intrusion of privacy? In any case, if I gave you the address you'd discover that I steal all her jokes and she has a nicer lunchbox than me, so I don't think I shall.

Meanwhile, I have received an anonymous comment on my blog. From someone anonymous. This is another etiquette question - is it polite to comment on a blog if you don't know the person and you just kind of lurk on their blog? And who is this person 'anonymous'? I thought that the only people who read this blog where those who I'd coerced into it by threats and blackmail. But someone is following it of their own free will. I'd like to know who. And I will find out.

And so it continues by day and by night.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Ode to Seven

So today is 07/07/07, and I thought we should mark the occasion with a special tribute to the number 7.

Seven is of course, a number of almost mystical sygnificance - we have the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Wonders of the World, the Seven Seas, the Secret Seven, the Seven Ages of Man and Seventh Heaven. There are seven days in a week.

Jesus told his followers to forgive one other seventy times seven and there are seven books in the Harry Potter series. Seven is the number symbolically associated with God, and is the number of letters in the name Jehovah.

Seven is what you get if you subtract the digits of my house number, and also appears twice in my phone number and three times in my mobile number; I was born in 1978 and if you add up all those occurrences it means that the number seven appears seven times in the story of my life.

Every day I get up at seven o'clock (ish) and drive seven miles to work. I have lived in my present house for seven years and one time I ate seven Weetabix for breakfast.

Seven is, of course, a prime number, but it is also, apart from the trivial case of 1, the first happy number (trust me, I have a PhD in this). It is also not only a prime but a Mersenne Prime, being, as it is, 2^3 - 1. It is also 2*3+1, which makes it the first, and possibly only, smile prime (which I just invented).

Beer is sold in packs of six, which is almost seven, as is 5.75%, which is the current interest rate in the UK (at least it was when I checked yesterday; at the present rate of increase it could be seventy times seven by now).

And so we see that seven is a number without which we would have one less deadly sin, one less wonder of the world, no smile primes, and we'd be done with Harry Potter by now.

So let us celebrate the number seven, on this, its special day.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Current Affairs

So I feel that my blog should deal more with current affairs, and be up to date and so on. After all, in the past... oh, I dunno... matter of days we have had a new Prime Minister, some attempted terrorist attacks, and a freed journalist. And I haven't breathed a word of it. I mean, if my blog were preserved for antiquity and used by historians in the future to get a snapshot of life in the noughties, these crucial elements would be left out. What if there's a nuclear war and my blog is all that survives? Eh? WHAT THEN?

For this reason, I shall share with you my favourite news story of this week. This is the rather charming tale of a flotilla of 30,000 rubber ducks which got washed off a container ship somewhere 15 years ago, and has been swimming the high seas ever since (actually, they split into two factions early on - 20000 reached the shores of Indonesia, but the remaining 10000 are still swimming). They have journeyed north and south, east and west - losing friends to ice floes, currents and winds - and yet, ever persevering. The tale has hit the headlines because they are now headed for Britain and Ireland (WHY?! I'd be off to the Maldives if I were them). Anyway, they may continue to cirle the globe for 100 years and are helping scientists to track climate change, or something.

The particularly heart-warming part of this story is that the duckies have pretty much stayed together for 15 years (apart from the ones that... umm... *shhh*... died). Just sailing around, always sticking by each other. 'Where shall we head now lads?'... 'How about Turkey?'.. 'Sounds like us! Let's go!' and off they all float, in one big convoy of duckies. We could learn lessons from this.. about kinship, teamwork and the art of being there for each other. You see, the duckies have made it this far because they have worked as one, made decisions as one, and acted as one. They are one body of duckies, each with a different role (the encouragers: 'Come on boys, into the gulf stream, nice and easy, go with it, let it take you, that's the style'; the brains: 'The Maldives are THIS way lads, follow the sun, follow the sun'; and of course the decoys: 'Archie, go choke that shark, would ye? - every one else, SWIM!!'), and yet each one necessary.

As for duckies, so for us: each of us with our own part to play, each of us different, and yet everyone necessary. There may be a sermon in that somewhere. But we must learn the lesson.

So please keep your eyes peeled for the duckies, and if you see them, let your heart be warmed by this inspiring tale of togetherness and teamwork. It's also worth grabbing a few if you can - they're worth about £500 each.

Rubber Duckies, we're AWFULLY fond of you.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Tired and lacking in profundity

Well, I haven't had a lot to say for myself for a week or so, and that upsets me, for I fear I am becoming dull and boring. The best explanation is that I have been tired and overworked. I did have some thoughts that were the start of blog posts, but they just didn't really go anywhere.

It's not all doom and gloom though; there is light at the end of the tunnel, for I have started re-reading The God Delusion. The more I read it, the more I am convinced that in 50 years' time Dawkins will either be known as the greatest intellectual charlatan that ever lived, or the most famous atheist to convert to theism. I was laughing out loud at parts of it; it is so poorly researched and argued that it is actually comical... or would be, if people didn't take it so seriously. At other bits I got really angry; Dawkins is a very intelligent man, and he must know that he's misleading people here; he must know that he hasn't bothered researching anything and that his arguments are undeveloped and contradictory. Surely?!

So I have taken to keeping a pencil by my side as I read, and marking all the untrue, out of context, exaggerated, irrelevant and logically nonsensical bits in the margin. The margin is quite full. This is quite fun; it provides a way to vent my frustration with the whole load of nonsense, without throwing it out the window (and possibly hitting someone on the head; I am especially wary of the new neighbour after Do Zavtra went to visit her and got her right in the middle of a shower. Good start.). In the meantime, there's a brilliant review here.

In other non-news, there has still been no contact from Q&B regarding the cupboard door. So I have decided to write to them and demand answers (which brings me to a grammar question: is it OK to start a sentence with 'So' these days? And what about 'But' and 'Because'? lilytodd, can you help?).

You see, I think writing may be more effective than phoning, for several reasons:
1. I'm bad at talking on the phone, but good at writing letters (I once managed to get a refund from EasyJet that I wasn't really entitled to - if you've ever even tried to get a refund from EasyJet that you WERE entitled to, you'll know how impressive this is).
2. On the phone there is no time to go into the full story, but in a letter I can explain it all. Maybe I'll send them a link to my blog post. I think the full story makes quite an impression.
3. They can't keep fobbing me off to different departments while I sit on hold. They can send the letter round, but I don't really care what they do with it as long as they answer it.

I will of course keep you posted.

In another development, Me In My Small Corner tells me that I can order the jeans from Next to come to the store (sorry, store?! - what is this, Kentucky?), shop, without paying postage and packing, and then I can take them back if they don't fit or I don't like them. So this is good.